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Statistical Data of Violence Against Women and their legal status in India

Self-respect is a confidence and pride in knowing that your behavior is both honorable and dignified. When you harass or vilify someone, you not only disrespect them but yourself also. Street harassment, sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender-based violence, and racism, are all acts committed by a person who in fact has no self-respect. -Respect yourself by respecting others[1].

This article intends to highlight the importance of the safety of women and the legal remedies to help if she is facing abuse in any way. The major points covered in this article would be statistics related to domestic violence, acid attacks, revenge porn, dowry death, and rape.

Introduction
Violence against women is increasing day-by-day. With the arrival of technology, we can at least help some of the victims and provide them shelter. But when violence against women is normalized and glorified in movies, novels, and viewpoints, we are forced to accept the fact that we are living in the world of misogyny where people think they control the actions of their inferiors- the women. The series of events in a woman's life begins with mild catcalls or stalking which is often glorified and romanticized in movies might even spin-off to take the form of violent sexual abuse, rape, revenge porn, and so on.

The need to educate and enlighten the youth on sex education and the importance of consent is now more than ever. The disappointing fact is that even after thousands of domestic abuse and rape cases are being reported, people ignore or disapprove of the concept of feminism and women empowerment and neglect these atrocities as they are not rare. This also has an implied meaning that women are supposed to suffer tortures, not complain, and be in an inferior position.

Slut-shaming and victim-blaming are the approaches of most of the society which tries to justify rape or support the rapist and demean the victim. Provoking or shaming the survivor and compelling them to commit suicide because of a rape or abuse is another common reply to these issues and the biggest mistake. The most painful fact is that women also take part in victim-blaming and glorifying misogyny.

World-Wide Statistics

Here are some worldwide statistical data regarding the issues faced by women in their daily lives.
  • Almost 35% of women have suffered sexual harassment or abuse from non-partners at some point in their lives[2].
  • Men who witnessed their fathers abusing or harassing their mothers, and the men who experienced violence in their childhood from their home were more likely to report intimate partner violence as adults[3].
  • Almost 49% of human trafficking victims are adult women[4].
  • Almost 650 million girls are estimated to be married before 18 years of age[5].
  • Almost 15 million girls from the age of 15 to 19 have experienced forced sex or rape [6].
  • In the US, almost 23% of females enrolled in undergraduate courses reported having experienced sexual assault.
  • 1 in 10 women (from the age of 15) in the EU have experienced cyber harassment or bullying[7].
  • In a study, 40% to 60% of women said that they have experienced street harassment, mainly stalking, whistling, catcalling, sexual comments, staring/ogling. Also, 31% to 64% of men said that they have carried out such acts.
  • Australian survey results show that almost 39% of women from age 15 and above have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • 82% of women parliamentarians in a survey reported experiencing psychological violence (gestures, mannerisms, remarks of a sexist or sexual nature) on their terms.
The statistics given above are self-explanatory. The need for women's rights and enforcing the legal provisions for the basic rights of women is the most important action to be taken now. Sexual harassment rates are shooting up alarmingly and the existing laws are constantly proving to be ineffective or unenforceable.

Domestic Violence

I really don't advise a woman who wants to have things her own way to get married.[8]

These are the words by the well-known British writer Virginia Woolf who was a feminist and whose works mainly dealt with women's safety and independence. The most common causes of domestic violence were identified as dowry demands and failure to produce a son, while the major types of violence and oppression mentioned were beating, burning, female infanticide, child marriage, treatment of widows, harassment for dowry, and desertion by the husband. Legal action was mentioned solely about well-known cases that were wide reportable within the press.

Dowry Death

The concept of marriage in India is filled with deep-rooted traditions and cultural beliefs. One such tradition which resists change even after the world changed a lot is the act of giving and taking dowry. Dowry is the transfer of parental property or money as gifts for the marriage of a girl child. Dowry Death is a considerably new offense added in the Indian Penal Code by virtue of S.304-B.

Almost 20 women die every day because of harassment in the name of dowry (either murdered or compelled to commit suicide)[9]. Dowry deaths rose from about 19 per day in 2001 to 21 per day in 2016[10]. According to the NCRB report, a total of 7,621 cases of dowry deaths have been reported in India. UP reported a maximum of 2473 cases of dowry deaths with 2.38 cases of dowry deaths reported per lakh female population[11].

Rajasthan reported the most of thirteen percent, 811 cases of cruelty by husband/relatives in 2016, with thirty-nine cases reportable per large integer feminine population[12]. UP reported the highest number of cases (2867) followed by Karnataka (1698) and Orissa (1400). Jharkhand reported the very highest rate of 8.35 followed by Orissa (6.64) followed by Mysore (5.50). A total of 437 cases have been reported under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act in 2016. Bihar reported the highest number of 171 cases which were followed by Kerala with 111 cases. Kerala showed the very best rate (1.00).

