Posts Tagged ‘Violence against women’


Guest post by Monica Sarkar, a freelance journalist and writer. Original post at http://missinterpreting.com:

The tragic case of the Delhi gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman last year forced India to take a long, hard look at itself in the mirror and decide how to change.

Or rather, the citizens looked at the government and judiciary system and made it reconsider how it deals with the abuse of its women.

But let’s not forget one thing: violence against women is a crime the world over. Alongside the stories emanating from India, there have also been reports of gang rapes in Mexico, Brazil andSouth Africa.

In war torn countries such as Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, sexual violence is used as a weapon of war – even after a ceasefire is declared.

And it isn’t restricted to the developing world; in the UK, approximately 85,000 women are raped on average in England and Wales every year.

Society’s fabric drapes mens’ shoulders

Patriarchal beliefs, sometimes subtle and other times misogynic, are woven into the fabric of many societies that hold down women and drape the shoulders of men.

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) states: “…violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.”

Perhaps there has been more noise about the incidents in India because, out of sheer frustration and anger, its citizens have taken to the streets and are shouting about them too.

So when you hear or read of such tragic tales from India, I hope you don’t just point your finger, shake your head and think this is India’s problem. Because violence against women is likely to be happening on your soil, but your attention is on another land.

But we need to be aware; a link has even been suggested between the abuse of women and international violence. The study, entitled “Heart of the Matter,” in the Harvard-published journalInternational Security, concluded that the best predictor of societies’ peacefulness is how well they safeguard the interests of women. Therefore, mistreat women and you mistreat the world.

Yes, India’s rape problem is alarming. But look at your own country, look at your people, look at yourself: how do you treat your women and how do you need to change?

Advertisements

Guest post by Samar Esapzai, a visual artist and PhD student in International Rural Development and Gender Studies.

In an enlightening class I took last semester, my professor said something that stuck with me long after the class/semester ended, for it held so much raw truth. She said:

“The woman’s body is the battleground upon which cultural and religious wars are fought.”

Being a woman in any given society, whether it may be within South/Central Asia or in the West, there are often triggers of distress and tension, and the constant battle with one’s image and appearance that plays over and over again in a woman’s head like a broken record. We live in a world where, right from the time we are born up until we die, we are told that our body defines us; that our sexuality should be proscribed – protected; and that we should do everything in our power to guard our bodies – our honour – from the enemy: men. And, if we don’t, then the blame falls solely upon us.

While there are some who manage to break free from this never-ending cycle of staring, leering, gawking, examining, judging, etc., most women will, however, be forever stuck in this rut for the majority of their adult lives. The worst part is that some women have even accepted it – accepted that they, their bodies, are the reason behind every incident of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence that have been, and will be, inflicted upon them. It has almost become like an unspoken sort of awareness, where a woman suddenly realizes how dangerous her body is to her safety. And if she slips – even once – she will have no choice but to suffer the dire consequences that accompany it.

Furthermore, when we look back at history, especially in the context of war and conflict, women’s bodies have often been treated as territories to be conquered, claimed and marked by the contender. This is why violence, especially sexual violence, against women was and still is quite common during communal/ethnic conflicts. Women would not only be raped but their bodies would be marked in such a way so as to remind the opposing enemy that their women – who are supposed to be “pure” and a representative of the community’s/nation’s “honour” – are stained.

Such markings would include stripping a woman naked and serenading her in shame in public; physical mutilation and disfigurement, i.e. cutting off a woman’s private parts, or other parts of her body, such as her nose, ears, hair, etc.; tattooing and branding a woman on her private parts, i.e. her breasts and/or genitals, with hate slogans against the enemy; and other forms of debasements to emphasize conquest and suppression.

Thus, the violation of women’s bodies equates the same political territories upon which the men from the rioting communities would inscribe their markings on. It’s like an uncanny sort of relinquishment – a victory, where it becomes blatant that in order to defeat a nation, you must violate their women. Such atrocious violations against women hence create a sense of helplessness in communities where a woman’s honour is more important than her life. And in order to revive this honour, members of the community (usually male) have no choice but to kill off every single female who was either raped or physically/sexually violated in any way. For it is known that a woman’s dishonour is the dishonour of the ethnic race, the community, and the nation as a whole.

Consequently, the targeting of women’s bodies is both an effect and a cause of the acceptability of sexual violence against women. It serves to subjugate women further, and creates an environment where violence becomes habitual and is committed with impunity. And while there is no denying that the blame often falls upon the woman for failing to guard her body from being violated, even if it is against her own volition, an equal burden falls upon the shoulders of men who deeply value their women’s honour.

I personally believe that as long as such societies conventionalize the woman as a symbol of honour and continue to instrumentalize her in such an ignominious way, gender-based violence in these societies will persist, making any iota of progress seem bleak.

Even so, not all societies associate women with honour, despite the fact that rape and other forms of violence against women still occurs. There are societies, particularly within the South and Central Asian region, where a woman’s dignity equates her entire existence as well as the existence of those around her. And though it is clear that men, too, are targets and victims of violence, it is the gendered nature of violence that marks women’s experiences as wholly unique.


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-


I wrote this post while traveling since my mind cannot rest. Since the current incidents have assured me that nobody else but ME has to take charge of my own safety. 

She has a guy with her, she is safe-> is one of the common notions, which a lot of women have. But the recent Delhi Rape case proved it wrong and has brought the brutal truth in front of us. No doubt having a guy while you’re traveling late night or through a dingy area is good but to entirely depend on them is NOT.

