End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists

Recently, a journalist in Karnataka received rape threats online, reportedly after she wrote about allegations against a godman. Chetana Thirthahalli was sent lewd messages and threats, and those targeting her demanded that she stop ‘writing critically on Hindu issues’.

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. With the relative anonymity that the Internet provides, rape threats are becoming increasingly common on social media sites. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe says, it’s alarmed by how women journalists are singled out and attacked more than anyone else.

OSCE Representative of the Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic says, “The female journalists targeted most report on crime, politics and sensitive – and sometimes painful – issues, including taboos and dogmas in our societies. These online attacks tend not to address the content of the articles but instead degrade the journalist as a woman. For some female journalists, online threats of rape and sexual violence have become part of everyday life; others experience severe sexual harassment and intimidation. Misogynist speech is flourishing.”

In a report on mxm India, Ranjona Banerjee says, “Women remain easy targets on social media and women in journalism even easier. The easiest way to attack is of course by sexual innuendo because then it reduces women to one aspect of their existence: their genitalia and/or their reproductive uses.”

(Read CPJ’s detailed Journalist Security Guide.)

The online attacks are an addition to the threats to safety that women journalists face. They are stalked, raped and murdered while doing their jobs. (Read: Violence and Harassment Against Women in News Media by IWMF). In an interview to The Quint, NDTV Senior Editor Maya Mirchandani said, “A protest at India Gate can be more dangerous than a war zone. Honestly, in a war zone, gender is less of a handicap, it is harder to protect yourself in a civilian environment.”

Meanwhile, the media also needs to introspect on the sexism and sexual violence within the industry. The Tehelka case opened a can of worms, but the issue has been forgotten since. The International Federation of Journalists ‘media and gender’ country report says, “In India, the well-established and strong media landscape is full of women journalists. Yet while the advantage of class, caste and higher education has seen some women climb to the top rungs of the profession, the majority of women journalists today are still concentrated on the middle and lower rungs of the profession. Sexual harassment remains a critical issue for the industry. So too, while more men are found in full-time contract roles, large numbers of women in the country are moving or being pushed into freelance roles.”

(Read: Best Practices to Prevent Sexual Harassment at the Workplace by Vibhuti Patel)

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Gender Violence:The Health Impact – Training Health Workers to Respond to GV – The Dilaasa Model

by Rashi Vidyasagar

World over, gender based violence has been accepted as a public health issue. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), “The principles of public health provide a useful framework for both continuing to investigate and understand the causes and consequences of violence and for preventing violence from occurring through primary prevention programmes, policy interventions and advocacy.” This is because violence has severe physical and mental health consequences – both short term and long term, which includes bruises, cuts, and wounds, lacerations to depression, anxiety, nightmares, pregnancy, STIs, HIV, and even, death. All of these require a visit to the health facility where if proper care and treatment is provided, the survivor can begin the process of healing. Moreover, there is evidence to show that women are more likely to visit a hospital after an episode of violence rather a police station or a counselling centre.

Interventions carried out at the public health level (individual as well as community) can help mitigate violence and help deal with its consequences. However, medical professionals are ill- equipped to sensitively respond to the issue of violence against women. Lack of training and education on this issue, general indifference to dominant societal norms that legitimise violence against women are only some of the reasons for the inability of the professional to respond effectively to the needs of victims of violence. There is evidence that, even when women facing violence are identified within the health care system, providers have a tendency to focus on the physical consequences of abuse, to be condescending and distant, and to blame women for the violence they face. [Campbell and Lewandowski 1997; Kurz and Stark 1988; Layzer et al 1986; Vavarro et al 1993; Warshaw 1989, Daga 1998]. Within the medical context, violence is understood as a social problem and/or private family matter, as it does not fit into the traditional illness model. As noted elsewhere, “The concern for violence is conspicuous by its virtual absence in medical discourses. The special medical needs and rehabilitation of victims and survivors of violence are hardly ever discussed by doctors” (Jesani 1995). Thus, training becomes an integral part of any intervention with the health care system to fill the void left by the medical education.

It was with this view that Dilaasa, a hospital based crisis center was set by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) in collaboration with CEHAT. Today, Dilaasa is a fully functional department within a 400+ bed hospital in the heart of Mumbai.

