Written by Pavani Hapuarachchi
06 May, 2020 | 8:20 pm
COLOMBO (News 1st): In the wake of COVID-19, with the imposition of police curfew, there has been a sharp rise in violence against women, in Sri Lanka.
Against such a backdrop, the National Committee on Women, which comes under the purview of the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs, now operates a 24 hour – toll free helpline for women via 1938.
“The 24 hour service was initiated recently with the declaration of curfew and since then we observe that the reported cases of violence have increased; especially when people are confined to their homes,” told Manel Jayamanne – Executive Director of the National Committee on Women, to News 1st on Wednesday (6th May).
Island-wide police curfew was imposed in Sri Lanka on the 20th of March in a bid to control the spread of COVID-19, and according to Jayamanne, from the 20th till the 31st of March, 123 complaints of violence were lodged with the Committee.
“Of the 123 cases in March, 17 were direct cases of domestic violence, but in April the number of reported cases increased to 460,” told Jayamanne to News 1st on Wednesday.
Of the 460 complaints lodged in April, a majority of 156 were incidents of violence due to family disputes, which was followed by 111 cases of domestic violence.
The complaints also included 3 cases of sexual harassment.
Jayamanne emphasized that legal action with regard to critical cases will be taken once activities return to normalcy.
“In the meantime the Committee is directing victims of violence for counselling and in 03 serious cases the women were moved to safe houses run by the Ministry,” said Jayamanne.
Commenting on the sudden rise in cases of violence, Jayamanne said, “Even in the middle of the night, around 2 am, we receive distress calls via the helpline with complaints of grievances, so we are still in the process of analysing the reason behind the sudden escalation of cases.”
During the month of April, instances of violence against women were mostly reported from urban areas with 67 cases being reported in Colombo, 68 in Gampaha, 32 in Kalutara and 37 cases in Kurunegala.
There is evidence to suggest that the case of a drastic escalation in the rate of violence against women in line with the COVID-19 outbreak, is a global phenomenon.
“Although data are scarce, reports from China, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries suggest an increase in domestic violence cases since the COVID-19 outbreak began,” stated a reported published by the World Health Organisation on 7th April 2020.
Accordingly, the WHO stated that the rate of domestic violence cases reported in Jingzhou, a city in Hubei Province that went under lock-down with the COVID-19 outbreak, “tripled in February 2020, compared to the same period the previous year.”
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