I was looking at the response of several developed countries to the mental health situation particularly the increase in domestic violence post the corona virus pandemic. How many governments in these have started to put in measures to ameliorate the situation. How the UN bodies have appealed to countries to treat the above as priority…
And I started looking at how barely little is done in India on this front. I am also reflecting how the response is by different stakeholders to the issue in non-Covid times.
In the latter case, lack of helplines, sufficient counselors to guide distressed women, dearth of quality shelter homes; limited access of a majority of women to legal, medical and other remedies… Alongwith this is noticeable that there is hardly any serious effort to engage men in the process. The Counseling Centres (known commonly as ‘Family Counseling’ Centres and supported by Social Welfare Boards of the Centre and States; Ministry of Women and Child Development and the various Commissions for Women); largely found to provide personalized counseling to distressed women.
Even the thought of talking to the concerned male perpetrators in enabling them to reflect and change their attitudes and behavior is sorely missing (leave the action part out)… A few honorable exceptions are there as in any other situation, what is the overall trend and approach? The One-Stop Crisis Management Centres in select hospitals of Mumbai, that has trained several medical functionaries in being sensitive to the needs of distressed women approaching them; are found to be giving little thought to talking to male perpetrators at any stage of their intervention.
Domestic violence post the corona virus
If all developmental practitioners including those working on issues of domestic violence agree that Men are not violent and aggressive by birth. And if gender is a social construct that can change, then it should be also clearer to them that we need to work with men closely to address the issues.
But, some 5-6 years ago, I had experimented with starting a youth helpline on gender in Mumbai, inaugurated through actress Sonali Kulkarni. I was able to run it successfully for 9 months with a team of committed volunteers trained by me.. I received a sizeable number of calls from distressed young men and women across Mumbai; providing them succor and relief while dealing with their inner turmoil… Mediapersons had covered stories on how the helpline was reaching out to hundreds and thousands of needy youth.. I remember how in the past many years, I have approached several well-meaning individuals, corporates and funders to help me enable restart this important initiative that addresses a felt, unmet need of countless youth… but it has fallen on deaf ears. Working with young people… But, that too at a preventive level is simply not a priority for many concerned stakeholders.
In the current uncertain pandemic times when we battle with the aftermath; it is sometimes good to reflect and re-examine our responses and approaches to situation in non-pandemic times.
-By Harish Sadani