When CEHAT did the need assessment while setting up Dilaasa, a hospital based crisis centre in 2001, the need to develop a training module emerged clearly. This training was not only for doctors but also for hospital administrators, nurses and every health care professional. Between 2001 -2003, a module of adult peer to peer learning was created. A mixed group of doctors and nurses were selected with the hope that they would go on to train their own cadre. Despite this, referrals were low. This prompted the need to have continuous training of all medical professionals rather a one-time training. In 2006, Dilaasa started expanding and more and more health care providers were interested in providing services, however, the current healthcare system was not able to sustain their interest. It was then when it was decided to set up a training cell. It was formed to share resources and experiences of HCPs dealing with domestic violence, as well as provide them with formal roles of trainers with the aim of mainstreaming the training cell in the current health system.

The impact of this training can be seen in the steady growth of referrals by the health system. Along with training, it was also essential to give certain information-education-communication (IEC) material to these health care providers to supplement their referrals. Visiting cards, brochures, posters, pamphlets with messages of how violence is not their fault or that suicide is not the way out were printed. All of these were displayed prominently in the hospital or given to the doctors. It was realised that doctors don’t necessarily ask women patients about abuse in the OPDs. Women who reported abuse were being referred but no effort was made to draw out those who may have been abused but did not report it. That is when checklists of health consequences for each department and how could they ask about violence were printed and placards were made.

In the 14 years that Dilaasa has been functioning in a public hospital, training has been the cornerstone of the work that is being done. Continuous training with the hospital staff gives them a sense of identification and association with the project. The role of a medical professional is to identify, document and refer a survivor of violence. There should be no ambiguity in the expectations from the training. Training can provide tools that are required to identify the abuse and can also provide an important document if the woman takes the legal road. However, for the provision of comprehensive healthcare, this needs to be supplemented by a counselling centre where the doctors can refer the woman and/or organisations that provide services like shelter, counselling and legal aid to the survivor.

The following case study shows the importance of training all the hospital staff to recognise signs of abuse

Amma was referred to the Occupational Therapy Physiotherapy (OTPT) department by the orthopaedic department for the injuries that she had sustained. Amma had reported that she had fallen and hurt herself. At the OTPT she had received therapy for her hand and shoulder for a week. During this period, the physiotherapist found time with her alone and told her about Dilaasa and what it does. She then asked her if she would like to go there. Amma said, “No, I do not need it”. The following day, the physiotherapist asked her how she had sustained her injuries. Amma repeated the same story about a fall. The physiotherapist suspected abuse but did not want to probe further as she feared that the woman might not come back for treatment. She then asked one of the Dilaasa counsellors to come to OTPT department and speak to her. Amma then talked about the abuse she had suffered and subsequently sought Dilaasa services

Amma’s story is a testimony to the effect that training can have. Since 2001, Dilaasa has responded to over 3000 women, most referred by health care professionals. This has been possible through continuous support of the hospital staff, the trainers and the administrators who have ensured that a comprehensive health care response to survivors can be provided.

More information on setting up Dilaasa, the process of training the health care providers and other work related to Domestic Violence and Sexual violence can be found here: http://cehat.org/

*****

Rashi Vidyasagar is a Criminologist who is currently engaged in research on issues around violence against women including domestic violence and sexual assault. She is a Crisis Interventionist who works with CEHAT (Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes) in Mumbai.

Gender Violence: The Health Impact – Female Genital Mutilation in India

by Zubeda Hamid

It’s called the haram ki boti: the clitoral hood that is cut away or nicked before a girl reaches puberty. Known primarily as a practice prevalent in some parts of Africa and among immigrant communities in Europe, the United States and Australia, female genital mutilation, cutting or ‘female circumcision’ as it is sometimes known, is practiced in India too. The brutal, non-medical procedure is carried out for a variety of reasons and causes immense physical and psychological damage. It can even be fatal. The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where FGM is concentrated.

In India, FGM is practiced by the Dawoodi Bohra community, an Ismaili Shia sect who live primarily in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. The practice probably originated when the community migrated from Yemen, Egypt or other parts of that region to India some centuries ago, or was brought over by a priest and thus gained religious sanction. The community, about 10 lakh strong are mostly wealthy traders and well educated. Due to the intense secrecy in which it is shrouded, it is unclear how many in the community practice FGM.

