Posts Tagged ‘gender based violence’


International Women’s Day is celebrated by the United Nations with a new theme every year. This year it’s called ‘A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women’.

The focus this year is on prevention of violence and the provision of support services/responses to survivors of violence.

The United Nations General Assembly defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

“It is estimated that up to seven in ten women globally will be beaten, raped, abused or mutilated in their lifetimes- and most of this violence takes place in intimate relationships.” -United Nations

Violence against women is a global epidemic which is deeply rooted in the cultural history of various societies throughout the world. An evidence of this can be seen in the various proverbs across the globe. Some examples of these proverbs are as follows:

Beat your wife regularly… If you don’t know why, she will. (Zambia)

The nails of a cart and the head of a woman: they work only when they are hit hard. (Rajasthan, India)

Affection begins at the end of a rod. (Korea)

A woman, a dog and a walnut tree — the harder you beat them, the better they be. (Europe)

These proverbs seem to reflect a kind of society where wife-beating is not only considered manly but also a part of life. A life where woman is inferior, should be treated as one’s property and must be kept under a check. There is no equality.

To think that such proverbs result in domestic violence would be irrational & idiotic although they do reflect a misogynistic society where inequality is a norm.

Women suffer through numerous forms of violence throughout their lives.

Examples of Violence against Women Throughout the Life Cycle 

Phase                                         Type of violence

Pre-birth                                     Sex-selective abortion; effects of battering during pregnancy on birth outcomes.

Infancy                                      Female infanticide; physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

Girlhood                                    Child marriage; female genital mutilation; physical, sexual and psychological abuse; incest; child prostitution and pornography.

Adolescence and Adulthood         Dating and courtship violence (e.g. acid throwing and date rape) economically coerced sex (e.g. school girls having sex with “sugar daddies” in return for school fees); incest; sexual abuse in the workplace; rape

sexual harassment; forced prostitution and pornography; trafficking in women; partner violence; marital rape; dowry abuse and murders; partner homicide; psychological abuse; abuse of women with

disabilities; forced pregnancy.

Elderly                                      Forced “suicide” or homicide of widows for economic reasons; sexual, physical and psychological abuse.

(Source: “Violence Against Women”, WHO., FRH/WHD/97.8)

The true prevalence of violence against women is concealed as a result of the under-recording by the police, and under-reporting by the women involved. Under-recording occurs when violence against women – particularly in the home – is viewed as a ‘normal’ part of gender relations. Ignorance & prejudice among police and other state officials means that women survivors of violence risk being blamed for the violence inflicted against them. Women who have been trafficked may experience arrest, harassment, or expulsion if they report their experiences to the police, especially where prostitution is illegal. Where arrests are made, it is often women and not the traffickers who are detained. Many women opt to remain silent about violence. This under-reporting may be the result of fear of the attacker, of the social taboos surrounding violence against women, or of a lack of support to women survivors of violence. — Ending Violence Against Women: A Challenge for Development and Humanitarian Work

Basically the reasons behind under-reporting on the part of women are:

  • The attacker is known to the victim
  • Cultural stigma attached to violence such as domestic violence occurs due to failure on victim’s part to fulfil her roles.
  • Women don’t want to shame the family name
  • Failure of formal institutions to provide effective protection for women

Despite these obstacles to uncovering prevalence of the problem, quantitative & qualitative research that gives a more accurate picture of the problem does exist. One such research drawn by the United Nations back in 1998 is as follows:

 Domestic Violence against Women

Industrialized Countries

Canada

● 29% of women (a nationally representative sample of 12,300 women) reported being physically assaulted by a current or former partner since the age of 16.

Japan

● 59% of 796 women surveyed in 1993 reported being physically abused by their partner. New Zealand

● 20% of 314 women surveyed reported being hit or physically abused by a male partner. Switzerland

● 20% of 1,500 women reported being physically assaulted according to a 1997 survey. United Kingdom

● 25% of women (a random sample of women from one district) had been punched or slapped by a partner or ex-partner in their lifetime. United States

● 28% of women (a nationally representative sample of women) reported at least one episode of physical violence from their partner.

