Violence against women continues to be alarmingly high in India and elsewhere, irrespective of the religion, race, region or level of development in a particular society. Cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence against women are still common throughout India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 244,270 incidents of crimes against women, including nearly 25,000 cases of rape, were reported in 2012, an increase of 6.4% over 2011. Although, the Constitution of India guarantees equality under Article 14, which states that “the State shall not deny to any person equality before law or equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”, and Article 15(1) states that “the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them”, the gender inequality is still a very stark reality in the country. India was ranked 132 out of 187 countries in the Gender Inequality Index of the UN Development Programme. According to Amnesty International, several surveys show that an estimated 30.53% of women who experience sexual violence actually tell someone about the incident, but only 1% out of these end up reporting to the police, due to concerns of security, social stigma & discrimination.
The latest WHO report of November, 2014 on intimate partner and sexual violence against women indicates that violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women – are major public health problems. The report further elaborates that recent global prevalence figures indicate that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. It states that on average, 30% of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner. The report categorically underscores the fact that violence can result in physical, mental, sexual, reproductive health and other health problems, and may increase vulnerability to HIV. It identifies the risk factors for being a perpetrator to include low education, exposure to child maltreatment or witnessing violence in the family, harmful use of alcohol, attitudes accepting of violence and gender inequality and the risk factors for being a victim of intimate partner and sexual violence to include low education, witnessing violence between parents, exposure to abuse during childhood and attitudes accepting violence and gender inequality.
Additionally, in the form of global statistics the following observation and conclusions have been drawn:
- Intimate partner and sexual violence have serious short- and long-term physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems for survivors and for their children, and lead to high social and economic costs.
- Violence against women can have fatal results like homicide or suicide.
- It can lead to injuries, with 42% of women who experience intimate partner reporting an injury as a consequence of this violence.
- Intimate partner violence and sexual violence can lead to unintended pregnancies, induced abortions, gynecological problems, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The 2013 analysis found that women who had been physically or sexually abused were 1.5 times more likely to have a sexually transmitted infection and, in some regions, HIV, compared to women who had not experienced partner violence. They are also twice as likely to have an abortion.
- Intimate partner violence in pregnancy also increases the likelihood of miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-term delivery and low birth weight babies.
- These forms of violence can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep difficulties, eating disorders, and emotional distress and suicide attempts. The same study found that women who have experienced intimate partner violence were almost twice as likely to experience depression and problem drinking. The rate was even higher for women who had experienced non-partner sexual violence.
- Health effects can also include headaches, back pain, abdominal pain, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal disorders, limited mobility and poor overall health.
- Sexual violence, particularly during childhood, can lead to increased smoking, drug and alcohol misuse, and risky sexual behaviours in later life. It is also associated with perpetration of violence (for males) and being a victim of violence (for females).
The report particularly highlights that situations of conflict, post conflict and displacement may exacerbate existing violence and present additional forms of violence against women.
There could be several approaches to address the issue of VAW; IPAC focuses on women empowerment as the key area of intervention for lasting solutions to the problem of gender based violence. We consider women empowerment vital to sustainable development and the realization of human rights for all. Under this programme domain, IPAC centers on the issue of women human rights defenders, which includes safety and security of women activists, survivors of violence specially in the context of conflict situations; women in governance which also implies representation of women in political and administrative spaces, and women livelihood focusing on skill building and financial inclusion.