Guwahati,

Drums of Conundrums in Gender Equity Stop Violence Against Women

Drums of Conundrums  in Gender Equity Stop Violence Against Women

The word, "crime" instills within a sense of negativity and depression while creating an imagery of physical harm or abuse caused to another with malicious intentions that may or may not be fatal but is sure to eat up the complete peace cake out of the victim's life. The UN has broadly divided violence against women into three categories: Physical, Sexual and Psychological. Among the different categories of violence, which is considered as a crime in the international law, is a must to look at. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that violence against women is more concerned with human rights and being human, than women's rights. Parvin's case is one of the testimonies. She was beaten up by her husband brutally for giving birth to daughters, which also led her to abortion and years of torture that led her to divorce. One day her husband went into her room while she was asleep along with her daughters. He sent the girls outside, and the next moment he became a beast in human version and started biting Parvin's face viciously, and tried to tear her nose out from the face. Horrifying, but a true incident like this, demands men to be a human first. Several incidences of violence occurring in some account of animosity, every day.
To counter such an attitude, the United Nations General Assembly has designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It aims at generating awareness about this grim situation while highlighting the need to report it. India has also come under the spotlight for many reasons. 
In this context, Indrani Deb, GB member of FICCI FLO NE refers to the book, Letters of Swami Vivekananda and recalls that "such a case was a serious thought in the mind of Swami Vivekananda in 1894 in Chicago, who found out that our country was desperately lagging behind because of this serious issue which hampered the growth of the nation. When a woman is strong and nourishes herself, the country prospers and becomes self reliant. They should be treated with the highest dignity and be nourished in all ways. Violence towards them is a national sin, this was a clarion call given in 1894 by the Indian Monk in Chicago. It was a prediction he made, and had asked all to be careful. India needs to you uplift itself from this crippling, cancerous and diseased perception and practice, for a woman is the womb of the nation as well."
This year, the European Union and the UN launched the Spotlight Initiative to eliminate this dilemma. Another initiative launched by the then UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon (in 2008), also supported by his successor, António Guterres, that has been helping to treat this blight is the UNiTE to end violence against women, initiative. UNiTE leads the 16 Days of Activism from 25th November to 10th December (Human Rights Day) against Gender-Based Violence campaign, darting at increased public awareness and mobilizing people across the globe to bring about a revolutionary change. The theme of the campaign for 2017 is "Leave no one behind: end violence against women and girls." 
We have some women with their roots in the Northeast who have shared their viewpoints.
Srutimala, Writer & Academician remarked, " Any form of violence is something to be denounced, and those men who are physically or mentally abusing women need to be taken to task by society and law. Also, the mindsets of people need to change. Many women consider themselves to be inferior to men supporting patriarchal attitudes. In India, where goddesses are worshipped as Shakti, it is a mockery of worship when the women are subjected to violence." 
As mentioned above, violence against women is more related to being human and human rights, seems like Meghna Rai Medhi, Owner & Fashion designer, Meghna’s, is also on the same page, as she expressed, "Violence against women is an extreme case of violation of human rights. Its impact ranges from immediate to long-term multiple physical, sexual and mental symptoms and consequences for women, including death. It negatively affects women's general well-being and prevents women from fully participating in the society. Violence not only has negative consequences for women, but also on their families. Hence this must STOP."
Violence against women is among the most extreme and ruthless manifestations of an ingrained patriarchal mindset and the mentality of men being superior to women. Though there has been no competition at the women's end to showcase power and superiority, yet the impression created has been as such. Many people around the world feel that it is okay for women to be tortured or tolerate violence. The first systematic study on the prevalence of violence against women from across the world revealed that 35 percent of women experience some form of violence. Now the scene comes to a frame of magnanimity. It seems quite logical while reading the views of Manjusha Baruah, Founder, East by North East, "To come across disturbing cases of violence against women through rape, abduction or any other form of harassment on a daily basis is clearly not uncommon in the society, and the world that we are living in today. Due to its normalization with its growing frequency, the victims are trapped in a vicious cycle to which there is no key, while the victimizers gain tremendous power. In extreme situations we collectively pledge to improve this situation; however, we fail to act upon it. Therefore, in order to escape this and prevent another girl from falling victim to this situation we must work towards their empowerment, together. Their status should be strengthened and maintained while each woman  must be given equal resources and opportunities to prove herself in every field, as a man is given so that she can untag herself from the label of the "second sex"."
The National Crime Records Bureau publishes an annual report entitled "Crime in India". The latest report, 2015, gives us updates on crime records on the incidences of violence that are women-related. 
