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NCW planning to launch 24X7 helpline for women facing mental harassment

New Delhi: The National Commission for Women is planning to launch a 24X7 helpline in view of the rising number of mental harassment complaints since the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

The helpline will be launched in north India first and steadily expanded to the rest of the country, NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma said.

The launch date for the helpline hasn't been decided yet, she said. Sharma said the helpline development project is being carried out in collaboration with the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh.

"The launch date of the helpline has not been finalised yet. It will be launched in north India first and slowly and steadily it will be extended to other parts of the country," she said. The decision comes amid a rise in the number of complaints of emotional and mental abuse received by the commission over the last few months.

According to NCW data, it received 2,320 complaints related to mental harassment and emotional abuse from April, days after the lockdown was imposed in the country, till now. In contrast, it received 1,550 such complaints between December 2019 and March 2020. Elaborating on the issue, Sharma said mental tension for women increased during the lockdown.

"Both men and women faced mental health problems during the lockdown. Women were working from home and doing all the (household) work and then they were not able to reach out to their parents even if they were getting mentally harassed. "In normal circumstances, they were able to reach out to their family and friends and talk to them but (during lockdown) they were locked inside the house. So yes, mental tension increased during the lockdown," she said.

Sharma said the NCW worked 24X7 during the lockdown to help women.

"During the lockdown, we worked 24X7 because we knew women were not able to reach out to any other agency or their relatives and families," she said.

"We launched a WhatsApp number because we knew women were not able to go to the police station, reach us by post and many women do not even know how to send an email. Since the launch of the WhatsApp number, the number of complaints has increased manifold," she said.

The overall number of complaints of crimes committed against women has also seen a rise in the last two months, the NCW data showed.

In July, 2,914 complaints of crimes against women were received, the highest since November 2018 when the #MeToo movement was at its peak in the country, according to the data.

In June, 2,043 complaints, highest in eight months, were received.

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