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Domestic violence in India

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  • Published
    18th Dec, 2019
  • Domestic violence: Domestic violence in India includes any form of violence suffered by a person from a biological relative, but typically is the violence suffered by a woman by male members of her family or relatives. It is a form of violence involving sexual/reproductive coercion and marital rape.
  • Types of Assault: Women who experience domestic violence tend to have greater overall emotional distress, as well as high occurrences of suicidal thoughts and attempts.
    • Physical violence: Physical injury is the most visible form of domestic violence; more obvious than psychological ones.
    • Emotional abuse: Emotional abuse has been gaining more and more recognition. Psychological abuse can erode a woman's sense of self-worth and can be incredibly harmful to overall mental and physical wellbeing.
  • NFHS 2006 report on domestic sexual violence:
    • Sexual violence lowest against women in the 15-19 age groups.
    • Women with 10 years of education experienced sharply less sexual violence, compared to women with less education.
    • 85% of women who suffered sexual violence, in or outside of marriage, never sought help, and only 1% reported it to the police.

Behavioural and contextual factors that contribute to gender related crimes

  • Why do men rape? It is important to “understand the perpetrators”. Different reasoning has been offered, but the question has still not been conclusively settled.
  • Early psychoanalysts: Early psychoanalysts attributed the tendency to rape to ‘wrong parenting’ and ‘childhood behaviour disorders’. However, many of these conclusions never really stood the test of scientific scrutiny.
  • Feminist reasoning: In 1970s, feminists replaced psychoanalysts as the ultimate experts on the issue, and discarded their reasoning. Feminists described rape as an act of domination, an instrument that is used by patriarchy to hurt, humiliate or degrade women.
  • Biologist and anthropologists reasoning: This school argues that feminists’ views are only “political", instead, there is an evolutionary explanation of rape, one in which rapists seek sexual gratification.
  • Contributing stress factors: “Stress factors” within the household that are critical to understanding varying rates of violence against women include low educational attainment, poverty, young initial age of marriage, having multiple children, and other limiting engendered development factors.
    • Low income and low education increases the risks of domestic violence.
  • Problem in accessing the issue: There is a sample flaw in most studies on rape perpetrators. The sample mostly comprise of those men convicted of the crime. These convicts do not represent the majority of rapists who are acquaintances, and whose crimes go unreported.

This means that little is known about the majority perpetrators.

Patriarchal social structure

  • Contribution: The persistence of harmful practices, pervasive gender stereotypes and deeply entrenched patriarchal social and cultural norms, contribute to the slight and grave issues that women experience around discrimination and violence.
  • Instrument of patriarchy: There are three main aspects of patriarchal structure in India that affect women's agency: marriage, active discrimination by means of abuse (marital or extramarital), and diminished women's agency through limited economic opportunity through stifled opportunity for independence.
  • Rigid masculinity: A study on masculinity, son preference, and intimate partner violence (IPV) in India showed that two out of every five men were rigidly masculine (defined as having inequitable gender attitudes and high levels of controlling behaviour).
    • These men are three times more likely to perpetrate acts of physical violence against their partners.

Myths propagated in society

  • Outrageous myths: Fantasised and romanticised myths such as a woman’s “no" means “yes", or the dress of a woman provokes men to commit crime, or that women enjoy rape, have been propagated through folk stories, movies and, recently, through pornography.
  • What should a rape be? Many seem to think that rape is always done by a stranger, that a victim will always fight the attacker, so the victim should have bruises, and should have shouted for help. Some think that if the victim was raped several times before complaining, the compliant is not genuine. Or if there is a long delay between the crime and filing of complaint, the complainant has ulterior motives; or that non-consensual sexual act by a husband is not rape.

Honour killing

  • Honour killing is the practice wherein an individual is killed by one or more family member(s), because he or she is believed to have brought shame upon the family.
    • The shame may range from refusing to enter an arranged marriage, having sex outside marriage, being in a relationship that is disapproved by the family, starting a divorce proceeding, or engaging in homosexual relations.

