News

Victims need Covid test to access shelter home

  • Women’s Bureau offers RAT option over PCR

  • Bureau getting 2 calls per week

By Pamodi Waravita

 

Following concerns about the requirement of a mandatory PCR test to be conducted prior to victimised women accessing Government mandated shelter homes for victims of domestic violence, the Women’s Bureau of Sri Lanka has implemented the option of rapid antigen tests (RATs) instead.

Speaking to The Morning, Women’s Bureau of Sri Lanka Director Champa Upasena said that Covid-19 has posed a difficult challenge to the management of shelter homes, as the Bureau should now also be wary and active in its efforts to ensure that the virus does not spread within shelter homes.

“We have mandated RATs for all women who require shelter home access, which is often provided by the Bureau itself. However, we do inform the women to get a PCR test if possible, prior to seeking shelter access. Sometimes, if they are already in hospital due to domestic violence-related injuries, they may be able to get a PCR test from the hospital before coming to stay in one of our homes,” said Upasena.

Upasena also added that as an extra measure, women are given a separate room as soon as they come into a shelter home during the pandemic.

According to Upasena, the Bureau gets at least two calls a week since the pandemic started, regarding women seeking the services of shelters.

Earlier this month, the National Forum Against Gender Based Violence in Sri Lanka called for immediate action regarding the problems that victims of domestic violence face due to pandemic-related lockdowns, urging law enforcement authorities and social services providers to adopt suitable protocols in responding to incidents of domestic violence during a pandemic.

A survey by the CARE Consortium, titled “Covid-19 Impact on Key Populations – People Living With the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Sexual and Reproductive Rights Organisations” shows that 76.8% of the respondents experienced verbal abuse, 7.8% encountered physical violence, and 5.6% faced sexual violence, where 24% of the main perpetrators had been intimate partners.

The 1938 Women’s Helpline operates 24 hours per day to receive all complaints of “forms of discrimination against women, the defilement of the rights of women, harassment, and all kinds of abusive circumstances”.