Said to be done when the girl is seven, the procedure is usually carried out by an older woman in the community, a dai or a midwife with little or no medical training using crude instruments such as blades and no anaesthesia. Of late though, reports suggest some women take their daughters to hospitals and ask for the procedure to be performed by a doctor or get it done at birth. Accounts by women who have been through the procedure, a recent documentary on the subject titled ‘A Pinch of Skin’, several blog posts and online forums all suggest this is the only Muslim community in India to practice ‘khatna’.

According to the World Health Organisation, female genital mutilation comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is classified into four types:

  • Clitoridectomy – partial or total removal of the clitoris
  • Excision which is clitoridectomy and removal of the labia minora with or without excision of the labia majora
  • Narrowing of the vaginal orifice with the creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora
  • All other harmful procedures such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.

The Dawoodi Bohras practice the first type –clitoridectomy. Cutting off the hood of the clitoris exposes sensitive nerve endings and potentially limits the possibility of sexual pleasure through clitoral stimulation. Women who have undergone it describe female relatives holding down their legs, their fear, the excruciating pain and burning as they scream and the applying of a home remedy afterwards. The procedure is then never mentioned they say, and women are expected to ensure their daughters undergo it too.

A number of reasons are given by the community about the practice according to several posts: claims such as it prevents cancer to reasons such as it is compulsory in Islam and that it is tradition and has to be done in order to be respected in the community. It is also considered a means of ensuring that the girl becomes ‘pure’ and that her marriage goes through.The Quran has no mention of female genital mutilation or circumcision, and its mention in the Hadith is ambiguous at best.

Female genital mutilation has no health benefits, says the World Health Organisation. It can cause a number of health problems including severe pain, bleeding and shock, difficulty in urinating, cysts, infections, abscesses, infertility, difficulties in child birth, HIV, scar tissue formation and genital ulcers among others. This is apart from the psychological damage including post-traumatic stress disorder and long-term sexual effects such as decreased sexual enjoyment and painful sexual intercourse.

What the practice attempts to do, much like communities that kill young men and women for marrying outside their castes, is exercise control over women, specifically over female sexuality. As Tasleem, an activist from within the community who, a few years ago, started a petition against FGM has put it, “This is essentially done to prevent homosexuality, masturbation, and to subdue a girl’s desires so that she doesn’t marry out of the community or have extra-marital relationships.” Tasleem claims 90 per cent of the community continues to practice this custom, and that in many cases, the men are unaware it takes place. Maker of the documentary Priya Goswami has said to DNA: “Since the community was predominantly merchants, men travelled a lot. Removing the haraam ki boti, as it is called, was a way to control the sexual urges of women and keep them from infidelity.”

Not just does FGM constitute an extreme form of discrimination against women in deeply patriarchal societies it is also part of a larger culture where violence against women and in this case, girl children is perhaps the norm. In some parts of Africa, women are cut repeatedly: before puberty, before marriage, and after childbirth, in an attempt not just to reduce the woman’s libido, but also to make her vaginal opening tighter for the enhanced pleasure of men and to discourage illicit sexual intercourse. And while in India this extreme form of FGM is not practiced, the fact that a girl’s genitalia is cut to any degree at all points to the extreme mistrust of female sexuality and the need to maintain control over it.

The immense reluctance of the community to talk about this subject even within families has, to some extent, been broken recently, with Tasleem’s petition. Going only by a first name Tasleem launched a campaign online asking for signatures to petition the community’s high priest, Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin to ban this custom. The petition was picked up by the ‘Indian Muslim Observer’, a website on Muslim affairs, whose founder-editor Danish Ahmad Khan has also supported the campaign. “The issue of FGM…is surely an important one, particularly when it is being practiced in the name of Islam. This also brings into sharp focus the unholy and absurd role being played by the Bohra clergy…,” a note of his said, adding that awareness was needed to stop this “condemnable practice”. The late Dawoodi Bohra reformist writer Asghar Ali Engineer had also spoken out about the practice, calling it an “attempt to suppress sexuality so that women do not go astray”, in an interview to ‘Outlook’.  As of October 6, 2013, the petition had received 2,500 signatures with a several women who have undergone FGM supporting it. However, so far, the high priest has refused to respond to the petition.

