Violence Against Women

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Violence Against Women

  • The gravest issue, which has confronted the Indian society over the years, is the violent order against women.
  • Violence against women in India is actually more present than it may appear at first glance, as many expressions of violence are not considered crimes, or may otherwise go unreported or undocumented due to certain Indian cultural values and beliefs.
  • These reasons all contribute to India’s Gender Inequality Index rating of 0.524 in 2017, putting it in the bottom 20% of ranked countries for that year.

Violence against women

  • “Violence against women is the manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women” and that “violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men”.
  • These include violence carried out by ‘individuals’ as well as ‘states’. It has got manifested in the form of –
    • rape;
    • domestic violence;
    • sexual harassment;
    • coercive use of contraceptives;
    • female infanticide;
    • prenatal sex selection;
    • as well as harmful customary or traditional practices such as honor killings, dowry violence, and female genital mutilation, marriage by abduction and forced marriage.
  • Some forms of violence are perpetrated or condoned by the state such as –
    • war rape;
    • sexual violence and sexual slavery during conflict;
    • forced sterilization;
    • forced abortion;
    • violence by the police and authoritative personnel;
    • stoning and flogging.
    • Many forms of violence such as trafficking in women and forced prostitution are often perpetrated by organized criminal networks.
  • United Nations declaration, 1993, defined violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to a woman, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”.
  • Margaret Schuler has divided gender violence into four major categories;
    • Overt physical abuse (battering sexual assault, at home and in the work place)
    • Psychological abuse (confinement, forced marriage)
    • Deprivation of resources for physical and psychological well being (health/nutrition, education, means of livelihood)
    • Commodification of women (trafficking, prostitution)

Various forms of violence against women

  • Infanticide: Technologies like amniocentesis and ultrasound used in most parts of the world, largely for detecting foetal abnormalities, has been used in large parts of the Indian subcontinent for determining the sex of the foetus so that it can be aborted, if it happens to be a female. The information of the sex of the unborn was being extensively misused.
    • Infanticide is a fatal form of child abuse. There are more passive forms of infanticide like neglect, sustained nutritional deprivation, delayed health care for female infants or, in other words, an unequal allocation of household resources detrimental to the health of the girl child.
    • In fact, the passive forms of infanticide remain unrecorded as infanticide by health workers and sociologists.
  • Child marriage: A girl child is twice vulnerable for being a child and a girl. Discrimination against them begins even before their birth and continues as they grow. Their psychological, physical and economic dependence on the family makes them vulnerable to violence and child abuse within or outside the family.
    • However, laws have been made to curb the menace; the phenomenon of child marriage still prevails all over the country.
    • The impact of child marriage over the young bride’s future is enforced widowhood, inadequate socialization, education deprivation, and lack of independence to select the life partner, lack of economic independence, psychological as well as marital adjustment, and low health/Nutritional status as a result of early/frequent pregnancies in an unprepared psychological state of the young bride.
    • Sexual abuse is defined as “all sexually oriented conduct, commentary or gestures, intentional and repeated, not desired or accepted freely by their object, for whom it is an imposition, a humiliation or attack on their dignity”.
    • The term abuse includes physical as well as non-physical acts. There is enough evidence to suggest that it often receives wider familial sanction. It is institutionalized in various forms, ranging from long hours of labor, often within and outside the home, denial of food, neglect of ailments and verbal abuse to physical violence by the husband and sometimes other family members.
  • Child prostitution and trafficking: The UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography defines Child Prostitution as the sexual exploitation of a child for remuneration in cash or in kind, usually but not always organized by an intermediary (parent, family member, procurer,teacher, etc.)
  • Child labor: the children, who have not completed the age of fourteen, employed for wages or no wages in occupations and employment, whether carried on by the employer or by the family or by self (including a bonded child labor), that interfere with their childhood and education and are injurious to their health and physical, intellectual, spiritual, moral and social development. The girl child is the main victim of the child labor due to patriarchal set-up.
  • Domestic violence: Physical violence as well as explicit forms of aggression are used by the more powerful in the household as methods to ensure obedience of the less powerful and therefore related to power dynamics in a household.
    • At every stage in the life cycle, the female body is both the objects of desire and of control. Domestic violence includes not only inter-spousal violence, but also violence perpetrated by other family members. Generally, an important part of the power relationship between spouses and their families relates to dowry and its ramifications. It has various manifestations:
      • Domestic violence within marital relationship
      • Dowry harassment and bride burning
    • Sexual harassment at work place: Sexual harassment of working women is primarily a problem faced by women that men rarely face this problem and therefore it should be considered a form of sex discrimination.
    • Eve teasing: eve teasing is an act of terror that violates a woman’s body, space and self-respect. It is one of the many ways through which a woman is systematically made to feel inferior, weak and afraid.
      • Whether it is an obscene word whispered into a woman’s ear; offensive remarks on her appearance; an intrusive way of touching any part of a woman’s body; a gesture which is perceived and intended to be vulgar: all these acts represent a violation of a woman’s person, her bodily integrity. Eve teasing denies a woman’s fundamental right to move freely and carry herself with dignity, solely on the basis of her sex.
    • Violence against widows: Widows are often accused of being responsible for their husband’s deaths, regarded as sexually threatening, and generally considered as inauspicious by the society. They are socially ostracized. They are victims of physical violence and emotional harassment. Irrespective of implementation of various laws trying to curb the menace of violence against women, it is still on rise. This paradox exists due to deeply patriarchal nature of society, parochial mind-set and lack of gender sensitivity.
    • The only way out of this trap is to bring the society out of the cultural inertia which has adversely affected the supposedly progressive laws to fight the violent order at all its stages: formulation, implementation, evaluation.


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