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Twitter expands #ThereIsHelp service to aid victims of domestic violence

Twitter adds new search prompt under #ThereIsHelp. Move comes at a time when Covid pandemic has indirectly resulted in surge of gender-based violence worldwide.

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New Delhi: Twitter has expanded its #ThereIsHelp initiative to help women across India and other countries in the Asia Pacific who are survivors of domestic violence. Launched in October 2019, #ThereIsHelp is a notification service on mental health and suicide prevention, vaccination, child sexual exploitation, and also Covid-19.

Twitter has now introduced “a dedicated gender-based violence search prompt for hotlines and support in local languages in Asia Pacific” under the initiative.

The move by the social media giant comes at a time when the coronavirus pandemic — which has prompted varying degrees of restrictions and lockdowns across the world — has indirectly resulted in a surge of gender-based violence that has been repeatedly called out by UN Secretary General António Guterres.

With UN Women Asia Pacific in an advisory role, and help from NGOs as well as government agencies that provide “critical emergency care, support and counselling”, the search prompt will be available in eight countries — India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam — with a plan to expand further in the coming weeks.

If users from any of the above mentioned countries search for keywords associated with gender-based violence — threatening, fear, sexual violence, rape etc — a notification in their local language will pop up, “directing them to the hotlines of the local organizations where they can seek help, together with a list of NGOs that can provide support they need”.

Screenshot of Twitter page

Also read:‘Listen to Her’ — Nandita Das’ new short film sheds light on domestic violence in lockdown

Twitter partners with WCD ministry, NCW in India for initiative

A UN Women report reveals that “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”.

Melissa Alvarado, UN Women Asia Pacific Regional Manager on Ending Violence against Women, has said, “As lockdowns and stay-at-home orders are getting prolonged by countries around the world to contain the spread of COVID-19, women with violent partners increasingly find themselves isolated from the people and resources that can help them.”

Since the nationwide lockdown was put into place on 25 March in India, four states — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana and Punjab — reported a two-fold increase in the number of reported domestic violence cases. The National Commission for Women saw a rise of complaints from 116 in the first week of March (2 March — 8 March), to 257 in the final week (23 March — 1 April).

In India, Twitter has partnered with the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the National Commission for Women to combat this issue. Similarly, it has partnered with trusted national NGOs and government agencies in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.

Also read:Indian law unclear on who to back if a woman is thrown out by her in-laws


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