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10 Saal Baad: How Well Has The Law On Domestic Violence Helped Protect Women In India?

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By Pooja Parvati

Daughter: Ma (mother), can I go out and play? All my friends are going too.
Mother: Did your father not tell you that you are not to go out in the afternoon? Your brother is also not home. It is best you stay at home now.
Daughter: But that is not fair, Bhaiya (elder brother) always gets to go out whenever he wants. Papa never says anything to him. Why is it only like this for me? (Saying this, she starts crying)
Mother: Beti (daughter), don’t cry! That’s how it is. Don’t question things you don’t understand. Don’t you know, all this discussion will only anger your father again?

This conversation could well be from any household in the country today. Women and girls in India are the most vulnerable to violence, and this fundamentally affects their right to life with dignity. As in the illustration earlier, the most common solution has been to keep women and girls confined within their homes and limit their mobility and basic freedoms. However, research has shown that among the many forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG), domestic violence is the most common form experienced by women globally. A 2014 study by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) reveals that six out of 10 Indian men rationalised violence against women. A bigger surprise is that nearly 70 percent of married women justify gender-based violence (based on data from round 3 of National Family Health Survey in 2005-06).

silhouette of a mother and son who play outdoors at sunset backg

India has one of the lowest sex ratios worldwide, pegged at 940 girls per 1000 boys in 2011. This only points to the systemic violence characterising gender relations in the country. Dominant social norms dictate son preference and sanction violence as a means to control women and girls. Additionally, inequalities derived from gender norms and lack of agency affects perceptions of power and freedom. This is compounded by fierce resistance from traditional forces to maintain status quo in gender roles and relations.

10 years ago, in 2005, the government of India enacted the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) that came into force in 2006. The PWDVA is a civil law that complements existing criminal laws. The law provides immediate relief ranging from medical aid, shelter, monetary support and legal assistance. All this is done through the creation of facilitating structures to access justice along with earmarked staff and infrastructure. Nine years hence, progress in its implementation is insignificant as it remains plagued by challenges such as inadequate funds and human resources, poor coordination across implementing agencies and ineffective monitoring mechanisms. Addressing these would go a long way in strengthening the Act and making it effective.

To begin with, lack of reliable and timely datasets constraints scrutiny in the implementation of such legislations. Periodic surveys by the Union Government to monitor VAWG as well as making available timely, reliable data, disaggregated by social categories and up to the district level is needed. In a recent news report, Melinda Gates called for a national level survey to assess the actual burden of violence on women, even in their households. Last year, the Lancet had published a series of articles on VAW. Another news report suggests that the reputed journal plans to bring out a landmark paper to assess the burden of VAW.

Challenges in implementation of the Act also include lack of adequate, earmarked financial allocations and release of funds in a timely manner. Following the brutal gang-rape of a student in Delhi, the government set up the Nirbhaya Fund in 2013-14 with Rs. 1,000 crore. As on 2015-16, the fund has a total of Rs. 3,000 crore but information reveals that as much as Rs. 1,273 crore of this remains unspent.

A related point is that the state governments should put in place requisite dedicated staff backed by adequate infrastructure to guarantee effective implementation. Further, governments both at the Union and state levels should have in place effective convergence mechanisms among various stakeholders, such as the police, judiciary, hospital, shelter home and so on. In this regard, a critical must-have is ensuring regular monitoring and documentation of cases of domestic violence by state level Women and Child Development Departments to track progress.

This is also reiterated by the Lancet. In its last year’s series, it recommended the need to allocate resources to prioritise protecting victims, change structures and policies that discriminate against women, promote support for survivors, strengthen health and education sectors to prevent and respond to violence, and invest in more research into ways to address the problem.