Asia and the Pacific

Cambodia

● 16% of women (a nationally representative sample of women) reported being physically abused by a spouse; 8% report being injured. India

● Up to 45% of married men acknowledged physically abusing their wives, according to a 1996 survey of 6,902 men in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Korea

● 38% of wives reported being physically abused by their spouse, based on a survey of a random sample of women. Thailand

● 20% of husbands (a representative sample of 619 husbands) acknowledged physically abusing their wives at least once in their marriage.

Middle East

Egypt

● 35% of women (a nationally representative sample of women) reported being beaten by their husband at some point in their marriage. Israel

● 32% of women reported at least one episode of physical abuse by their partner and 30% report sexual coercion by their husbands in the previous year, according to a 1997 survey of 1,826 Arab women.

Africa

Kenya

● 42% of 612 women surveyed in one district reported having been beaten by a partner; of those 58% reported that they were beaten often or sometimes.

Uganda

● 41% of women reported being beaten or physically harmed by a partner; 41% of men reported beating their partner (representative sample of women and their partners in two districts).

Zimbabwe

● 32% of 966 women in one province reported physical abuse by a family or household member since the age of 16, according to a 1996 survey.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Chile

● 26% of women (representative sample of women from Santiago) reported at least one episode of violence by a partner, 11% reported at least one episode of severe violence and 15% of women reported at least one episode of less severe violence.

Colombia

● 19% of 6,097 women surveyed have been physically assaulted by their partner in their lifetime. Mexico

● 30% of 650 women surveyed in Guadalajara reported at least one episode of physical violence by a partner; 13% reported physical violence within the previous year, according to a 1997 report.

Nicaragua

● 52% of women (representative sample of women in León) reported being physically abused by a partner at least once; 27% reported physical abuse in the previous year, according to a 1996 report.

Central and Eastern Europe/CIS/Baltic States

Estonia

● 29% of women aged 18-24 fear domestic violence, and the share rises with age, affecting 52% of women 65 or older, according to a 1994 survey of 2,315 women.

Poland

● 60% of divorced women surveyed in 1993 by the Centre for the Examination of Public Opinion reported having been hit at least once by their ex-husbands; an additional 25% reported repeated violence.

Russia (St. Petersburg)

● 25% of girls (and 11% of boys) reported unwanted sexual contact, according to a survey of 174 boys and 172 girls in grade 10 (aged 14-17). Tajikistan

● 23% of 550 women aged 18-40 reported physical abuse, according to a survey.

(Adapted from “Violence Against Women,” WHO, FRH/WHD/97.8, “Women in Transition,” Regional Monitoring Report, UNICEF 1999, and a study by Domestic Violence Research Centre, Japan.)

Violence against women is a form of gender based hate crime that is gnawing at the foundation of this society, it is not only a human rights or public health issue, but an economic and development issue, slowing economic growth and undermining efforts to reduce poverty.

Evidence suggests domestic violence witnessed as a child is repeated in adulthood.

Men who have seen violence in childhood are two to three times more likely than other men to become perpetrators of violence as adults.

Girls who have witnessed violence as children are more likely to grow up to become the victims of violence as adults. — Viewpoint: The price of violence against women and girls

We don’t need more proof, claims, evidence or statistics to recognize the danger of an unequal society. It is time now to take a stand, fight for what’s right and hail an era of gender equality all over the world. This Women’s Day, let’s pledge to bring women to the forefront of economic progress and put an end to gender discrimination.

Citation: For more proverbs on violence against women check out http://www.intrahealth.org/page/the-power-of-proverbs-

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According to Wikipedia ‘Acid attack’ or vitriolage is defined as the act of throwing acid onto the body of a person “with the intention of injuring or disfiguring [them] out of jealousy or revenge”. Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones. The long-term consequences of these attacks include blindness and permanent scarring of the face and body.

