What the numbers mean: Data on Violence against Women

There’s been a lot of discussion in the print media over the last couple of weeks about data and statistics on different forms of gender and sexual violence. What numbers are there in India? What do they mean? How can we interpret them? What do they tell us and what do they hide?

In 2011, we organised a seminar to discuss exactly this, inviting representatives from the police, service provider organisations, lawyers, journalists, academics and students, among others. Much has changed in the two years since in terms of public awareness and attitudes towards violence – however, it does appear that little has changed in terms of data-related challenges.

Do read the excerpt from the seminar report below. You can access the full report here.

Making numbers count: The gender violence tally
16 September 2011: Seminar Report
The lack of accurate, accessible, updated and relevant data on gender violence remains a real stumbling block for the many non-profit organisations and governments that grapple with this issue. Why is it so important to have this data, to understand it and to use itproperly? Given that gender and sexual violence get little attention, numbers become essential for ‘flag-waving’, for holding up as evidence, proof, to backup anecdotal evidence. Most of all, good data conveys the urgency of the problem in ways that nothing else can.
For these and other reasons, data on gender violence was the focus of Prajnya’s first full-day research seminar.‘Making numbers count: The gender violence tally” was organised on 16 September 2011 to discuss four dimensions of data collection on gender violence: What are the available sources of data on gender violence in Tamil Nadu? Is all available data good data; indeed, what is good data? What challenges do we face in collecting data on certain specific forms of violence? How can we, through our work as activists, researchers or service providers, help gather high quality data on gender violence?
Also read:
Albeena Shakil in EPW on what the most recent data on rape and honour crimes in India tells us. Rape and Honour Crimes: The NCRB Report 2012, 3 August 2013, EPW.
A comprehensive and accessible infographic on NCRB data from The Hindu. Data busts some myths on sexual violence, 3 September 2013, The Hindu.
Rukmini S in The Hindu on how and why the NCRB undercounts crimes against women. India officially undercounts all crimes including rape, 13 September 2013, The Hindu.
Dilip D’Souza in Livemint on the many questions that official data on sexual violence raises. Report a rape today, 12 September 2013, Livemint.
And finally, Meena Menon in The Hindu on similar data-related challenges that Pakistan faces, in terms of violence against women. Women grapple with violence in Pakistan, 16 September 2013, The Hindu.

Everyone’s take on women, clothes, rape


Two wonderfully nuanced and sensible responses to this whole furor:

Kalpana Sharma, ‘On wearing ‘obscene’ clothes‘  in The Hindu, 8 January 2012

Harini Calamur, ‘Lulling women into false sense of security‘, DNA, 9 January 2012


Sometimes I search for tactful ways to describe people’s stupidity. In this case, it isn’t really possible.

The story so far:

First, the Director General of Police of Andhra Pradesh said this.

Top quote:

“When you are taking food which gives good josh, you tend to be more naughty as time passes. I am giving you down-to-earth facts. Rapes are not in the control of the police … Even the villagers from coastal Andhra are wearing salwar-kameez (as against traditional dress). All these things provoke”.

Next, the Minister for Women and Child Welfare in Karnataka had this comment, when asked about what the AP DGP had said.

Third, and absolutely unforgivably, KK Seethama, former Head of Dept. of Women’s Studies at Bangalore University and head of the committee against sexual harassment had this to say:

I’m against women wearing obscene clothes. With such clothes, they tempt men and that’s why they get raped. Even when one wears saris , long-sleeve blouses must be worn. I tell my students they must wear long kurtas when they wear jeans,” she said.

“I advocate a dress code for women for their own good. What’s the use of wearing short tops and showing off their tummy? Women look pretty when they are well covered. Many women lecturers in BU wear salwars and jeans. What respect can they expect from boys?

Finally, voices of sanity:

Read Shilpa Phadke And Sameera Khan on ‘The 21st Century Politics of College Clothing’ here on Infochange India

Samar Halarnkar in today’s Hindustan Times on the ‘rash of stupid comments from officials about clothes, rape’ that ‘reveals why indian women struggle to advance’. Read his response here.

From the Hindu: VAW in the media

The Hindu’s Reader’s Editor (Issue, 4 July 2011) focuses on the ‘growing violence against women, a cause for great concern’. He speaks of the increasing number of cases that have made their way into the media, including the attack on Panchayat leader Krishnaveni in Tamil Nadu.

Rising trend in crime against women

Meanwhile, several incidents of violence targeting mostly the deprived sections of the people in different parts of the country are disturbing and disheartening. Growing violence against women is a cause for great concern.

Five recent incidents of violence have been reported in Uttar Pradesh within a couple of days in mid-June. In Kanauj district, a minor Dalit girl was assaulted by two young men in an attempt to molest her; when she resisted, the girl was stabbed repeatedly in her eyes. Doctors said later that the cornea of her left eye had been totally damaged and the chances of restoring her vision were ruled out. In another incident in Basti district, a Dalit girl was reportedly raped. A day later, a 35-year-old woman with two children was raped, allegedly by a gang of three in Etah district. The same day, in Gonda district, the body of a Dalit girl was found in a field. Three persons were said to be involved in the crime and the police did not rule out rape. In another incident in Firozabad district, a girl aged 15 was reportedly raped.

In Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh, a minor girl was reported to have been sexually assaulted and burnt on June 29 by a pastor. The girl died of severe burns at a hospital. The pastor was taken into custody.

In Tamil Nadu, P. Krishnaveni, president of the Thalayuthu village panchayat in Tirunelveli district, was brutally attacked by a gang a few weeks ago. Admitted in hospital with nine stab injuries, the Dalit panchayat chief is recovering. A fact-finding body that visited the victim and the village under her control said that the panchayat president faced discrimination from the day she took charge nearly five years ago. She was not even allowed to sit in the chair allotted to her in her office. Repeated complaints to authorities from the panchayat chief, the fact-finding body said, were of no avail.

Poor conviction rate

These crimes against women happened in three States and were reported by the news media in a short span of about two weeks. It is not as though most other States are free from such violence against women. About two lakh cases of violence have been registered by the National Crime Records Bureau, according to its recent data.

It is well known that discriminatory and oppressive social attitudes, not to mention plain greed and corruption, infect the attitude of the authorities, and especially the police, in many cases when serious complaints go uninvestigated or are poorly investigated. Only when investigation is free, fair, and speedy and only when the conviction rate improves in cases where women are the targets of various forms of violence can crimes against women be brought down. The press has a key role to play in working against any cover-up in this area.