Dowry Death is still prevalent in India because for several reasons. But the most serious reason which needs to be changed is that women are still considered as property. Spending on girls is considered as watering plants in the neighbor's garden which means that educating and spending money on girls is useless as they are supposed to leave the house. They are also hated upon by their family because they need money to be married off. Women are considered as objects who bring money and wealth to their husband's home and are tortured mentally and physically for dowry by their in-laws.

Dowry Death has been criminalized under the Indian Penal Code
  1. Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven-year of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with any demand for dowry, such death shall be called Dowry Death, and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.
     
  2. Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment for a a term which shall not be less than seven years, but which may extend to imprisonment for life[13].
Women are abandoned or abused for dowry, a system that is utilized by the Groom's families for money. This tradition is the reason why girl-children are either killed at birth or not educated and considered a burden. This is a harsh reality clipping the wings of women even in the 21st century. How long should women be pinned down in the name of patriarchal toxic traditions?

As many analysts point out, it is the subordinate position of the daughter-in-law and the wife in the affinal home which causes oppression and harassment of the girl[14]. In addition, the unwillingness of the parents to receive the daughter back in their home encourages the husband and in-laws to perpetrate violence. According to the social mores, a broken marriage is a matter of shame as the bride's parents have spent a lot of money on the marriage, they have a vested interest in seeing that a breakup does not occur.

Society considers the child of a broken marriage as a problem child. Also, unlike men, who generally remarries after weeks of separation or the death of his wife, a separated or widowed woman carries a stigma and is excluded from all the activities of the family. She is considered a liability in most of the cases since she lacks the educational qualifications to start an independent life.

Acid Attack

Burnt, shamed, and taunted for no fault of theirs, acid attack survivors suffer a great deal of pain and trauma in their life. A cold-hearted society and a sluggish judicial system become the reason for it. In the years 2014-18, there have been 1,483 victims of acid attacks in India. 2017 had the highest number of acid attack victims in the last five years. Unfortunately, the legal process shows a serious backlog for 2017-18.

When the data shows that only 149 people were charge-sheeted in each year, almost 596 cases were reported in the year 2017-18. Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and New Delhi are systematically ranking amongst the highest of the ten worst states in terms of acid attacks entirely creating forty-two percent of the victims of acid attacks[15].

Case Study
Ritu Saini is an acid attack survivor from Haryana. She suffered an acid attack when she was 17 years old. She was attacked by two men on her way to volleyball practice on the instruction of her cousin. The act was done by the 39-year-old Ram Niwas Saini as a revenge crime. Ritu suffered 45% burns on her body and 90% on her face[16].

She has undergone a total of 15 surgeries in the past 8 years. Even though Haryana court sentenced him and three other accomplices to 10 years of imprisonment, Ram Niwas came out of jail within 5 years after a High Court Order. The fate of the guilty in the above-mentioned case is shared by most acid attack cases. While the survivor is disfigured and blamed, the attacker roams freely in society. This itself questions the enforceability of the existing laws.

Rape

  • About 1 in 5 women and nearly 1 in 7 men have experienced rape, assault, or stalking by an intimate partner experienced it in between the ages of 11 to 17[17].
  • Among the women who survived rape, almost 35% were raped as minors compared to 14% who did not have an early rape history[18].
  • Most female victims of completed rape (79.6%) experienced their first rape before the age of 25; 42.2% experienced their first completed rape before the age of 18 years.
  • Most victims of sexual assault or stalking by an intimate partner had experienced sexual assault before the age of 25[19].
  • 43% of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 (29%) college women say they have been in an abusive dating relationship.
  • 52% of college women report knowing a friend who has suffered from violent dating behaviors like sexual, physical, verbal and controlling abuse[20].
  • 1 in 6 (16%) college women has been sexually abused in a dating relationship.
  • Victims of digital abuse and harassment are 2 times as likely to be physically abused, 2.5 times as likely to be psychologically abused, and 5 times as likely to be sexually coerced.
  • About 84% of victims are psychologically abused by their partners, half are physically abused, and one-third experiences sexual coercion.

Rape has now become common all over the world. This is supposed to be alarming because each female irrespective of their age is under the threat of rape. It does not even matter whether it is in the street or in the workplace or at home. It is grossly under-reported because of the stigma. Even when reported, the wrongdoer is not apprehended; and if he is ever delivered to trial, tries are created to label him by casting aspersions on the woman's ethical character[21].

The high-risk categories are young girls in squatter settlements. For preventing rape, not just the laws should be amended, but society should be aware of the trauma and pain undergone by the survivor. We should also teach the younger generation that the perversions against women are not only wrong but also punishable under the law.

