West Bengal is witnessing a rise in domestic violence cases during the ongoing lockdown period, the state women's commission said on Monday.
Many women have been facing domestic violence and verbal and physical abuse even during normal times but the lockdown has aggravated the situation, commission chairperson Leena Gangopadhyay said.
"Incidents of domestic violence against women have gone up since April and the trend continues in May. Many such cases were repeats of pre-lockdown incidents," Gangopadhyay told PTI.
Seventy cases of domestic violence have been reported to the commission since the imposition of the lockdown, she said, adding that the complaints were received from across the state, both rural and urban areas including Kolkata.
There have been fresh incidents of domestic violence while many of the complainants were being abused since long and were subjected to fresh physical and mental torture during the ongoing lockdown, Gangopadhyay said, adding that most of the abused women are homemakers.
She said the number of complaints received during this period was higher than what was reported in the months before the lockdown was imposed.
The complaints were received over the phone, WhatsApp and email, she said.
All the cases will be followed up from Monday and the commission will provide counselling to the victims over the phone, Gangopadhyay said.
"In several instances the neighbours of the abused women informed us but when we reached out to the victims, they were afraid to air their grievances. Nevertheless, we asked them to get in touch with us whenever they felt comfortable," she said.
Sometimes, the victims cannot reach out to the commission or NGOs as the perpetrators are always near them and also due to errant internet connection, Gangopadhyay said.
"We hope those who haven't been able to come out in the open about domestic violence during the lockdown will do so when the restrictions are lifted," she said.
The commission is also coordinating with women's NGOs like 'Swayam' on the issue, Gangopadhyay said.
Anuradha Kapoor of 'Swayam' said they are getting several phone calls and emails from abused women but "there could be many more who are unable to reach out to us due to the lockdown".
A spokesperson of another NGO, 'Sappho for Equality' said, "We are getting a lot of distress calls from both homemakers and professionals since the imposition of the lockdown. We are trying to counsel them over the phone and take up the matter with the police."