As a part of Justice For Women, I have come across some acid attack cases and have been managing groups and pages such for these victims: Archana Kumari, Inderjit Kaur, Sonali Mukherjee and recently a 15-year old girl called Tuba Tabassum.

With every new case, the wounds get deeper, the crime gets graver and the heart gets heavier. How could one human being put another through such a horrendous act of terror? It turns the victim into the living dead. Acid attack doesn’t just deforms one’s face and body, it takes away their whole personality, their identity and more than that, their life; It causes extreme physical and mental suffering to victims and permanently mar their psyche. I personally could not think of an act more inhumane than this one.

According to a report by the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School, the Committee on International Human Rights of the New York City Bar Association, the Cornell Law School International Human Rights Clinic, and the Virtue Foundation, called COMBATING ACID VIOLENCE IN BANGLADESH, INDIA, AND CAMBODIA, “acid violence is prevalent in these countries because of three related factors: gender inequality and discrimination, the easy availability of acid, and impunity for acid attack perpetrators.”

Since I wasn’t completely aware of acid attack know-how, I did research on the topic by reading the above mentioned report, Raahnuma.org and Tehelka:

What are the most common types of acids used in acid attacks?

Most commonly available acids used to attack victims are hydrochloric, sulfuric, or nitric acid, which quickly burns through flesh and bone.

What are the reasons behind these acid attacks?

They result from domestic or land disputes, dowry demands or revenge. In many cases they are a form of gender based violence, perhaps because a young girl or woman spurned sexual advances or rejected a marriage proposal.

What are the after-effects/consequences of the acid attack on victims?

Acid attacks cause immediate damage, disfigurement, pain, and long lasting medical complications for victims. Acid can melt away a victim’s skin and flesh, going as far as dissolving bones. The burned skin dies, turning black and leathery, and severe scarring results.

After the attacks, victims are at risk of breathing failure due to the inhalation of acid vapors which cause either a poisonous reaction or swelling in the lungs. In the weeks or even months after the attack, acid burn victims may suffer from infections, which can also cause death if not treated properly.

How long does it take for the acid to start affecting the skin?

It takes five seconds of contact to cause superficial burns and 30 seconds to result in full-thickness burns.

What kind of First Aid must be provided to an acid attack victim?
  1. As quickly as possible, flush contaminated area with lukewarm, gently flowing water for at least 20-30 minutes, by the clock. If irritation persists, repeat flushing.
  2. While flushing the eyes use lukewarm water and keep the eyelids open at all times to allow uninterrupted flushing to rinse every last residue of acid.
  3. Neutral saline solution may be used as soon as it is available without interrupting the flushing.
  4. Call for an ambulance right away and keep flushing until one arrives.
  5. Under running water, remove clothing, shoes, jewelry watch any other contaminated item touching the skin.
  6. Keep contaminated clothing, shoes and all other items in a plastic bag for evidence.

Dos and Don’ts:

  • Do not take off any clothing that is stuck to the burn.
  • Do not interrupt flushing at any time.
  • Do not soak the burn in water.
  • Do not use ice as this will damage the skin.
  • Do not use a fluffy cloth, like a towel or blanket.
  • Do not break or pop any blisters.
  • Do not use butter, grease, oils or ointments if it is a severe burn..
  • Make sure the person is breathing, and administer CPR if necessary
  • Give him/her a pain reliever medicine.
  • Cool the burn with running water or a cold damp cloth.

For more details, please refer to Raahnuma, a site dedicated to providing information, support and resources to victims of abuse of any kind and their families.

Why do acid attack victim require to undergo multiple reconstruction surgeries?

Victims must endure painful surgical procedures just to prevent further harm and suffering.

If not washed off immediately, acid continues to burn the skin, and may eventually cause skeletal damage and organ failure. If the dead skin is not removed from an acid violence victims’ body within four or five days, the new skin may grow to cause further facial deformities. If there is burned skin tissue around the neck and armpit areas, it must be removed to facilitate movement.

