Domestic Violence in India an Overview


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When girls and women are violated on the streets, in buses and in isolated mills, we feel naturally outraged. Yet, when they get abused, raped and victimized in the safety of their own homes, we remain unnaturally silent. Domestic Violence accounts for 50% of all reported crimes against women in India. One in every three women is sexually, psychologically and physically violated by her male partner. Many of these women are young brides, less than 18 years old who suffer in silence grappling with what society believes should be a private and guarded matter. Dasra's upcoming report, "No Private Matter" aims to bring the issue of Domestic violence out in the open to help women get their right to a happy and healthy life

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Domestic Violence in India an Overview

  1. 1. DomesƟc Violence In India An Overview. September 2013
  2. 2. IntroducƟon DomesƟc Violence: Violence against women is a widespread phenomenon around the world, and is parƟcularly prevalent in South Asia, especially in India. Violence against women is rooted in a gender framework that refers to widely held expectaƟons about appropriate male and female behavior, roles and characterisƟcs. It is not only a violaƟon of human rights, but also negaƟvely impacts intergeneraƟonal health and mulƟplies economic burdens. DomesƟc violence, is one of the most common forms of gender-based violence experienced by women across the world (United NaƟons, 2006). Also known as domesƟc abuse, spousal abuse, baƩering, family violence, daƟng abuse, and inƟmate partner violence (IPV), it is a paƩern of behavior which involves the abuse of one partner by another in an inƟmate relaƟonship such as marriage, cohabitaƟon, daƟng or within the family. DomesƟc violence can take many forms, including physical aggression or assault (hiƫng, kicking, biƟng, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects, baƩery), or threats thereof; sexual abuse; emoƟonal abuse; controlling or domineering; inƟmidaƟon; stalking; passive/covert abuse (e.g., neglect); and economic deprivaƟon. Global Burden of DomesƟc Violence: A World Bank study (1993) highlighted the cost of violence in terms of the health burden, esƟmaƟng that rape and domesƟc violence “account for 5 percent of the healthy years of life lost to women of reproducƟve age in demographically developing countries.” An Inter-American Development Bank study indicated that domesƟc violence resulted in a loss of US$1.56 billion in Chile (more than 2 percent of Chile’s GDP in 1996), when considering only the loss of women’s wages and a study in New Wales, Australia, esƟmated that the overall cost was Aus$1.5 billion a year (NCVAW 1993). This limited evidence suggests that the economic implicaƟons alone are serious enough to warrant special aƩenƟon to violence as a development priority. 1
  3. 3. The Indian Context: In India, domesƟc violence accounts for 50% of all reported crimes against women4. (There is widespread consensus of gross under-reporƟng of these crimes due to prevailing patriarchal structures, the actual prevalence is said to be higher). Considering that child marriage is sƟll widely prevalent in India, a girl experiences domesƟc violence early in life. According to NFHS-3 (NaƟonal Family and Health Survey), 33% of all women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since age 15 - the number is almost 40% for women aged 25-39. Moreover, more than half of young women and men agree that wife beaƟng is jusƟfied if a woman disrespects her in-laws and if she neglects the house or children. In fact, in all but 5 states, women are equally or more likely to agree with wife beaƟng than men5. Considering these deep-rooted inter-generaƟonal aƫtudes, there is an urgent need to highlight this issue and direct philanthropic investment to non profits that are successfully addressing it. Violence during Pregnancy in India: 30 25 20 28% 15 10 “More than half of young women and men agree that wife beaƟng is jusƟfied” 18% 5 0 Prevelence of general violence during pregnancy Prevelence of IPV during pregnancy Causes of DomesƟc Violence: At the very root, domesƟc violence is driven by the desire to exercise control over another that is perceived to be weaker than the perpetrator. Reasons perpetrators are driven to violent behaviour include: - Gender norms and aƫtudes: In India, the historical, underlying patriarchal system appear to be the fundamental premise for domesƟc violence against women. Further, a growing amount of literature acknowledges that both men and women help propagate India's gender norms. For instance, more than half of women and men agree with one or more reasons that jusƟfy wife beaƟng. This is further complicated by a common belief that violent acts are an expression of love and merely a desire to help the subject be a “beƩer” person. 3
  4. 4. - Son Preference: An unwanted pregnancy is both a cause and consequence of domesƟc violence. VicƟms of domesƟc violence are unable to exercise choice with regard to contracepƟon oŌen leading to unwanted pregnancies resulƟng in further domesƟc violence. Further, due to the wide-spread societal preference for a son, a birth of a girl child oŌen leads to increased incidence of domesƟc violence. This may manifest in the form of female feƟcide and/or infanƟcide, healthcare seeking bias against the girl child, in addiƟon to aggravated domesƟc violence against the mother. - Childhood Exposure to Violence: Having a mother who was beaten up significantly increases the risk of 5 domesƟc violence in adult life as do early experiences with violence in the immediate environment such as the community. Various studies indicate that once the iniƟal inhibiƟon is broken, domesƟc violence generally tends to get more frequent and severe over Ɵme. Despite increasing occurrence over their lifeƟme, many women feel the need to stay on and silently bear the violence due to issues of economic dependence, societal rejecƟon, childcare, actual and perceived