Revenge Porn

One in five women were statistically calculated to be victims of revenge porn in a survey conducted in 2016. A new survey taken in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK showed that the statistics increased to one in three. The rates were almost from 35-39%. Revenge Porn is usually circulated to intimidate, threaten, or manipulate women as an act of revenge for incidents, mostly for breaking up a romantic relationship.

Most of these explicit videos and photos are taken or sent by the victim itself consensually during a private moment which is then manipulated by the abuser for revenge. Even in such cases when the video or picture is captured with the consent of the victim, it is spread without the knowledge or consent of the victim which makes it a crime.

Official revenge porn statistics are not available in India, because the law does not recognize it as a crime. However, there has been a 104 percent spike in the volume of obscene content shared electronically between 2012 and 2014 alone[22]. A 2010 cyber-crime report revealed that 35 percent of women report their victimization. 18.3 percent of women were not even aware that they had been victimized[23].

In a survey conducted, about three in four respondents had engaged in digital dating behaviors, and nearly half said they had participated in voluntary sexual self-image behaviors such as sharing photos or videos. The percentage who reported abusive behaviors was nearly as high[24] which is alarming yet not shocking. Almost twenty-ninth of respondents represented feeling pressured to share sexual pictures and thirty-ninth aforesaid they had experienced image-based harassment[25].

When explicit content of a woman is leaked, it is the victim who is blamed and slut-shamed whereas the abuser walks freely in society. The victim is shunned by even her family and friends and is forced to commit suicide. Revenge porn can only be prevented when society changes its perspective on women. Anything done without the consent of a person should be a crime and the abuser should be punished. And regarding the consensual acts, people should need to respect the women. Because when we disrespect a woman for something she did on her own or consensually, we are indirectly implying that women in our society do not have the right to give consent to anything done to her body.

Legal Provisions For The Support Of Women

Violence against women will not change overnight. The government and the judiciary have a lot to do with this. The recent set up National Commission on Women can, if given enough powers and autonomy, go a long way in restoring confidence in the State.

Here are some laws that every woman needs to know and can use to get help.
  1. The state shall not discriminate against any citizen of India on the ground of sex [26
  2. The state is empowered to make any special provision for women[27].
    The two sexes differ in the structure of body, in the functions, to be performed by each, in the amount of physical strength, in the capacity for long-continued labor, particularly when done standing, the influence of vigorous health upon the future wellbeing of the race, the self-reliance which enables one to assert full rights, and in the capacity to maintain the struggle for subsistence. This difference justifies a the difference in legislation and upholds that which is designed to compensate for some of the burdens which rest upon her[28].
  3. No citizen shall be discriminated against or be ineligible for any employment or office under the state on the ground of sex[29].
  4. Traffic in human beings and forced labor are prohibited[30].
  5. The state to secure for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood[31].
  6. The state to secure equal pay for equal work for both Indian men and women [32].
  7. The state is required to ensure that the health and strength of women workers are not abused and that they are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their strength [33]
  8. The state shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief[34].
  9. It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women[35].
  10. Sections 354A, 354C, 354, and 509 of the Indian Penal Code, as well as Sections 66E, 66C, 67 and 67A of the Information Technology Act for cases of revenge porn.
  11. S.499 of IPC for defamation.

The following various legislations contain several rights and safeguards for women:

  1. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005) is comprehensive legislation to protect women in India from all forms of domestic violence.
  2. Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (1956) is the premier legislation for prevention of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
  3. Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (1986) prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures, or in any other manner.
  4. Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act (1987) provides for the more effective prevention of the commission of Sati and its glorification on women.
  5. Dowry Prohibition Act (1961) prohibits the giving or taking of dowry at or before or any time after the marriage from women.
  6. When the question is whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman and it is shown that soon before her death such woman had been subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with any demand for dowry. The court shall presume that such person had caused the dowry death.[36]
  7. Maternity Benefits Act (1961) regulates the employment of women in certain establishments for a certain period before and after childbirth and provides for maternity benefits and certain other benefits.
  8. Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1971) provides for the termination of certain pregnancies by registered medical practitioners on humanitarian and medical grounds.
  9. Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (1994) prohibits sex selection before or after conception and prevents the misuse of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for sex determination leading to female feticide.
  10. Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act (1939) grants a Muslim wife the right to seek the dissolution of her marriage.
  11. Indian Penal Code (1860) contains provisions to protect Indian women from dowry death, rape, kidnapping, cruelty, and other offenses.
  12. Code of Criminal Procedure (1973) has certain safeguards for women like an obligation of a person to maintain his wife, arrest of a woman by female police and so on.
  13. Legal Services Authorities Act (1987) provides for free legal services to Indian women.
  14. Hindu Marriage Act (1955) introduced monogamy and allowed divorce on certain specified grounds. It provided equal rights to Indian men and women in respect to marriage and divorce.
  15. Hindu Succession Act (1956) recognizes the right of women to inherit parental property equally with men.
  16. National Commission for Women Act (1990) provided for the establishment of a National Commission for Women to study and monitor all matters relating to the constitutional and legal rights and safeguards of women.
  17. Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal). Act (2013) provides protection to women from sexual harassment at all workplaces both in the public and private sector, whether organized or unorganized (Vishakha guidelines).