* 327,394 cases of crime against women have been reported in 2015 (3.1% decline from 2014)
* 157,249 cases under violence against women in India has been reported as pending for investigation by the end of the year 2015 while 1,080,144 cases have remained pending for trial by the end of that year 
* Highest conviction rate under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (49%) followed by the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (47.8%) & the lowest conviction rate has been reported under Abetment to suicide and Cruelty by Husband and his Relatives
After a period of 4 years (2011-2014) when the crime rates were ceaselessly soaring, a sudden decline in the overall crime cases raises questions whether any fairy godmother has blessed the culprit-minded people with humanity or is it that only a few cases have been reported? 
Anindita Paul, Playback Singer, has shared, "Women are the backbone of a society as she not only takes care of the entire family, but also contributes largely to the creation of our society. Violence against women is therefore the most  heinous crime, according to me, as it not only tramples her self-respect but also agitates her emotional and physical state. Women should be independent and educated in order to sustain in this man-made world only then she could voice the injustice inflicted upon her both physical and sexual. Many women who live in rural areas could hardly protest against such torture upon them due to some pseudo practices and limitations of our society. A civilized nation never underestimates the importance of women in the society and also believes that man and woman should walk hand-in-hand and contribute to the socio-economic development of the society and the Nation at large. More and more women should work and become self dependent apart from running the household chores, as that would boost her self-esteem and she could earn respect and love for herself. Society plays an important role in this regard and since times immemorial there have been many iconic women in history who have set examples of bravery, determination and power, that our education system should try to glorify to make all aware that women never lagged behind men, but certain societies wanted them to be weak and dominated to a great extent. We dream about a nation of Equality but we must practice it everywhere around us to have a Nation of Equality in the truest sense."
After undergoing the root causes of several incidences of violence, it is evident that women or girls face violence, mostly at home, at the hands of intimate or close partners or family members. Such incidences may also include incest rape. One can go so far as to say that violence and abuse, negligence and indifference to her needs are an everyday reality for women across the country. 
Roshni Hassan, Mrs United Nations 2017 and Mrs India Earth 2016 (2nd runner up), who is also a businesswoman, writer, and a social activist joins the movement against the violence against women. This Bharat Nirman awardee opines, "Domestic violence is certainly an important issue for women.  Women are four times more likely to be murdered in domestic violence situations by men. It certainly is common knowledge that violence by males is very common in relationships. Violence and abuse affects not just the women involved, but also their children, families, and communities. These effects include harm to an individual's health, possible long-term harm to children, and harm to communities such as lost work and homelessness. The Nari Adalat and Sahara Sangh initiatives have been organized by the Department of Education's Mahila Samakya Program in two districts of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. "Salishe", a traditional method, is being utilized by the Non-government Organization Shramajibee Mahila Samiti in West Bengal. Women should take the help of these to eradicate violence from the root." 
Parineeta Borthakur, Actress & Singer, expresses her views,  "Since ages, women are being harassed mentally, physically and socially, be it at home or at work places. Though times are changing, but still these harassments haven't vanished. I think a woman has a wonderful power of knowing a man's intentions or the kind of touch very well. So, the moment a woman feels something is wrong, she should be aware and not wait for it to happen."
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, crimes against women rose unambiguously in all states between 1995 and 1999 and 2010 and 2014. The average crimes against women in India also increased from 94,600 during 1995 to 1999 to 2, 11,400 during 2010 to 2014.
According to the UN, women and girls around the world are being subjected to violence, which include physical, sexual and psychological forms. The crimes include intimate partner violence, sexual violence and harassment, human trafficking, female genital mutilation and child marriage.
Take a quick look at the definition of crimes against women listed under the IPC (Indian Penal Code).  
*  Rape (Sec. 376 IPC)
*  Attempt to commit rape (Sec 376/511 IPC)
* Kidnapping & abduction of women (K&A) (Section 363,364,364A, 366 IPC) - in order to murder, for ransom, to compel her for marriage and other purposes
* Dowry deaths (Section 304B IPC)
* Assault on woman with intent to outrage her modesty (Sex. 354 IPC) - including sexual harassment, voyeurism and other forms of sexual violence
* Insult to the modesty of women (Sec. 509 IPC) - including at work and in public transport
* Cruelty by husband or his relatives (Sec. 498A IPC)
* Importation of girl from foreign country (up to 21 years of age) (Sec. 366 B IPC)
* Abetment of suicide of women (Sec. 306 IPC)
This list provides a bird's eye outlook of the legal standpoint about crime against women in India.  
