People in India searching for domestic violence-related keywords on Twitter will now be directed to relevant information from the Ministry of Women and Child Development and National Commission for Women. Twitter has partnered with both MWCD and NCW to expand its effort towards women. The search prompt will be available on Android, iOS and on mobile.twitter.com as well. It will be available in English and Hindi to start with. The move aims to help tackle the rise in domestic violence cases during social distancing times in the country.

The platform’s #ThereIsHelp hashtag also aids mental health issues, suicide prevention, child sexual exploitation, vaccination and COVID-19.

Some of the search keywords in English include #crimeagainstwomen, #domesticviolence, #dowry, #dowrydeath, #genderviolence, #genderbasedviolence, #lockdownviolence, #maritalrape, #POSH, and so on. Hindi keywords include #ghareluhinsa, #dahejhatya, #mahilaatyachaar among others.

The prompt was created in collaboration with UN Women Asia Pacific. It is an expansion of Twitter’s #ThereIsHelp prompt, which was launched for the public to find credible information on critical issues. The platform’s #ThereIsHelp hashtag also aids mental health issues, suicide prevention, child sexual exploitation, vaccination and COVID-19.

Also Read: Domestic Violence and Connected Laws Indian Women Should Know Of

What prompted it?

The COVID-19 lockdown has resulted in a steep rise in cases of domestic violence not just in India, but all around the world. According to a recent report by UN Women, 243 million women and girls aged 15-49 globally have been subjected to sexual and/or physical violence perpetrated by an intimate partner in the past 12 months. In India, the National Commission for Women is the body that receives complaints of domestic violence from across the country. During the country-wide coronavirus lockdown period, NCW saw a staggering 257 cases of crime against women for a duration of 10 days (23 March to 1 April) of lockdown were recorded as compared to 116 cases that were recorded for a duration of seven normal days (2 March to 8 March).

Rekha Sharma, chairperson, NCW said, “While the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have impacted everyone, there have been adverse effects on women and girls who may be victims of intimate partner violence. With social distancing norms in place, several women are unable to contact their regular support systems. This initiative by Twitter will provide big support to the survivors. They’d otherwise be easily isolated without access to relevant information and help.”

As per Mahima Kaul, director, public policy, India and South Asia, Twitter, “collaboration with the public, government and NGOs is key to combating the complex issue of domestic violence.”

Technology and Prevention of Domestic Violence

This pioneer move of a search prompt can lead individuals in a right and safe direction. It can help to narrow the gap between survivors and their access to information that enables them to seek help. This can hopefully, in the long run, also impact how individuals and society address issues of intimate partner violence.

Recently a domestic abuse hand signal has also come to light, which women are using across Canada to alert their friends on video calls about the domestic abuse that they are facing. The signal involves holding your hand up to the camera with your thumb tucked into your palm, and then folding your fingers down and trapping your thumb in your fingers. Read more about it here.

Also Read: NCW: Need To Rethink Policies To Aid Women Farmers Hit By Lockdown

However, for a country like India, where a large number of women facing domestic violence may not have access to smartphones, let alone social media, tracking down cases of domestic abuse gets trickier. How does help reach the alarmingly high number of women who do not have access to social media platforms? Even for women with access to social media, isn’t continuous connectivity an issue in our country?

There is a need for more inclusive solutions that are effective and can also be availed by women with little to no access to digital mediums.

Image Credit: VK Singh and Company

Dyuti Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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