apathy of the police and judiciary and ulƟmately a lack of alternaƟves including absence of support from their own parents. “When I was pregnant with the first child, a girl, the altercaƟons between us had started and have since conƟnued. Even with a slight provocaƟon or fault, he loses his head and fights. He tolerates nothing.” (Source: DomesƟc Violence in India, ICRW) Link to reproducƟve, maternal & child health: There is a robust associaƟon between exposure to household violence and infant and child death that could be aƩributable to the mother’s inability to care for her child, psychological stress associated with witnessing violence, and the use of maternal violence vicƟmizaƟon as a proxy for child violence vicƟmizaƟon. Direct Impact on Women: Illnesses: Women who are abused are more likely to suffer physical or psychological illnesses including anemia, which are associated with decreased aƩenƟon to the health needs of children Sexual and ReproducƟve Health: Forced sex is associated with a range of gynecological and reproducƟve health problems, including HIV and other sexually transmiƩed infecƟons (STIs), unwanted pregnancy, vaginal bleeding or infecƟon, fibroids, decreased sexual desire, genital irritaƟon, pain during inter course, chronic pelvic pain and urinary tract infecƟons Lack of support: Abused women are less likely to seek health care services and are less likely to iniƟate prenatal care early in the pregnancy and receive a home-visit from a health worker Mortality: Deaths due to domesƟc violence were the second-largest cause of deaths in pregnancy (exceeded only by postpartum hemorrhage) in a community based study on maternal mortality undertaken 1 in rural Maharashtra 4
  5. 5. Lack of agency: Women who are beaten are most likely to be the most powerless women. They have liƩle autonomy in terms of decision making authority, mobility, or control over resources-in caring for themselves or for their infants. As a consequence, their health-care seeking and nutriƟon are compromised, and they are more likely than other women to experience fetal mortality (this could result from miscarriage as a result of physical violence; forced aborƟon of an unwanted pregnancy which may be the result of lack of empowerment to access and use contracepƟves - a symptom of domesƟc violence; sex-selecƟve aborƟon etc.), to deliver babies of low birth weight whose survival is generally uncertain, and to have less decision-making authority or confidence in caring for their infants. “In India, one incident of violence translates into the woman losing seven working days” US NaƟonal Library of Medicine NaƟonal InsƟtutes of Health Direct Impact on Children: Physical violence occurs at a startling rate during pregnancy as well. Of the women who reported physical violence, some 50% reported that they 2 experience the violence during pregnancy . Mortality: Women who suffered violence during pregnancy were two Ɵmes more likely than other women to miscarry, and four Ɵmes more likely to give birth to a baby of low birth weight, a well-known predictor of 3 infant mortality . Physical and Psychological Ailments: Child exposure to family violence is associated with increased levels of poor nutriƟonal outcomes, respiratory infecƟons, diarrhea, and asthma as well as harmful physiologic reacƟons, such as atypical corƟsol (a steroid hormone released as a response to stress) producƟon paƩerns. ReplicaƟon of behavior: More likely to use violence at school, commit sexual assaults, and become abusers later in life. 5
  6. 6. Geographical Trends: Although domesƟc violence is a naƟonal issue, there are some states worse affected than others. Bihar has the highest prevalence of spousal physical or 5 sexual violence at 59% . Other states with prevalence higher than 40% are Rajasthan, UƩar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Manipur & Tripura. Sexual violence is most common in West Bengal, Rajasthan and Bihar at 5 20%, or twice the naƟonal average . A preliminary landscape analysis of non profits working on the issue of domesƟc violence suggests that the majority seem to have a pan-India focus with many based out of metro ciƟes such as Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Dasra believes that domesƟc violence ought to be treated as a naƟonal issue, equally afflicƟng the urban and rural populaƟons in India, and for this reason will adopt a pan-India focus while mapping the landscape of non profits against domesƟc violence in India. Current IntervenƟons: Secondary research indicates that responses in the non profit sector have aƩempted to address the pracƟcal as well as the strategic interests of women through intervenƟons that may be categorized as PrevenƟve, AmelioraƟve and Re-construcƟve. Common intervenƟons include empowering women through policy advocacy, campaigns, educaƟon, counseling, legal awareness, literacy and aid; short stay homes and creches; asset creaƟon, and mobilizaƟon of strong women’s groups. By aƩempƟng to make domesƟc violence a part of public discourse, the non profit community has begun to deconstruct the myth of the private nature of the problem. Non profits such as Breakthrough, Point of view, Countercurrents, and Majlis Bombay are doing this through innovaƟve media campaigns and publicaƟons. Several research based non profits such as Anveshi, Centre for social research, MARG, InsƟtute for Social work are focused on acƟon research, documentaƟon and disseminaƟon of the issue. On-the ground non profits such as Maitri, Akshara, Jagori and SNEHA provide amelioraƟve and reconstrucƟve assistance to vicƟms amongst other intervenƟons. 6
  7. 7. Bibliography Too far, too liƩle, too late: a community-based case-control study of maternal mortality in rural west Maharashtra, India (1998) DomesƟc Violence in India, ICRW (2000) AssociaƟons between Wife-BeaƟng and Fetal and Infant Death: Impressions from a Survey in Rural India, Shireen J. Jejeebhoy NCRB Data, 2011 Gender equality and women’s empowerment in India, MoHFW, 2009 based on NFHS 2005-2006 NFHS, Gender Equality and Empowerment of women, 2006 7