Krishna Sarma, Managing Partner, Corporate Law Group remarked, "Our legal system and public policy framework have set up a number of laws and community-wide initiatives to protect Indian women from violence, whether domestic or physical, harassment in workplace or witch-hunting in Assam. The legislation relating to violence against women includes the Indian Penal Code wherein offences such as sexual offences and even the domestic ones are criminally indicted. For working women, India has, on 2013, passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act. Apart from legislations there are social mechanisms available to a woman. Women and girls who fall victim to gender violence, often fail to receive the psychosocial support that they need and are entitled to. The National Commission for Women has its Statewide Branches and a woman can approach the commission for guidance and support in bringing a criminal action against her offenders. Laws aside community-level initiatives worldwide has had better responses like in Nigeria, where a program to teach school boys that the meaning of being a true man is to protect women and where girls were taught self defense as an empowering tool. Rape figures have actually come down there. My friend, Sonali Khan led "Bell Bajao" campaign was a very good intervention to prevent domestic violence. Activists in the states such as West Bengal likewise have adapted the Salishe, a traditional system of local justice, to address domestic violence. For example, when a woman is beaten, the West Bengali NGO Shramajibee Mahila Samity sends a female organizer to the village to consult with the individuals and families involved. The organizer then facilitates a salishe, attempting to steer the discussion in a pro-woman direction. Collectively, the community arrives at a proposed solution, which is formalized in writing and monitored by a local committee. Internationally, women's right to live free from violence is upheld by the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to which 189 countries are members including India."
Let us have a look at the intolerable and frustrating reality. In case of dowry deaths, women are not always the only primary victims, as in many cases, children are also killed along. In January, 2014, for example, a woman and her one-year-old child were burnt alive for dowry. We also have honour killings in place, meant for those girls or women who have brought dishonour and shame upon the family. It is mostly seen in Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh.  For example, in June 2012, a father beheaded his 20-year-old daughter after hearing that she was dating a man who he unapproved of. Female infanticide, an elected killing of a newborn girl child or the termination of a female fetus through sex-selective abortion boosts the mentality of considering the birth of boy child as an incentive to future & family. Female foeticide, an elected abortion of a fetus, which provoked the emergence of the Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques Act of 1994 (PCPNDT Act 1994), which was modified (in 2003) to target the medical professionals. Unfortunately, the Act has proven ineffective due to the lack of implementation. 
Rape is one of the commonest crime against women in India. Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 defines rape as penile and non-penile penetration in bodily orifices of a woman by a man, without the consent of the woman. On the contrary, as a contradiction, in India, marital rape is not a criminal offense. 20% of Indian men admit forcing their wives or partners to have sex. Domestic violence is caused by one partner against another in an intimate relationship such as dating, marriage, cohabitation or a familial relationship.  38% of Indian men admit they have physically abused their partners. 
Acid throwing is another act of a person bearing the intention to disfigure, maim, torture, or kill. At least 72% of reported acid attacks in India have involved women. Not just this, with the advent of technology and internet, cyber crimes and photo-morphing have also taken a toll. Murders of women accused of witchcraft is another dimension added.
Here are some gender specific laws in our country for which data is available as per records.
* The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
*  The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986
* The Commission of Sati Prevention Act, 1987
* The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005*
* The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
However, it is more about the upbringing of a boy child and the education provided to him. It should result in a future where people stop telling their daughters how to be dressed and not to  be out late night. Many women agree in this line.
Vasavi Acharya, Early Childhood Educationist, faculty at TISS, Guwahati and Founder/ Director IIFPL and D N Acharya Foundation for Children and Women Welfare, talked about, "A girl child in our society is expected to play the role of an aid, a support, a daughter, sister, wife, mother, daughter-in-law and treated mostly as caregiver and doer, who should not pursue her dreams and ambition, but style and mould herself according to the family she is born into, and eventually get married into. This is a sad reality for most women. I believe education is a potent weapon to lessen and gradually eradicate such gender discriminations further, enabling every girl to voice her opinion and act as per her choice. It is also equally important to educate our boys and young men to be taught to respect and treat them as equals. Mass awareness has to be created to promote education of the Girl Child in every family.
Dipika Tuteja, Architect and Founder of InAWE, opined, "It is a great hypocrisy that floats globally to worship goddesses on one hand and abuse, molest and disrespect women on the other hand. To abate this over-happening crime, we women - as mothers, have a greater role to play. Sons in their upbringing should be taught the strength in equality, and equality in strength. They should also be taught about the capability of the sisters/girls in general and that they should be respected and treated like a human. The notion of teaching girls to stay away from the boys or teaching boys to protect girls should be changed. Respect is what matters above all. If respect is rendered with equal status, then perceptions will change for better automatically. And, the problem may resolve. Equality starts at home!"
