VIOLATION AGAINST WOMEN: THE EVIDENCE
Violence against women occurs throughout the life cycle from prebirth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood to senescence. Most of the data are believed to be unreliable as many cases go unreported.
Cases of violence against women are steadily increasing in the country. According to the National Crime Record Bureau, India, there is one dowry death in the country every 78 h, one act of sexual harassment every 59 min, one rape every 34 min, one act of torture every 12 min and almost one in every three married women experienced domestic violence.
Studies from India reported violence in 19– 76% of women (75%–76% in lower caste women; 42–48% in Uttar Pradesh and 36–38% in Tamil Nadu; and 19% in an urban slum community of childless women.) In Western India, 15.7% pregnancy-related deaths in the community series and 12.9% in the hospital series were associated with domestic violence. In Uttar Pradesh, 30% men reported beating wives. 22% of woman of childbearing age from a potter community were physically assaulted. 34% of those physically assaulted required medical attention.
The population-based, multicenter based collaborative project of the study of abuse in the family environment (India-survey of abuse in family environment) was established in seven sites in India. It looked at the association with poor mental health. A total of 9938 women participated (from rural, urban slum, urban nonslum areas). 40% reported experiencing any violence during their marriage. 56% had self-report questionnaire scores indicating poor mental health.
The home is often equated with a sanctuary, a place where individuals seek love, safety, security and shelter. For some women, the home is a place that imperils lives and breeds some of the most drastic forms of violence perpetrated against girls and women. Violence is usually perpetrated by males who are, or who have been in positions of trust and intimacy and power e.g. husbands, fathers, fathers-in law, stepfathers, brothers, uncles, sons, or other relatives.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA), 2005 defines domestic violence as any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent, which includes threat or actual abuse.
In the 1996 survey of 6902 men in the state of Uttar Pradesh, up to 45% of married men acknowledged physically abusing their wives. The National Health Survey conducted under the stewardship of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, reported that >1/3 of women (34%) between the ages of 15–49 years have experienced spousal physical violence. The adverse health consequences that women experience due to violence are wide-ranging with physical, reproductive and sexual and mental health outcomes.
In a community-based study involving 450 women in Gujarat, 42% experienced physical beatings and sexual abuse, and 23% experiences abusive language, belittlement and threats. It is interesting to note that 56% women belief that wife beating is justified.
The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) in multiple centers in India reported that 85% of men admit they had indulged in violent behavior against their wives at least once in last 12 months. 57% of men admitted to have sexual abuse with their wives. 32% of men admitted to committing violence on their pregnant wives. The men indulged in violence to establish their power over the weaker sex. Subtle and insidious forms of violence include repeated humiliation, insults, forced isolation, limitations on social mobility, the constant threat of violence and injury, and denial of economic resources.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORK PLACE
A social worker (BD) was gang-raped by a group of the upper class, influential men, because she had tried to stop the practice of child marriage. The accused was acquitted by the trial court. This inspired several women’s groups and NGOs to file a petition in the Supreme Court under the collective platform of Vishaka (Vishaka and others vs. State of Rajasthan and others). It is a landmark case as it was the basis for Supreme Court guidelines on sexual harassment at workplace.
DOWRY RELATED VIOLENCE
The age-old practice of dowry has persisted and driven many women to suicide. In 50 district court judgments, 1987–1989, Maharashtra, West India, there was dowry related violence. 120 cases of dowry deaths and 20 cases of intentional injury related to dowry were identified. There were intentional injuries, including physical violence (59%), mental torture 28%, molestation by family members and perversity (10%), and starving 3%. The causes of death in the women who died were: Burns 46% and drowning 34%. It is worth noting that the women were very young-88% below 25 years; 58% of them were childless, and 22% had only female children. Harassment by in-laws on issues related to dowry emerged as a risk factor for poor mental health. It is characteristic of the Indian setting. Dowry related violence is on the rise in India. More than 5000 women are killed annually by their husbands and in-laws, who burn them in “accidental” kitchen fires if their ongoing demands for dowry before and after marriage are not met. On an average five women a day are burned, and many more cases go unreported.