A few days ago, UK-based feminists wrote to the Indian Prime Minister pressing him for a statement against rising incidences of VAWG as, it is felt, his silence might mistakenly be seen as condoning such heinous crimes. Given the situation where women and girls are no longer safe in the confines of their homes, Kalpana Sharma in her rousing piece questions whether locking them up is going to solve this problem. She rightly notes that the problem can only be addressed when the underlying social norms defining the absolute sense of entitlement held by men and boys are questioned and rejected. This however, needs much more than merely demanding State control over Central police forces or seeking moral education for boys. Until that time, there is no consoling the crying girls.

In this regard, Oxfam India will soon be launching a public influencing campaign to address the social norms that perpetuate VAWG. Take this quiz to know how close you are to rejecting some of these deeply ingrained norms. For more details, read Oxfam India’s Policy Brief No. 14 on ‘Implementing the PWDVA: Safeguarding Women from Domestic Violence.’

You must be to comment.
  1. B

    Erin Pizzey received death threats from feminists when she raised her voice against domestic violence by women.

    Pizzey has been the subject of death threats and boycotts because of her research into the claim that most domestic violence is reciprocal, and that women are equally capable of violence as men.

  2. B

    According to an online survey conducted by Save Family Foundation and My Nation Foundation in April 2005 and March 2006, it was shockingly found out that, of 100,000 men who took the survey 98% of them faced severe domestic violence at the hands of their wives and in-laws in the form of verbal, physical, emotional, mental and financial abuse.

  3. B

    Majority of victims of dowry are also men

    22.000 male suicides vs 6,800 female suicides – Who is the victim?

  4. Spider-Man

    The truth is, feminism runs on ‘all women are victims’ and ‘all men are perpetrators’ tagline. In reality, survey after survey, from East to West, reveals that women are more capable of domestic violence. To add, psychological abuse can often be more deadly than physical violence, as the scars of verbal abuse are permanent. Media wants ratings and TRPs, which is why they make domestic violence look like a woman’s issue.

  5. Jigsaw

    I suffered tremendously and contemplated suicide after my psycho wife continuously tortured me emotionally for 1.5 years, and threatened me with “dahej ke case me andar karwa dongi.” She took my politeness for weakness. I slapped her with a divorce notice.

  6. Uncensored Enlightment

    The fundamental fault in the character of women is that they have no “sense of justice.”

    This arises from their deficiency in the power of reasoning, and reflection, but is also partly due to the fact that Nature has not destined them, as the weaker sex, to be dependent on strength but on cunning; this is why they are instinctively crafty, and have an ineradicable tendency to lie.

    For as lions are furnished with claws and teeth, elephants with tusks, boars with fangs, bulls with horns, and the cuttlefish with its dark, inky fluid, so Nature has provided woman for her protection and defense with the faculty of dissimulation, and all the power which Nature has given to man in the form of bodily strength and reason has been conferred on woman in this form.

    Hence, dissimulation is innate in woman and almost as characteristic of the very stupid as of the clever. Accordingly, it is as natural for women to dissemble at every opportunity as it is for those animals to turn to their weapons when they are attacked; and they feel in doing so that in a certain measure they are only making use of their rights.

    Therefore a woman who is perfectly truthful and does not dissemble is perhaps an impossibility. This is why they see through dissimulation in others so easily; therefore it is not advisable to attempt it with them.

    From the fundamental defect that has been stated, and all that it involves, spring falseness, faithlessness, treachery, ungratefulness, and so on. In a court of justice women are more often found guilty of perjury than men. It is indeed to be generally questioned whether they should be allowed to take an oath at all.

  7. Batman

    Social Experiment: The ‘Double Standard’ of Domestic Violence

  8. TheGreatMoonFrog

    I briefly dated a physically abusive women. I remember once she smacked me full force on a crowded subway. No one did a fucking God damn thing. I broke up with her but I would be lying if I said there weren’t emotional scars.

    Our sons need protection from these kinds of women

  9. G.L.

    Girl beats boy = Boy is wuss
    Boy beats girl = It is abuse

    Girl is always the victim somehow

  10. Simpson ties

    bookmarked!!, I really ike your web site!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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