ABUSE AGAINST WOMEN: MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH AT RISK
Author: Amrit Raj Dubey, III year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Law College Dehradun, Uttaranchal University
Co-author: Devesh Chandra Pal, III year of B.Sc., from Allahabad University
Women being quintessence of every development; played crucial role even in male chauvinistic society through ages. A vulnerable group that enjoyed equal status with men during early Vedic period but deteriorated since then. Being invincible part of society encompasses epitomes of sacrifices even then too deprived; neglected; dominated; oppressed; discriminated in multitudinous ways like gender inequality; violence that includes physical, psychological, mental, emotional, sexual harassment; acid attack; malnourishment and recent increasing cases of online abuse. This abuse and violence against women are inimical, follies and lugubrious to their existence in the society. It has been proved through numerous examples that women’s are backbone behind every man and made them major part of development but left themselves behind ubiquitously either in family, property rights, employment or socio-economic position in the society even after 75 years of Independence still a vicissitude through ages. In a vibrant democratic country, it's sacrosanct for equal participation of both men and women in employment, political arena, education ( prerequisite for women's empowerment), government schemes to restore their rightful and dignified status. The need of hour is to aware them about their rights, technologies, helpline numbers, equal opportunities that would lead to positive change and transformation. The government initiatives like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Ujjawala, Project Pavitra, VISTA, Udaan, Vocational training centres and legislative provisions like 73rd Constitutional Amendment; The Hindu Succession Act (that gave propertial rights to women); etc. are crucial to enhance their status. Due to modernization and globalization throughout the world, the inferior perspective towards women is changing. The overall upliftment and bringing them to front from closed doors is still a continuing process that needs immense attention in present scenario.
Keywords – Women, Women empowerment, Violence, Gender Inequality, Discrimination
Violence against women is a very wide spectrum topic. It covers different aspects of sufferings of women's health due to abuse and violence in their life. From the time immemorial and in every part of the world, women face gender-specific challenges which caters their mental, physical and psychological health. Amtul Waris and B. C. Viraktamath, (2013) considered in his study about gender equality as a quintessence in making our country equitable and along with achieving sustainable development. Violence and abuse based on gender has been recognized at international platforms as the serious health and human rights concern.
Violence against women has always been justified by gender stereotypes and their cultural norms dictate the men aggressive controlling dominant behavior. In some part of the world, hunger and food scarcity also leads to increase the gender based violence and even in some places women are forced into sex work to survive. Stereotype of gender roles have continued over the ages as the primary role of women has always been marriage and be as a caretaker of their children and family but if they want to get separated from conjugal rights then that too is seen as evil till date in the society. Since the agriculture revolution, different societies adopted different kind of imagined hierarchy and among them hierarchy of gender is most important one where people have divided themselves into man and woman.
In many societies the woman were simply the property of men as men were considered stronger as per different theories. Legal and political disparity between men and women reflect the differences between the gender as the patriarchal society educates men and women to think and behave in a masculine and feminine way respectively. Fewer resources are invested in wealth and education of women and in a race of development and empowerment women compete only for the bronze medal.
Abuse and Violence Against Women
Women faces several kinds of abuse and violation during their lifetime since birth till last breathe that are elaboratory discussed below :-
1) Psychological abuse
Psychological and emotional abuse against women have always been devastating consequences on her relationship with other people in their life. If she has no physical mark, it doesn't mean the abuse is not real. Psychological abuse is real that encompasses verbal abuse, constant criticism, intimidation, manipulation, blaming, shaming and name-calling. In psychological abuse, victim’s self-concept and independence are systematically taken away. It results in low self-esteem and deteriorated relations with other people. Psychological abuse is also termed as emotional abuse or chronic verbal aggression. 48% of women have experienced at least one psychological aggressive behavior by intimate partner. Various type of psychological abuse like, accusations on person's character conduct, insults for not bringing down dowry, insult for not having a male child, insult for not having any child, preventing wife from taking a job1 are the most prevalent one. Amitabh Singh, (2011) in his research discussed regarding uneven sex ratio due to female foeticide that give rise to heinous crimes against women and puts question on their social development and upliftment.
2) Physical abuse
Any physical force that injures women and puts her health in danger is termed as physical abuse. Physical violence victims are at high risk of serious injury and even death. Physical abuse has lasting effects on the victim’s physical and mental health. Women are even prone to suffer heart problems, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and eating disorders.
