Gender-based violence is most prevalent in India. The National Crime Record Bureau of India recorded close to 3 Lakh cases of violence against women in its last survey. Since then the numbers are only increasing. In a country where the waves of gender equality have hit the shores of society, gender-based discrimination still is a major issue. Women are addressed as the second gender while transgender is third in the category. This is regardless of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution which states the fundamental right to equality of status and opportunity irrespective of religion, caste, creed, colour, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status.
Women have been perceived as below men both socially and culturally. Often men view violence as a tool to repress women and ensure their submissiveness through force. This violence can be in the form of female foeticide, female infanticide, sexual abuse, rape, dowry abuse, psychological abuse, forced prostitution, neglect of medical and nutritional requirements among others.
Often in the cases of domestic violence in India, the perpetrator isn’t necessarily just a male, the woman is vulnerable to domestic violence at the hands of both the natal as well as marital family members. The normalization of physical and psychological abuse is an important contributing factor for the rise of domestic violence in India. According to a study by UNICEF 47% of boys and 45% of girls justified domestic violence in India.
Women tend to remain in toxic relationships due to various reasons. Most inherent among them is the social conditioning to submit to or ignore the violence inflicted on them. Financial dependence or independence is another key factor in violence against women in India. Often women’s increasing economic activity and independence are viewed as a threat by men which then leads to the use of violence to redefine their dominance.
In the Indian law a special section, numbered 498-A, officially made domestic violence a criminal offense and was added to the Indian Penal Code in 1983. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 provides specific demarcations about what constitutes domestic violence and recognizes women’s right to economic relief and residence in their matrimonial home.
It is everyone’s duty to raise a voice and act against gender-based violence. However, while the situation of the women who face domestic violence or those vulnerable to it may seem bleak there shines a bright effervescent light at the end of the tunnel. Over the past few decades, feminism and awareness and sympathy regarding domestic violence has been steadily growing. While the increasing number of cases against domestic violence may denote a disturbing trend in the country, there can be another way to look at it.
The growing number of cases is also indicative that the acceptance of domestic violence as a casual act is decreasing more and more women every year are taking a stand against the heinous practice. Thus, in order to make a substantial difference society needs to break gender stereotypes. Intolerance to violence, gender sensitization from an early age and powerful laws are a few steps towards ending gender-based violence.
Moksha Sharma is currently pursuing Bachelor’s in Philosophy (Hons.) from Miranda House, Delhi University. She is currently interning at Pro Sport Development.