Emerging forms of violence against women in India

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Question – What are the emerging forms of violence against women in India? Suggest suitable measures to prevent this problem. – 23 September 2021


Violence affects the lives of millions of women in all economic and educational sectors around the world. This violence frustrates the right of women to full participation in society, denying all cultural and religious restrictions. Violence against women manifests itself in a variety of depressing forms, from domestic abuse and rape to child marriage and female feticide. All these are violations of basic human rights. The recognition of violence against women by the United Nations as a human rights issue is a very important achievement of the last decade of the millennium. In 1993, a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly gave the United Nations an official definition of gender-based misconduct for the first time.

According to Article 1 of the Declaration

Violence against women as encompassing “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”.

According to the World Bank, violence against girls and women is a global epidemic that affects one in three women in her lifetime. According to UN Women, during the COVID-19 pandemic, violence against women has emerged as a pseudo-epidemic.

Emerging forms of violence against women

The World Health Organization lists the following VAWs:

  • Violence by Intimate partner: Physical, Sexual, Psychological. Ex marital rape, the hidden crisis of domestic violence (ex dowry deaths in India).
  • Sexual violence: including conflict-related sexual violence. Example: Nirbhaya case, Disha case.
  • Honour Killings to preserve family honour especially in case of inter-caste and inter-religious marriage.
  • Human trafficking, especially for prostitution or child marriage. It is often bound by unimaginable violence and a life of misery and deprivation.
  • Forced and early marriage increases the chances of domestic abuse, early pregnancy is a threat to the life and health of adolescent girls.
  • Economic Violence: Not giving proper economic rights to women. Example: According to Oxfam, 80% of agricultural laborers in India are women, but only 13% of them own land.
  • E-violence has also emerged as another dimension of violence against women, for example cyber-bullying and harassment. Online harassment of women has increased, and this in turn is increasing physical violence. For example online stalking cases have resulted in harassment in real life. Moreover, women are hurt in whatever form they may be, physically, emotionally or mentally in the process.

Measures to counter this emerging form of violence-

  • Improving Public Safety:
  • Safe public places: through street lighting, CCTV surveillance, police patrolling.
  • To effectively operate women safety helplines across the country (112).
  • Ensuring that one-stop crisis centers of the Ministry of Women and Child Development are set up across the country.

Reforms in the Criminal Justice System

  1. Addressing delays in the justice system: through special courts, fast track courts.
  2. Addressing double victimization of victims: for example mandating the Victim Impact Statement.

Legislative Efforts:

  1. Improved implementation of laws like Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act: by mandatorily establishing Internal Complaints.
  2. Committee and ensuring annual submission of audit reports Addressing the Legislative vacuum: example recognising Marital rape under Section 375 of IPC.
  1. Efforts should be made to address intimate partner violence through legislative support for such crimes and family counseling. For example, marital rape should be included in the definition of rape under the IPC.
  2. Eradication of the root and branch of patriarchy: through gender sensitization campaigns like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao.
  3. Change in curriculum to incorporate gender sensitization in education through the efforts of NCERT and other bodies.
  • Economic empowerment: Improved female labour force participation of women through.
  1. Affirmative action, Ex: Operation blackboard 1987 had 50% teaching seats reserved for women.
  2. Women-centric support: Example: UBI for women recommended by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee in their book Good Economics for Hard Times.
  3. Upholding Coparcenary rights: example through effective implementation of Hindu Succession Act.

Addressing Online harassment:

  1. This should be pursued by an online coalition to combat this malaise on lines of the Christchurch call to combat extremism on the Internet.
  2. Gender sensitisation and technology training to police forces to address such crimes are also the need of the hour.

Violence against women is a symptom of the larger crisis of discrimination and bias against women. An array of legislative and policy efforts like Section375, 376 of IPC, PoCSO Act, Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, SHE Box, Safe City Projects etc., complemented with societal efforts against patriarchal norms can herald us into a world unscarred by violence against half its population.

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