3) Sexual abuse
Sexual abuse is termed as an act of sexual advancement without the consent of other intimate partner. Sexual abuse can take place in the form of following actions- inappropriate touching, penetration, coerced intercourse, attempts rape and child molestation
4) Economic abuse
Economic abuse termed as controlling of women's ability to acquire, used and maintain economic resources. In economic abuse against women, the male partner controls banking accounts and determines how much money to be spent. Preventing woman even from accessing for child care and every time forcing her to take care of child. Economic abuse is not visible but can be known by accessing a women's daily life and her activities. It has a very great impact on women's life. It impacts woman's mental health and most importantly impedes a woman's ability to leave the abuser as she is very much dependent on him.
The constitution framers had empowered women with different constitutional provisions that grant them equal status to men with aim for their advancement in different spears. Women continued to be discriminated since era but fundamental rights like equality before law that prohibits discrimination against along with right given to state to make special provisions for the empowerment of women under the constitution is towards enhancing their status. Various legislative measures has also been framed to provide women there basic rights that would help them to fight from all the forms of abuse, violence and social discrimination. They have been granted with special power along with establishment of special provisions like National women Commission; Reservation in local self-government; National plan of Action for the better future of girl child and their development and National Policy for the empowerment of women are crucial step for their upliftment. India is also a signatory of the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women that aims to secure basic human rights of women and eliminating all forms of discrimination against them. Some of the special legislative provisions are briefly discussed below:
Table 1 : Legislative Provisions related to women and girl child
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCBR) stated that 3,71,503 cases of wrongdoing against women were accounted for in 2020, addressing an 8.3 % decrease over 2019 (4,05,326 cases).3 It might seem indicating towards decreasing violence against women but in reality there are several cases of heinous crime against women that are questioning the very objective of all the made legislative provisions.
The girl child and women must be ensured with adequate representation, education and protection from all forms of abuse and violence. Dr. (Smt.) Rajeshwari M. Shettar,(2015) analyzes issues and challenges regarding Women Empowerment in India and observed in her study about the inferior social status of women than men. It was concluded that educating women would only pave the way towards Women Empowerment. To attain this objective various governments timely brought certain initiatives for women to enhance their deteriorating condition and ensure them gender equality, health, education, economic participation and their individual development. For the better understanding, women empowerment schemes (currently being running in India) are discussed in tabular form :-
Table 2 : Government Schemes related to Women Empowerment
The above mentioned multitudinous schemes are working and their execution being monitored by government. The overall upliftment of women and bringing them to front from closed doors can only be achieved if various legislative provisions and schemes would be properly implemented in a just and fair way.
The role of judiciary and wide scope of judicial interpretation and statutory intervention in present era is remarkable. It plays vital role in protection of fundamental and basic human rights of the citizens and becomes ray of hope if these inherent rights are being violated. In India, through various landmark judgments, the concern about violation against women have been expressed and timely amicable solutions are being provided through these judgments some of which are discussed below :-
1. Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan5
In this case, court realized the need for proper and effective legislation to prevent sexual harassment and framed the guidelines for the same. It was extraordinary step for women empowerment and eliminating violence with the objective to promote gender equality at workplace. Therefore, after this landmark judgment the women got rights to fight and raise their voice against exploitation and violence at workplace.
2. Voluntary Health Association of Punjab v. UOI6
In this case, the court issued directions under Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act to monitor and report the authorities, faster disposal of cases filed and strict action against convicted doctors. The various ways of sex selective abortion in India were also examined in this case. The main objective of this act was to prevent female feticides and abolishing discrimination against girl child.
3. Khurana and Others v. Union of India and Others7
The Association By Laws which prohibited women artists to become the member of association based on their sex was found the violation of Article 14, 15 and 21 of Indian Constitution and was struck down by Hon’ble Supreme Court. In this case, the women got the right to become member of association without any discrimination on the basis of gender.
4. Hariharan v. Reserve Bank of India8
The landmark judgment for interpretation of the word ‘after’ used in Section 6 (a) of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 stating that both father and mother are natural guardian of a Hindu child. Therefore, after this judgment mother was also eligible to become the natural guardian if she is capable and deeply interested in taking care of the child and always concerned about his welfare.
5. Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma9
In its remarkable judgment, the court held that daughters would have equal coparcenary rights no matter whether they were born before the amendment of Hindu Succession Act (amended in 2005). Therefore, it was a leading case to protect the women’s coparcenary rights that gave propertial rights to women and uplifted their position in the society.
The above discussed remarkable judgments indicates towards the fact that whenever the question related to constitutional and basic human rights of women are being violated, the courts have always been a ray of hope and providing relief either by protecting them from all forms of discrimination or by removing the unconstitutional provisions.
