Abuse of women: causes, consequences & Prevention--a survey of college going youth.

AuthorSaha, Amal Krishna
PositionReport - Abstract


The abuse of women is widespread in India. This practice is historical in nature, but it was not highlighted as is being done today. People used to sweep it under the carpet to protect their social status. Nowadays, the widespread education of women and better government laws have given them the courage to voice it publicly and demand action against the culprits. Media is also playing a commendable role by highlighting the incidents and consequences of the events and forcing the country's lawmakers to take action against the abusers.

Gender-based violence was first recognized as a human rights violation in The World Human Rights conference in Vienna (1993). In the same year, United Nations (1993) declaration defined 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 deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life". The ill-treatment of women and girls is a direct corollary of their subordinate status in society. Women generally accept their inferior status and adopt the traditional values of submission and servility. The abuse of women not only causes health issues in women, but it also violates women's human rights, bodily integrity and their sexual as well as reproductive rights (Krantz, 2002).

In India, religion is not just an institution of the past. Even today, it plays a very powerful role in society at large. It shapes the behavioral norms of a person. In Hindu religion, women have not enjoyed the same rights as men do. The norms assigned to them by male religious authorities have subjected them to various forms of marginalization in the society. Women may be abused throughout their life in different phases such as prenatal phase (sex-selective abortion, forced pregnancy etc.), infancy (differential treatment for girl infants, female infanticide etc.), childhood (genital mutilation, child marriage etc.), adolescence (rape and marital rape, trafficking, sexual abuse in the working place etc.), reproductive age (dowry abuse and murders, psychological abuse etc.) and old age (abuse and neglect). Modern technologies like amniocentesis and ultrasound are used in most parts of the world to detect foetus abnormalities but in India they are widely used to detect sex as well to aid female infanticide.

Review of Literature:

The ill-treatment of women is a global phenomenon. They experience various forms of violence by close and extended family members, neighbors, and acquaintances and by men in position of power and authority. Max Clifford, UK's celebrity publicist guru, was found guilty because he sexually assaulted seven girls aged 14 to 19 between 1966 and 1984 (Millard, 2014). The prosecution mentioned that he used his power and celebrity contacts to prey on girls. Due to gender related violence 1.5 to 3 million girls and women are killed globally each year (Vlachova & Biason, 2005). Even in America, approximately 1,270,000 women are raped each year. Another 6,646,000 are the victims of other sexual crime (Department of Justice, 2010). A study (Goode, 2001) in the New York Times suggests that one in five adolescent girls in the United States becomes the victims of physical or sexual violence or both by their dating partner. In the same study, it was revealed that 20 percent school girls aged 14 to 18 were slapped, shoved or forced into sexual activity by a dating associate. It is not very uncommon in India of girls being sexually abused by their boyfriends and then breaking up the relationship. When a country or a state is in turmoil due to internal or external factors, ill-treatment of women is a common consequence. The abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Nigeria (Times of India, 2014) by the terrorist organization, Boko Haram, is an example of this kind. During the Bangladesh Independence War in 1971, between two and four hundred thousand women were raped (Najib, 2002; Mookerjee, 2012).

In India, where society is patriarchal in nature, the relative position of a son and a daughter is reflected in the keen desire of male progeny. In the study of culture of the Indian people during the Vedic age, Apte (1996a) reveals that a daughter is a source of misery and a son alone can be the savior of the family. His study also reveals that women own neither themselves nor an inheritance. As a result of this domination, women are economically dependent on her father, husband or son. Her main responsibility lies to give birth to son(s). In the age of Upanishads and Sutras, the above sentiment is more vocal mentioning that the "males are the masters of women". "Their father protects them in childhood, their husband protects them in youth and their sons protect them in old age, a woman is never fit for independence" (Apte, 1996b). In India, century after century, women were considered to be commodities. They are not welcomed in the family like a son. This fact in a way reflects the comparatively inferior position of women in the society.

If we take off the religious wrapper, ill-treatment of women can be traced in our great historical epics, Mahabarata and Ramanaya. Satyabati (Mathshagandha) was sexually abused by the famous saint Parasara. Vyasa, the famous epic writer of Mahabharata was their out-of-wedlock son. Ambika and Ambalika, the widows of Vichitravirya were forced to sleep with Vyasa to have sons who would later be the heir-apparent to run the Kuru kingdom. It was a practice during the Vedic age for a childless widow "to cohabit with her brother-in-law until the birth of a son. This niyoga practice was a kind of short-term levirate" (Apte, 1996c). In disgust, Ambika closed her eyes and Ambalika, another queen became pale during the cohabitation. Dhritarashtra, the blind king, and Pandu, the impotent yuvaraj (prince) were the sons of the two queens respectively. In the same family, Kunti and Madri, the wives of the impotent Pandu, were forced to accept the niyoga practice with different Hindu Gods (accomplished men of the time) to have sons. Draupadi, the princess of Panchala was forced to marry the five sons of Pandu, an uncommon practice in the society. Polygamy was permitted but not polyandry (Apte, 1996c). She was molested in front of all the elder people in the court of the Kauravas. Madhri, the second wife of Pandu, became sati by self-immolation on the funeral pyre of her husband. Sati became the custom slowly in Indian Hindu society under the umbrella of religion. The custom of sati became so alarming that the British Government in India was forced to pass Regulation XVII on 4th December 1829, declaring it illegal and punishable by the courts (Bengal Sati Regulation, 1929).

Crime against women in India has increased steadily since 2010. A total of 3, 37,922 cases of crime against women (under Indian penal code and Special and local laws) were reported in 2014 compared to 2, 13,585 in the year 2010, recording an increase of 58.21 percent. More specifically, rape, kidnapping and abduction and cruelty by husband and relatives have increased by 65.68 percent, 92.35 percent and 30.66 percent respectively (National Crime Records Bureau, 2014). National Family...

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