According to a recent report of National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB), violence against women is rampant in India, with southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh having the worst record for crimes against women. For the year 2007-08, NCRB recorded 24,738 cases of crimes committed against women including 1,070 cases of rape, 1,564 cases of kidnapping and abduction, 613 cases of dowry deaths and 11,335 cases of domestic violence in Andhra Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh has also witnessed a stepping of crime against women with the state recording 21,215 cases of violence including 2,066 cases of dowry death, 1,532 cases of rape and 3,819 cases of kidnapping. The NCRB also highlighted many incidents of rape of minor girls committed by the police personnel. Similarly, Haryana a small state has recorded 4,645 incidents of crime with as many as 269 cases of dowry deaths and 488 cases of rape. Bihar leads in cases of domestic violence with 59 percent of married women suffering domestic violence. The NCRB recorded 7,548 cases of crime with 1,555 rape cases, 1,172 dowry death cases and 1,260 kidnapping and abduction cases in the state. These are the statistics of only the reported cases whereas several cases of violence against women goes unreported due to social stigmas attached to them and due to the fear of reprisals and threats from the culprits.
Women in India suffer at different levels and due to different reasons. Violence against women in India is conducted irrespective of caste and class. Women in general and low caste women in particular are the victims of violence. Even the Hindu religion does not provide any security to this creature. The Hindu Holy text sanctify the killing of infant girls, by parents who deem themselves not capable of shouldering the responsibility of having a girl child. The Hindu holy book Bhagvad Gita calls women embodiment of the worst desires and justifies the killing of women. “Killing of a woman, a shudra or an atheist is not sinful. Woman is an embodiment of the worst desires, hatred, deceit, jealously and bad character. Women should never be given freedom”. Bhagvad Gita (Manu 1X. 17 and V.47, 147).The modern democratic India follows these religious teachings of hatred and enmity towards women. The change does come but only in the techniques of the violence. In past, in Hindu society new born girls were buried alive now new born baby girls are either strangled to death or aborted during pregnancy. According to a UNICEF report released in December 2006, about 7,000 fewer girls than expected are born daily in India, and about 10 million fewer girls than expected were born in the past 20 years due to sex discrimination.
Women in India are considered a stigma to honour and are victim of almost all kinds of violence such as rape, domestic violence, abduction, dowry deaths and honour killings. The women living in insurgency infested areas are victims of duel violence. On the one hand they are victimized by army personnel and on the other by rival ethnic groups. Similarly, women other than Hindus particularly Muslims and Christians are victims of hate crime.
Not all sexual harassment and rape cases are reported in India. But by considering the reported cases it becomes evident that in India a women is raped every 29th minute. The NCRB unearthed some extremely disturbing trends in India. Statistics suggest that in 2005 around 50 women were raped and 480 molested and abducted every day. The gravity of the problem is that Indian laws are not very strict for such type of violence against women. No capital punishment is awarded in such cases. Apart from harassment, throwing strong acids such sulphuric acid on the face of the girls and women is rampant in India. This is the most heinous and severe punishment deserving crime. There is no separate law to deal with acid attackers in India. Organizations such as the Campaign and Struggle against Acid Attacks on Women (CSAAAW) are fighting to get acid attacks recognised as a separate crime and an extension of other forms of gender violence. Even a small state like Bangladesh realized the gravity of acid attacks and introduced death penalty against the crime. The Indian government has promised a new law to tackle increasing acid attacks, but that brings no cheer to those who know all too well what they are fighting against a system of hierarchies that rationalises violence. The problem is not acid but the thinking of men that they can control and dictate terms to the women in their lives. There is a need of a law that can restrict the sale of acid and bring offenders to justice. Law only cannot correct these social imbalances there is need that these laws should be implemented in true spirit.
Dowry deaths are also frequent in India. This is the worst crime against the women next to rape. A married girl is burnt to death or killed or tortured by her in-laws and husband for not providing enough gifts or money to them by her parents. Every day 50 cases of dowry related violence are reported and every 3rd minute a case of violence against women is registered in India. Apart from these several women in the tribal areas of India are killed on the pretext of practicing witchcraft. Low casts girls especially dalits in their childhood are made Devdasis to serve God in the temple and they have to leave their home and stay in the temple complex. These girls grew up in the temples and are exploited afterwards
Honour killings are widespread in India and 95 percent of victims of such killings are women. Honour killings in India are classified broadly into two segments, those undertaken by families to protect the honour of individual families and those ordered by caste panchayats to protect caste honour. History of honour killings showed that the victims were beaten to death or pushed into a corn bin. In some cases, the women were asked to get into a narrow tunnel which would be covered with a slab so that they would die of suffocation. Women who were perceived to sully family honour were either murdered or forced to commit suicide. In some cases, unprivileged and dispossessed families living in a feudal society murdered girls the moment they felt they would not be able to protect them from the evil intentions of an all-powerful local zamindar or a chieftain. Brinda Karat MP and CPI (M) Polit Bureau member said, “I had asked a question in parliament on the number of killings related to honour that had taken place so far and the reply I received from the government was that they do not recognize such a category and, therefore, there was no separate collection of such data”. There is no legal definition of the term honour killing or honour crime. As a result, the perpetrators of such crimes more often than not get away with murder, torture, assault, and violation of laws regarding atrocities committed on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. And they continue to commit them with impunity.
There is a need that Indian government should take urgent measures to create awareness through education on the need to end such social crimes against women and initiate comprehensive measures to curb honour killings, acid attacking, rape and dowry deaths etc. In India, there is no respect for women, Dalits and minorities. The government needs to realise that acid attacks and other brutal assaults on women are a manifestation of an ingrained inequality. These attacks are not just about the women they target, they are also about the society that allows such attacks, the hierarchies it has internalised and the voices of protest it has silenced