The fact that FGM violates a child’s body makes it an important human rights issue. Globally, there are several campaigns to stop the practice, and many countries have legislations making it an offence. The European Union, the United States, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada and several other countries have laws against it, while in Africa several countries including Ethiopia, Togo, Uganda, Kenya and Egypt have banned it. In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly included FGM in its resolution on violence against women, and since 2003 has been sponsoring a day on zero tolerance to FGM every year. In 2012, the Assembly adopted a resolution on the elimination of FGM. On October 30 this year, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, announced a global campaign to end it within a generation. Amnesty International runs an ‘End FGM’ campaign and there are many others in several parts of the world.

These organisations have attempted to get religious leaders to speak out against the practice and tell people that it is not compulsory in any religion. While some leaders have proclaimed it un-Islamic, other local clerics continue to sanction it or turn a blind eye. The fact that many African communities believe their daughters are unmarriageable unless cut, adds to the difficulty of stopping the practice. In July this year, ISIS, the Islamist terrorist group allegedly ordered FGM to be carried out on all women in Iraq between the ages of 11 and 46. A UN coordinator said, this potentially affect an estimated four million women. There were later reports that the ISIS dismissed this order, calling it false propaganda.

In India however, a lack of knowledge about this practice, the fact that it seems to be practiced by just one community and the reluctance of the community to speak out against it has allowed it to continue. While there is no law specifically banning the practice in India, it could be punishable under sections of the Indian Penal Code if a complaint is made, ‘Business Line’ has reported. Section 326 – causing grievous hurt, could be used to penalise the parents and person performing FGM if a minor girl is involved, it said.

Will anyone ever use the law though, is debatable. Members of the community have told publications that they fear excommunication if they defy community traditions, and some of whom do not practice it, lie about the fact to avoid trouble. Because, as one father put it in an interview, “Who wants to take up a fight with the community?”

Clearly, more than just laws are needed – a movement to end FGM both within and outside the community are crucial.

Sources:

1. Articles in publications:

Outlook: http://www.outlookindia.com/article/The-Yin-Wounded/279088

DNA: http://www.dnaindia.com/lifestyle/report-a-pinch-of-skin-a-documentary-that-attempts-to-lift-the-silence-on-female-genital-mutilation-1986973

Times of India: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/hindi/bollywood/news/NID-students-film-on-female-genital mutilation/articleshow/19304011.cms

Hindustan Times: http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/mumbai/bohra-women-go-online-to-fight-circumcision-trauma/article1-779782.aspx

Business Line: http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2012/04/female-genital-mutilation-an-open-secret-in-india/

Dawn: http://www.dawn.com/news/712748/female-circumcision-anger-aired-in-india-fm

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/17/opinion/fighting-female-genital-mutilation.html?emc=edit_ty_20141117&nl=opinion&nlid=54889929&_r=1

2. Blogs, Facebook posts and online forums/news portals and agencies:

http://breakthesilencespeakthetruth.wordpress.com/

http://indianmuslimobserver.com/2014/04/27/female-genital-mutilation-is-not-circumcision/

https://www.facebook.com/notes/sijo-k-jose/uproar-over-female-genital-mutilation-bohra-muslim-woman-activist-launches-campa/329191643829952

http://www.india.com/whatever/female-genital-mutilation-what-is-fgm-know-more-about-the-brutal-practice-102516/

http://makinghealthmatter.wordpress.com/2011/12/10/fighting-female-genital-mutilation-in-india/

http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/01/pakistan-india-women-expose-secret-genital-cutting-rite/

http://dawoodi-bohras.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=1

http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2012/04/female-genital-mutilation-an-open-secret-in-india/

3. The petition:

https://www.change.org/p/h-h-dr-syedna-stop-female-circumcision-ladkiyon-par-khatna

4. Campaigns, non-governmental organisations:

http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/fgm-prov-i.htm

http://www.endfgm.eu/en/

http://www.forwarduk.org.uk/campaigns/end-fgm

http://www.equalitynow.org/fgm

http://www.stop-fgm-now.com/

http://www.actionaid.org.uk/endfgm

5. WHO, UN

http://www.who.int/topics/female_genital_mutilation/en/

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/

http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/overview/en/

http://www.un.org/en/events/femalegenitalmutilationday/

http://www.unfpa.org/topics/genderissues/fgm

*****

Zubeda Hamid is a correspondent with The Hindu covering health and disability rights.