International day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is celebrated on 25th November, to spread awareness and acknowledge the community of women who had been through difficult times of abuse and violence. In 2021, the theme was "Orange the World-end violence against women now".
In the past few years because of global connectedness through internet, several NGOs and the woman organizations have reached several places to discover and help women to get out of their vicious cycle of abuse and violence and live a life of dignity. UN along with several humanitarian institutions constantly working to eliminate abuse and violence against women.
We the people of modern world must learn the meaning of consent and must understand it. If a woman says no, then it means no but if a woman said yes it doesn't mean that it's green light there might be some intimidation, so make sure it is an active yes.
Dowry is an evil practice in our today's society. This age-old practice had driven away many women to suicide. In modern world it has no place. In some cases dowry becomes the reason for psychological, physical and sexual abuse for women. Patriarchal dominance in our society, produces meek and submissive women. There is an urgent need to bring a shift in perceptions of people. Girl child should be brought up equally as male child. A strong and independent woman will certainly produce stronger next generation and will shape the society in a better way.
Stereotypes related to females like the role of women is to bear children, look after family, be a good housewife, spend her time inside house etc. should be eradicated and a strong female image should prevail in the society. These stereotypes openly favor men and prove to be no less than a prison for women. Abuse and violence against women is recognized now in every part of world and we must be a part of this movement with an objective to it end soon.
It is very disturbing even to talk about abuse and violence against women. Women consist of half of the population yet they are miles away from achieving equality in some areas. When we ponder on the reasons behind these abuses, one the most significant picture comes in our mind is patriarchy. Generation after generation, with its stereotypes and beliefs, they created hardships and problems for women. These problems are so common now in our society, in some places it is considered as new normal. The society doesn't interfere to help the abused woman, rather they walk away saying it is a family matter.
Married women get tortured by their in-laws, for not fulfilling their demands. Like if a bride brings less dowry than demanded, she will be subjected to psychological abuse for many years. In some household, when no one listens or understands her condition, then she tries to find easier way to escape this torture by committing suicide. If a married woman doesn't bear male child, she is given less respect and will be exposed to psychological and physical abuse. Twisted men sexually abuse their partners stating their complete right over her body. Women of small stature gets violated by higher class men and even several working women get physically and sexually abused by their senior officials. It can't be drastically changed. As with the course of time these stereotypes made their grip in our society. We need to act together and consistently work towards its eradication.
Patriarchal stereotypes and beliefs needs to be readjusted towards women. Families should have trust within their members, and feel free to share their inconvenience or abuse with them, and rather justifying it they should listen to the victim and devise proper plan to deal with it. People should be made aware about the types of abuse and violence they can witness in their life. They should be aware as to where they have to go and what they have to do, if such a situation arises. UN along with several international and regional women institutions and NGOs, are working constantly to provide aid in recovering from abuse. In today's vast connected world through internet, there are many easier options available to make your abuse and violence known to world and seek proper justice. Abused women shouldn't feel demotivated and hopeless, and there is no need to suicide because of some other people's opinion or torture.
Our constitution provides several laws and rights for women to seek justice against abuse and violence. Central government has devised several plans to decrease the cases of violence against women in India. Such schemes like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao to stop aborting girl child and they should be given equal status and opportunity as a male child; Ujjawala to stop trafficking of women; Vista project to empower rural women and making them independent and many more.
Abuse and violence against women is a very tragic story of our society. We talk about it, we educate people, we conduct awareness programs. But the change seems very insignificant, making it hard to eliminate this injustice towards a particular gender. Abuse and violence against women, is present in every society, at different levels and are of different forms. So there is a need to devise plans at regional level to address different forms of abuse. In this modern world, this kind of gender inequality should not be tolerated.
5 Vishaka and Ors. v State of Rajasthan and Ors. ((1997) 6 SCC 241) 6 Voluntary Health Assn. of Punjab v. Union of India, 2013 4 SCC 1 7 Khurana and Others v. Union of India and Others, 1995 SCC OnLine Del 257 8 Mrs Githa Hariharan Anr vs Reserve Bank of India Anr air 1999 2 SCC 228 9 Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma, (2019) 6 SCC 164
3 NCRB Report: Crimes against Women in 2020, https://www.mapsofindia.com/my-india/social-issues/ncrb-report-crimes-against-women-in-2020 (last visited July 20, 2022)
1 WOMEN'S CORNER - VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, https://rachakondapolice.telangana.gov.in/women-corner/domestic-violence.html (last visited July 20, 2022)