After a while, some skin may grow back and grow over eyelids or nostrils of victims, or pull on existing skin resulting in the formation of lumps.

To avoid severe pain and further disabilities, acid burn victims need staged surgeries and constant physical therapy to ensure that scarred tissue remains elastic and does not harm other parts of the body.

Why are acid attacks so common in our country?

The biggest reason for the high frequency rate of acid attacks in India is that concentrated acid is cheap and easily available in the market, for as low as Rs. 16-25 per liter.

Furthermore there are no legal restrictions imposed on buying or selling acid. Anyone can legally purchase acid over the counter in pharmacies, automobile repair shops, goldsmith shops, and open-air markets. Acid is also heavily used in many households as a cleaning agent.

Why must we treat acid attacks as a grave criminal act and what should be the punishment like?

Acid attack perpetrators do not usually intend to kill their victims, but to cause long-lasting physical damage and emotional trauma.

Even if the perpetrator does not intend to cause death, the injuries sustained by the victim may still result in death.

Is there an international legislation for acid attacks?

Acid violence constitutes gender-based violence, a form of discrimination under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

What must be the State’s involvement in curbing the increasing number of acid attacks?
  1. States committed to decreasing the rate of acid attacks should enact laws regulating the handling of acid such as
    • Requiring the storage and sale of acid in labeled containers indicating the nature of the content, cautioning users about its dangerousness, and warning them of the penalties associated with misuse of acid.
    • Banning the use of concentrated forms of acid for household purposes where less potentially harmful alternatives are available.
  2. States must enact targeted legislation and policies to address acid violence and also ensure effective implementation of those laws and policies by conducting appropriate investigations, protecting victims from threats that could undermine these investigations and providing just punishment to the perpetrators of acid attacks.
Where does India stand as far as formulating a legislation dedicated solely to acid attack is concerned?

The National Commission for Women (NCW) came up with a draft of the Prevention of Offences (by Acids) Act, 2008.

The draft Bill proposed by the NCW suggested that a national acid attack victims’ assistance board be set up to recommend to the government strategies for regulating and controlling the production, hoarding, import, sale and distribution of acids.

The Cabinet has passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012, with special provisions for acid victims. For the first time, acid attacks have been included under a standalone provision in the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

It has been proposed that two sections — 326A (hurt by acid attack) and 326B (attempt to throw or administer acid) — be added to the IPC. This is a non-bailable offence. The proposed law states that the attacker could get a jail term of 10 years to life for causing hurt by acid. He or she could be sent to jail for up to seven years for attempting to do so.

The law states that there should be an additional clause in the law making where the State should take up the responsibility of compensating the victim if the accused fails to do so. Some states such as Karnataka have adopted a mechanism to pay the victim from State funds. Recently, the Delhi Government too announced that it would pay a compensation of up to Rs. 3 lakh to a victim in case there is disfigurement of the face.

Special mention-ASTI:

Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI) is the only organisation in the world working at the international level to end acid and burns violence. It also works with UN agencies, NGOs and strategic partners from across the world to increase awareness of acid violence and develop effective responses at the national and international level. In India, the partner is called Acid Survivors Forum India.

Needless to say, there is an urgent need for India to pass a separate law to curb this vicious act of hatred towards women called acid attack. The actual number of such cases may exceed our imagination since there is no national statistics available to record cases of acid attack. Also, most of these cases go unreported due to various reasons such as economic background of the family, threats to victims, insensitive treatment by police and medical staff of the victims etc.

We need to open our eyes to this deadly threat of acid attack and must ask the government to regulate distribution of commonly available acid as well as regulate laws specifically targeting the heinous act of acid attack.

For this purpose, we have formed a group on Facebook called Students Against Acid Attack to collect like-minded, strong-headed youth on a shared platform, that realizes the urgency of the situation and stands united to support this cause. Kindly join, share and be a part of the student collective to fight for the human rights of these acid attack victims and ensure that justice is duly served.

Because together this generation can and shall make this country proud!