A shocking new survey finds that 73% of Indian women have faced some form of violence or harassment in the 31 days of October alone, far exceeding the number of women surveyed for the same time period in Thailand (67%) and the UK (57%).
The survey, which includes Brazil, was conducted by international social justice organization ActionAid. The research was released on November 25, the International Day Against Violence Against Women, which marks some of the biggest obstacles to women’s independence and physical and mental wellbeing.
In addition to the sheer number of those affected, the survey also records younger and younger survivors of violence. According to it, 41% of Indian women will experience violence or harassment even before the age of 19. This is particularly distressing, because this would mean that not only are a large number of children and adolescents growing up in a culture of violence, it is also being normalized for them.
This December will mark four years since the brutal gang-rape and death of 23-year old medical student Jyoti Singh in 2012. The incident mobilised the entire country in the fight to end violence against women. That year, UN Women found that “92 per cent of women reported having experienced some form of sexual violence in public spaces in their lifetime, and 88 per cent of women reported having experienced some form of verbal sexual harassment in their lifetime.” In the four years since, those numbers have see-sawed only slightly.
In light of these figures, both new and old, it is worrying to think that many of those in power continue to hold problematic beliefs about the issue of. It was only last week that Minister for Women And Children Development Maneka Gandhi made some confusing comment about how the issue of rape had been exaggerated in India.
Despite having already received its wake-up call in 2012, India is still letting women down when it comes to addressing violence against women. Of course, not all of it is due to government neglect. In June this year, when the draft National Policy on Women was opened for public review, it received a lot of opposition from Indian men.
This survey should be a reminder of the difficult but necessary task before us, and one that we mustn’t lose any time in responding to.