Everyday I see a lot of girls making claims that they are safe since they have a boyfriend, even if they are living away from home. They have a guy to protect them and fight for them. What they don’t realize is that the guy is not going to be there 24/7 and the guy doesn’t ensure safety. Instead of relying on a guy for one’s safety, women of today need to take charge of their safety to themselves.

Girls/Women/Kids need to be self-sufficient that they can kick balls of anyone who tries to misbehave. Women need to be mentally strong and should know atleast basic self-defense techniques. They need to learn how to get out of some tricky situations or how to use their bags/phones/magazines as a tool for safety. They need to have the inner self-confidence and let it reflect on their faces. They need to be mentally prepared to face the worst of situations alone. Even woman needs to set an example for others and show the men that they’re not feeble, they will not keep quiet, they will stand up for themselves.

Apart from this, we hear about a lot of cases where a boyfriend or a husband is the cause of the sexual assault or molestation or physical damage. Women need to learn to stand up for themselves and not face any kind of violence or misbehavior. There is peer pressure or family pressure, but if you don’t stand for yourselves; nobody else will.

Break the rules, but say NO to Injustice. Say NO to misbehavior. Say NO to anything that pulls you down.

More power to the Women community!


Post by Zena Costa, sports journalist from Goa:

Domestic Violence Act 2005 is the first significant attempt in India to recognise domestic abuse as a punishable offence, to extend its provisions to those in live-in relationships, and to provide for emergency relief for the victims, in addition to legal recourse.

Why a legislation for domestic violence?

Domestic violence is among the most prevalent and among the least reported forms of cruel behaviour.

Till the year 2005, remedies available to a victim of domestic violence in the civil courts (divorce) and criminal courts (vide Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code) were limited. There was no emergency relief available to the victim; the remedies that were available were linked to matrimonial proceedings; and the court proceedings were always protracted, during which period the victim was invariably at the mercy of the abuser.

Also the relationships outside marriage were not recognised. This set of circumstances ensured that a majority of women preferred to suffer in silence. It is essentially to address these anomalies that the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was passed.

Who are the primary beneficiaries of this Act?

Women and children. Section 2(a) of the Act will help any woman who is or has been in a domestic relationship with the ‘respondent’ in the case.It empowers women to file a case against a person with whom she is having a ‘domestic relationship’ in a ’shared household’, and who has subjected her to ‘domestic violence’.

Children are also covered by the Act; they too can file a case against a parent or parents who are tormenting or torturing them, physically, mentally, or economically. Any person can file a complaint on behalf of a child.

Who is defined as ‘respondent’ by this law?

Section 2 (q) states that any adult male member who has been in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person is the ‘respondent’. The respondent can also be a relative of the husband or male partner .Thus, a father-in-law, mother-in-law, or even siblings of the husband and other relatives can be proceeded against.

How does the new law define domestic abuse?

Section 3 of the law says any act/conduct/omission/commission that harms or injures or has the potential to harm or injure will be considered ‘domestic violence’.

Under this, the law considers physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, psychological, and economic abuse or threats of the same.

Even a single act of commission or omission may constitute domestic violence — in other words, women do not have to suffer a prolonged period of abuse before taking recourse to the law.

How does the law ensure that a wife who takes legal recourse in the event is not intimidated or harassed?

An important aspect of this law is that it aims to ensure that an aggrieved wife, who takes recourse to the law, cannot be harassed for doing so. Thus, if a husband is accused of any of the above forms of violence, he cannot during the pending disposal of the case prohibit/restrict the wife’s continued access to resources/ facilities to which she is entitled by virtue of the domestic relationship, including access to the shared household. In short, a husband cannot take away her jewellery or money, or throw her out of the house while they are having a dispute.

What are the main rights of a woman as recognised by this law?

The law is so liberal and forward-looking that it recognises a woman’s right to reside in the shared household with her husband or a partner even when a dispute is on .Thus, it legislates against husbands who throw their wives out of the house when there is a dispute. Such an action by a husband will now be deemed illegal, not merely unethical.

Even if she is a victim of domestic violence, she retains right to live in ’shared homes’ that is, a home she shares with the abusive partner. Section 17 of the law, which gives all married women or female partners in a domestic relationship the right to reside in a home that is known in legal terms as the shared household, applies whether or not she has any right, title or beneficial interest in the same.

The law provides that if an abused woman requires, she has to be provided alternate accommodation and in such situations, the accommodation and her maintenance has to be paid for by her husband or partner.

The law, significantly, recognises the need of the abused woman for emergency relief, which will have to be provided by the husband. A woman cannot be stopped from making a complaint/application alleging domestic violence. She has the right to the services and assistance of the Protection Officer and Service Providers, stipulated under the provisions of the law.

A woman who is the victim of domestic violence will have the right to the services of the police, shelter homes and medical establishments. She also has the right to simultaneously file her own complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.

Sections 18-23 provide a large number of options for legal redressal. She can claim through the courts Protection Orders, Residence Orders, Monetary Relief, Custody Order for her children, Compensation Order and Interim/ Ex parte Orders.

If a husband violates any of the above rights of the aggrieved woman, it will be deemed a punishable offence. Charges under Section 498A can be framed by the magistrate, in addition to the charges under this Act. Further, the offences are cognisable and non-bailable. Punishment for violation of the rights enumerated above could extend to one year’s imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of Rs 20,000.