Conclusion
India was ‘the world's most dangerous country for women' in 2018[37]. Preventing violence against women requires a multi-pronged effort. It requires raising the awareness of women regarding their rights, but more importantly, providing a strong support system for women in distress. At present, there are several women's organizations in large cities like Mumbai, which provide temporary shelter, moral support, legal aid, assistance in getting jobs, etc.

There are also traditional organizations that provide rescue homes for women, but which usually do not emphasize economic self-reliance for women. A trend has, however, started for running training programs, legal literacy classes, etc. Such support centers are too few to handle a large number of victimized women[38].

Women are not animals or objects who should be protected on a leash or taken care of by men. They are intelligent and capable beings who should be given equal opportunities. It is, hence, the responsibility of each one of us to support women who are abandoned or in need and to actively ta ke part in changing the perspective of society to have a healthy future for all.

Reference
  1. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000096629
  2. https://www.icrw.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Domestic-Violence-in-India-1-Summary-Report-of-Three-Studies.pdf
  3. https://evaw-global database.unwomen.org/pt/countries/asia/india?formofviolence=b51b5bac425b470883736a3245b7cbe6
  4. https://www.indiatoday.in/diu/story/india-saw-almost-1-500-acid-attacks-in-five-years-1636109-2020-01-12
  5. https://edugeneral.org/blog/polity/women-rights-in-india
  6. https://edugeneral.org/blog/polity/women-rights-in-india/
  7. https://www.timesnownews.com/mirror-now/in-focus/article/revenge-porn-how-it-destroys-lives-and-how-to-deal-with-the-menace/550397
  8. https://www.fastcompany.com/90467411/shocking-study-finds-1-in-3-are-victims-of-revenge-porn-or-image-based-sexual-abuse
  9. https://www.scribd.com/document/334456794/11-FIR-POW
  10. https://cyberbaap.org/cyberbullying/reporting/
End-Notes:
  1. Miya Yamanouchi, Embrace Your Sexual Self: A Practical Guide for Women
  2. https://www.facebook.com/fimemfreinet/posts/it-is-estimated-that-35-per-cent-of-women-worldwide-have-experienced-either-phys/2755583857802438/
  3. https://imagesmena.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2017/04/IMAGES-MENA-Press-Release-FINAL-EN.pdf
  4. https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures
  5. https://thecircle.ngo/about/why-women-girls/
  6. https://thp.org/news/orange-the-world-16-days-of-activism-against-gender-based-violence/
  7. http://www.globalwomenconnected.com/2016/12/violence-against-women/
  8. Virginia Woolf
  9. www.shethepeople.tv
  10. Reports from National Crime Bureau of India
  11. https://ssi.edu.in/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Internship-Report-by-Ms.-Tanisha-Khandelwal.pdf
  12. Dowry Prohibition Act,1961
  13. S.304-B of the Indian Penal Code
  14. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000096629
  15. https://www.indiatoday.in/diu/story/india-saw-almost-1-500-acid-attacks-in-five-years-1636109-2020-01-12
  16. https://www.shethepeople.tv/top-stories/issues/india-acid-attacks-survivors-data/
  17. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_executive_summary-a.pdf
  18. https://www.pcar.org/sites/default/files/resource-pdfs/friends_and_family_guide_final.pdf
  19. https://www.thehotline.org/stakeholders/domestic-violence-statistics/
  20. https://www.loveisrespect.org/pdf/College_Dating_And_Abuse_Final_Study.pdf
  21. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_executive_summary-a.pdf
  22. as per the data from the National Crime Records Bureau,
  23. https://www.timesnownews.com/mirror-now/in-focus/article/revenge-porn-how-it-destroys-lives-and-how-to-deal-with-the-menace/550397
  24. The new international findings extend upon an Australian survey conducted last year by the Australian Institute of Criminology.
  25. https://www.fastcompany.com/90467411/shocking-study-finds-1-in-3-are-victims-of-revenge-porn-or-image-based-sexual-abuse
  26. Article 15 (1) of the Indian Constitution
  27. Article 15(3)
  28. Dr. M.C. Sharma v. The Panjab University & Others, AIR 1997 P&H 87
  29. Article 16(2)
  30. Article 23(1)
  31. Article 39(a) of the Indian Constitution.
  32. Article 39(d).
  33. Article 39(e)
  34. Article 42
  35. Article 51-A(e).
  36. Dowry Death and Evidence Act, 1872

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