Dowry system in India

  • There are strong links between domestic violence and dowry. Dowry payments are another manifestation of the patriarchal structure in India. Bride burning is an extreme manifestation of the dowry problem in India.
  • History of the practice of dowry system is embedded in Hindu society/culture. But today, dowry cases are not limited to any specific religion, and are found among Muslims, Sikhs and others too.

Low reporting, low conviction rates and reasons

  • Perpetrators no strangers: Because in most cases the perpetrator is someone related to the family, it is very difficult to convince even close family members, leave alone police personnel, of the crime.
    • Under-reporting of domestic violence is mainly because it is not handled as a legitimate crime or complaint, but more of a private or family matter.
  • Lack of understanding of the nature of crime: During an attack, the victim’s mind is not just under severe stress, but in a heightened fight-flight-freeze mode, which makes it difficult to coherently record memories of it.
    • Law enforcement agencies that focus on tangible evidence and consistency of victim’s narrative have not understood the behavioural peculiarities associated with this particular crime.
  • Socio-economic dependency of women: Widespread socio-economic dependency of women puts women in an unbalanced equation with their husbands and other family members. The fear of social exclusion and banishment causes women to continue face violence and intimidation
  • Link with female literacy: The extent of under-reporting tends to be higher on average in states with low female literacy. For example, in states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand, less than 0.5% of incidents of violence against women get reported.

Consequences of Gender Violence

  • Economic cost: Violence against women is a major public health concern across the world, a barrier to women’s empowerment and gender equality, and a constraint on individual and societal development, with high economic costs.
    • In some countries, violence against women is estimated to cost countries up to 3.7% of their GDP – more than double what most governments spend on education (World Bank, 2018).
  • Health cost: Women who experience violence are more at risk of unwanted pregnancies, maternal and infant mortality, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. It has direct and long-term physical and mental health consequences.
  • Detrimental to individual wellbeing: Women who experience violence from their partners are less likely to earn a living and are less able to care for their children or participate meaningfully in community activities or social interaction that might help end the abuse. It affects their overall quality of life.
    • In many societies, it is the women who are stigmatised and isolated.

Laws and policies

  • Stricter laws on sexual violence: India’s legal system has recently passed stricter sexual assault laws and created fast-track courts for prosecution of rapes convicts.
    • At least four states – Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh – have introduced death penalty for rapes of minors, defined as below 12 years of age.
    • In 2013 government made a few amendments to the Criminal Law, which makes stalking, voyeurism, acid attacks and forcibly disrobing a woman, explicit crimes for the first time.
    • It provides capital punishment for rapes leading to death, and raises to 20 years from 10, the minimum sentence for gang rape and rapes committed by a police officer.
    • However, the law doesn’t address on rape committed by the armed forces or rape against men.
  • Domestic Violence law: Domestic violence is currently defined in India by ‘Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005’. The PWDVA, which is a civil law, includes physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, and economic abuse as domestic violence. Section 498A was introduced to protect women from Domestic Violence.
    • Under Indian law, marital rape is not a crime, except during the period of marital separation of the partners.
    • Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) considers forced sex in marriages as a crime only when the wife is below 15.
  • Protection to LGBTQ community: Decriminalising homosexual relationships under section 377 along with the implementation of HIV/AIDS Act came as a huge relief to the LGBTQIA communities in the nation.
  • International human rights instruments:
    • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
    • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
    • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
    • Convention on the Rights of the Child
    • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Laws and policies around various aspects of Gender Based Violence:

Dowry Prohibition Act (1961), Amendments to the Indian Penal Code, 1862 (1986- Section 498A and Section 304B), Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (1986), – Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (1986), The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition Of Sex Selection) Act (1994), – Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005), Prohibition of Child Marriage Act(2006) to the new acts in last decade addressing the evolving form of crime which includes Information and Technology Act (2008), – The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (2012), Criminal Law (Amendment) Act (2013), Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention Prohibition and Redressal) Act (2013), Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act (2016), Decriminalization of Gay Sex (Section 377-2018), Criminal Law (Amendment) Act (Death penalty for raping a minor- 2018).

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