NEW DELHI: Social entrepreneur Iti Rawat recently received an email with a woman's picture with a red dot on her palm and a message "ma'am, I need your help".
The woman was indicating that she was being subjected to domestic abuse, a crime which saw a sudden spike ever since the lockdown was imposed in India in view of the coronavirus outbreak that has claimed at least 68 lives and infected over 2,900 so far.
The restricted movement due to the lockdown has specially hit the victims of domestic violence who suddenly found themselves trapped in their homes with their abusers.
Several women are either unable or too afraid to call the police to get help to move out.
To help such women reach out, WEFT (Women Entrepreneurs For Transformation) Foundation, a not for profit body working for women's empowerment, launched a new initiative called 'red dot' under which citizens can identify a domestic violence victim by seeing a red dot on her palm and inform NGOs or authorities.
"The citizens who see the red dot on the palm can either get in touch with WEFT through social media or email firstname.lastname@example.org or they can also call 181 which is the toll free number to get support," Rawat told PTI.
The initiative launched three days back has received over 20 complaints of domestic violence from across the country, said Rawat, founder of WEFT Women Entrepreneurs Foundation.
Talking about the cases received by them, Rawat said one of the cases was from Kolkata where the victim was caught at home with her husband who was jobless since the lockdown.
He was beating the wife, took away all her savings and was assaulting her in front of her son, Rawat said.
"She contacted WEFT through the red dot initiative. We supported her with food and helped her," she said.
Rawat said the red dot initiative is a citizen-led movement under which they plan to create videos and stories that can go viral so that people start identifying this symbol as indicative of domestic violence.
"During the lockdown, victims are stuck now with the oppressors as if in a jail and inside the home has become more unsafe for them than outside the home.
We want to make 'Red Dot on the Palm' a global symbol for domestic violence. This way many women will break silence and would be able to lead better lives," Rawat said.
She said she has been in touch with the National Commission for Women and UN Women to take the initiative forward.
The National Commission for Women has also flagged the issue of spike in cases of domestic violence since the enforcement of the lockdown.
NCW chief Rekha Sharma had said the number of domestic violence cases must be much higher but the women are scared to complain due to constant presence of their abusers at home.
She said from March 24 till April 1, the NCW has received 69 domestic violence complaints and they are increasing by the day.