Temsutula Imsong, Social Activist and Environmentalist remarked, "We women are teachers too. At almost every stage of our life we spend a great deal of time imparting education in one way or the other. And here, lies the key to eliminate Violence against women. The NORM and the necessity to respect women must be inculcated among all, by us while THEY are growing up, all the while strongly standing up to any instances of violence."
Educating a girl child is of utmost priority, so that they know their rights, strengths and goals. Statistically, 57% of girls in India drop out of school before 10th grade. 47% disappear into early marriage and 22% have a child before they turn 18. Out of the 43% of young women who do stay in school, more than 50% are malnourished, only 23% have access to higher education and finally, only 22% enter formal sector employment. Women's Education Project - India (WEP India), an NGO headquartered in Bangalore that works in partnership with selected NGOs and operates centers in Kadappa, Madurai and Hyderabad in South India, is focusing on working towards women's education in India and is set out to tackle this challenge. Founded in 2002, WEP works toward educating women in India of limited means to become knowledgeable, confident and meaningfully employed.  
Recently, it came up with an idea of Hackathon - Hack4Her (in November'17), to tackle issues and innovate, to solve some of the Educational issues faced by girls and women in our society. The two phased Hackathon saw a record breaking participation of 2000 people from diverse group driven by social cause of changing the landscape of women's education in India.  
Technologists, designers and innovators with great social insights came aboard for this hackathon together to build technology based solutions. Shruthi Dinkar, Director - WEP India said, "Women's Education Project India conceptualized the idea of Hack4Her in the context of some real challenges faced by a woman to pursue her education in India. Here, we are talking about women in rural parts of the country who drop out due to various socio-economic reasons. By addressing some of the resolvable challenges, through this hackathon, we are taking baby steps to ensure our women in the coming generations don't drop out of schools and colleges for reasons that could have been just a hack away. This hackathon is one step closer to make a woman self-reliant and independently empowered through education." The idea is to build a platform where users can login from any part of the world and learn. As a solution, a web application was presented that takes an existing offline program of "WEP I am leader" and adds the gamifying layers on web application dedicated to it where, girls play a visual novel game according to their profile level and explore the possible life learnings and be inspired. 
This is a beneficial program that empowers  women. While on the same page, Babita Baruah, Advertising industry professional expressed, "I feel daughters should be taught about the importance of self respect, and the power of expression. With this also comes the responsibility of action. Women at work can play a strong role in creating and thriving in a healthy work environment. For some unfortunate incidents, women need to express them and not fear any repercussion that might come along. This is what I will teach my daughter and other daughters as future women at work. That the future is what we ourselves create.
It high time that we buckled our shoes to stand up to give our daughters, sisters, mothers and other females of the world, a "Trishul" of Independence, Empowerment and Knowledge. As Dr. Geeta Baruah Nath, HOD, Gynaecology, Artesmis Hospital said, "It is a pity while we are boasting about 21st centaury development and lifestyle, Gender Inequality, Women empowerment etc, but in reality women are still suppressed and violence against women is happening all over the world which is a violation of Human Rights. Violence may be in the fore of Hate crime, Sexual Harassment, Rape, Domestic Violence, Harmful Traditional Practices such as Honor Killing of daughters, Dowry Violence and Death, Forced marriage and Marital Sex, Female Genital Mutilation, Forced Abortion and Prostitution, Women Trafficking etc. The best way to bring a change in society is 100% equal Education to boy and girl child. A balanced up-bringing by parents with teaching of values of life will definitely make a positive change in our society."
Pallavi Gillani, Interior Designer, shares her views, "Violence against women, whether it is physical, psychological or sexual, it is most devastating human right violation in our world today. The survivors have higher than average rates of depression, anxiety disorder, diabetes, digestive disease, etc. victims don't feel safe to tell people about their abuse because there is always a chance that they will not be believed. The Government together with senior members of the society should come up with 'victim centred approach' wherein they can set up 'Help Booths' so that they can ask for help without any fear. These kind of initiatives should help bring in transformative change to quite some extent. Sanctions & accountability of the society at large are very critical for behaviour change, and for the coming generations to be socialized differently  so that they know what is acceptable & what is not." Pranami kalita, Founder & Designer, Pariah by Pranami voiced her thoughts, “The best way to end violence against women and girls is to prevent it from happening in the first place by addressing its root and structural causes. Prevention should start early in life, by educating and working with young boys and girls promoting respectful relationships and gender equality. Working with youth is a “best bet” for faster, sustained progress on preventing and eradicating gender-based violence. While public policies and interventions often overlook this stage of life, it is a critical time when values and norms around gender equality are forged..”
True! It's time to speak up and stand up with an unwavering determination and will. Awaken the goddess Durga in you and set yourself for Mahisasura Vadh (eradication of violence against women).