Gender Violence:The Health Impact – Child Marriage as Gender Violence: Social & Health Consequences

by Mouli Banerjee

It has been argued that law itself, as a political product, doesn’t always have the capacity to pursue ‘justice’, given the qualification that “while many of the juridical forms of power continue to persist, these have gradually been penetrated by quite new mechanisms of power that are probably irreducible to the representation of law”[1]. Child Marriage, as a social practice, is one such example, where laws, even if inadequate, have been put in place, but somehow the practice has continued for decades. However, it is important to understand the legal structure in place against child marriages, in order to tackle the issue properly.

Prohibition of Child Marriage: The System in Place

The current law in place to tackle the crime of child marriage is the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (PCMA). It defines a child, if female, as one who has not completed 18 years of age and if male, as one who has not completed 21 years of age. It includes punitive measures against all those who perform, permit and promote child marriage. The law also has a provision for annulment of a child marriage and gives a separated female the right to have a residence and maintenance costs (from her husband if he is above 18 years of ages, and from her in-laws, if the husband too is a minor), until she is remarried.[2]

However, there are major loopholes in the PCMA.

Most importantly, it makes a distinction, declaring some marriages void (in cases where the marriage is conducted by use of force, fraud, deception, enticement, selling and buying or trafficking) but in other cases simply giving the option that one may declare one’s marriage “voidable” even up to two years after attaining adulthood. This is a contradiction, for if the law doesn’t see a ‘child’ as capable of consent, then every act of child marriage must by definition involve force, fraud, deception or enticement, and thus, must be void.[3] It is obvious that most child marriages, once solemnised, will not be reported and hence will go unchecked.

India is now a part of the UN Resolution on Child, Early and Forced Marriage, and several Action Plans and Policies fielded by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in the last decade have also been geared towards this end.

In this context, it becomes crucial to redefine child marriage as a form of severe gender violence, thus understanding the practice as not just a restriction of a girl child’s choices in marriage, but as violence inflicted on female bodies and minds.

Child Marriage as Gender Violence

The United Nations 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.”[4]

A quick look at the social and health consequences of child marriages promptly validates the assumption of child marriage as an active act of gender violence on many levels.

Threat of violence, coercion or ‘arbitrary deprivation of liberty’

As explained in the previous section, the very fact that a child is not seen as capable of consent makes child marriage an act of coercion. It restricts a girl’s choices on both social and physical levels by taking away her liberty to choose her age of marriage and robbing her of her reproductive rights, long before she has even understood them clearly.

Current statistics suggest that as of 2013, 43% of women aged 20-24 were married before 18. Moreover, UNICEF suggests that there are 23 million child brides in India, and this makes for approximately 40% of the child brides globally.[5]

‘Physical, Sexual or Mental Harm’

The Danger of Marital Rape

While marital rape is a threat all married women face, and legal debates pushing for the criminalisation of marital rape still rage in India, in the context of child marriage, this can be viewed as a contradiction in laws. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, amended Section 375 of the IPC to redefine ‘rape’, but Exception 2 to this amendment states that sexual intercourse or acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape. Thus, all married women, between the ages of 15 and 18, who are child brides under the PCMA 2006, if subjected to marital rape, cannot consider it a criminal violation. This brings into question the legal concept of ‘consent’ which is considered implicit in a marriage and is incidentally the argument given for not criminalising marital rape.This is in contradiction to the assumption that a ‘child’ is not capable of sexual consent and violates the PCMA 2006 and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (which defines a ‘child’ as any person below 18 years).

This contradiction is currently being contested in the Supreme Court by a PIL filed by Independent Thought (www.ithought.in) in a Writ Petition [Independent Thought vs. Union of India (W.P. Civil 382 of 2013)].[6]

Severe Health Consequences of Child Marriages

Apart from the health concerns implicit in any act of sexual violence upon a woman, Child Marriage also has specific health consequences that mandate special attention.

The vicious cycle of Fertility and Sterilisation

A study conducted by NCBI in 2009 suggests that a significantly larger number of women in India married as minors are less likely to use contraception in their first year of marriage (thus leading to higher fertility), when compared to women who married as adults . They have limited or no access to contraception and also displayed higher incidence of rapid repeat childbirths, higher unwanted pregnancies and hence, higher rates of pregnancy terminations (which has health complications of its own). Furthermore, women who have undergone multiple childbirths at a young age are also more likely to get sterilised. Approximately, one in ten women reporting both child marriage and sterilization (9.7%) were sterilized prior to age 18 years. [7]

Thus, child marriage has considerable immediate and long-term impact on the reproductive health of women’s bodies, often causing permanent damage to their health.

Higher Rates of Death at Childbirth

Young girls are at greater risk of death at childbirth than older women. The data from the International Centre for Research on Women shows that girls who are younger than 15 years are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women who are in their 20s. Pregnancy is seen consistently to be one of the leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide.[8]

Premature labour, Still Births children and New Born Deaths

UNICEF estimates that rates of still births and new-born deaths are 50% higher among mothers under 20 than in mothers who give birth in their 20s. [9] Child marriage often entails a very violent introduction into sexual relations, which can cause long-tern health issues for women.

Obstetric Fistula

This is a dangerous medical condition in which a fistula or a hole develops between the rectum and the vagina or the bladder and the vagina, due to severe or failed childbirth, when proper medical care is not given. Young mothers are consequently at much higher risk of developing this otherwise-preventable condition. A report by the Ministry of Women and Child Development shows that as of 2013 over two million girls and young mothers are affected by this complication in India.[10]

Risk of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Since child brides are often married to older, sexually experienced men, they are also at risk of being affected by sexually transmitted diseases.

Thus Child Marriage is an act of gender violence with severe health consequences, which also has myriad social implications. Marrying as a minor often stultifies one’s education, meaning not just abrogated mental growth but also implying financial dependence on the husband, thus facilitating further oppression of women who are married off before adulthood.

While eradicating the evil of child marriage has been an integral part of the government’s plans- it is a part of the current 12th Five Year Action Plan, the National Population Policy 2000, the National Youth Policy 2003, the National Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Strategy and the National Plan of Action for Children 2005- a lot still needs to be done. Schemes such as the Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (SABLA) aim at eradicating the practice, but as government estimates show, the incidence of child marriage in India has gone down by only around 5% between 1995-96 and 2005-06. This is proof of how much more needs to be done, to increase social awareness and eradicate this practice.

[1] Nivedita Menon. “Rights, Bodies and the Law: Rethinking the Feminist Politics of Justice.”. Gender and Politics in India. New Delhi: OUP, 1999. 262-291.

[2]Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (PCMA).  http://wcd.nic.in/cma2006.pdf , accessed in November 2014.

[3] ‘Child Marriage in India: Achievements, Gaps and Challenges’. HAQ: Centre for Child Rights. http://www.ohchr.org/documents/issues/women/wrgs/forcedmarriage/ngo/haqcentreforchildrights1.pdf

[4] ‘Violence Against Women’, Media Center, Updated on October 2013, accessed in November 2014. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/

[5] Cf. ‘National Strategy Document on Prevention of Child Marriage, Ministry of Women and Child Development.   http://wcd.nic.in/childwelfare/Strategychildmarrige.pdf (page 1) Data http://www.unicef.org/protection/files/Progress_for_Children‐No.8_EN_081309(1).pdf

[6] Independent Thought vs. Union of India (W.P. Civil 382 of 2013).http://www.ithought.in/download/2014/PIL-Short-Note.pdf

[7] Donta Balaiah, Anita Raj, Niranjan Saggurti,Jay G. Silverman. ‘Prevalence of Child Marriage and its Impact on the Fertility and Fertility Control Behaviors of Young Women in India’. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2759702/

[8] Cf. ICRW, http://www.icrw.org/child-marriage-facts-and-figures

[9] WHO media centre: ‘Child marriages: 39 000 every day’. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2013/child_marriage_20130307/en/

[10] ‘National Strategy Document on Prevention of Child Marriage . http://wcd.nic.in/childwelfare/Strategychildmarrige.pdf

*****

Mouli Banerjee is currently a fellow with PRS Legislative Research’s Legislative Assistants to Members of Parliament programme. A post graduate in Literature from Delhi University, Mouli is a proud Feminist and LGBTQ rights supporter. 

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.

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.

readerseditor@thehindu.co.in