Women and Violence are two such terms that can be synonymous with each other. Every day, end number of women go through different forms of violence, be it intimate physical and sexual violence, female genital mutilation, rape, sex trafficking, early and forced marriages, domestic violence, or so-called ‘honor’ crimes. Mostly persisting expressions of violence against women lies in the remote areas of India where cultures and customs do not allow such cases to be dealt legally. One such example is Dowry Death, where a married woman is tortured over money demanded in the name of rituals that eventually lead to either suicide or forced murder via hanging, poisoning or burning. Adding to this, women are also prone to exorcism and possession by local witches that defies science and promotes superstition. A considerable number of deaths have been recorded out of this in the past decades in India. Nonetheless, violence against women gives rise to physical, psychological, sexual, and economic tortures. It is one of the most serious and widespread contraventions of basic human rights and has a much stronger impact on the lives of not only an individual but on the societal and community level as well. It is high time to say that we take a lesson from it and take our self, families, societies, and communities to a whole different level of mutual love, respect, ownership, education, and employment. However, all of us frequently cross paths with this but there is a substantially low number of people who are distinctly aware of the root causes and the impact of it on the WOMEN.
Attitudes justifying violence, limited women’s autonomy, unequal power relations and multiple disparities between men and women, societal notions of gender and rights that lead to gender inequality, discrimination based on property ownership, marriage and divorce, illiteracy, economic dependence, and patriarchal society are some of the root causes of the violence. It is manifested in limiting the women’s freedom, choices, and opportunities in public as well as private spheres of life. Every individual has the basic rights to live their life the way they want, put-forth their views, and contribute to society; but women are deprived of all these rights because primarily they have to suffer the dominance and undergo violence. If we go back to our roots in the general gender-biased nature of our history, there are elements of proof that women were prohibited from their basic rights but at the same time, there have been some revolutionary exceptions too. Rassundari Devi, a Bengali lady, wrote her life story in 1876 named Amar Jibon. Then there is a case of Pandita Ramabai, whose father followed the saying ‘Charity begins at home’ and educated his wife Lakshmibai even after facing the extreme consequences for this. Lakshmibai, as a result has made her daughter educated in forests as written down in the book of Ramabai ‘The High Caste Hindu Woman’, which talks about persecution of women, faith, and imperialism .We can have as many examples where women have come out to be as leaders in the struggle for women’s rights, despite all the prevalent social customs and practices. The elementary phase of feminism in India was between the years 1880-1940. At this time many organizations gave women space and chance to stand out ,and to procure the desired changes. On the contrary, when it comes to giving equal privilege to women in the private spheres of life the case was not the same, for instance: inheritance rights, issues relating to domestic violence, marriages, and divorce. The Hindu Code Bill comprises of section which spoke about same rights to property to women, those which criticizes polygamy, which are in favor of legalizing inter-caste marriages and divorce were not welcomed. The following statement in the draft “the State shall endeavor to secure that marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and shall be maintained through mutual cooperation, with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis” has not ever been able to take its place in the Constitution.
Globally, efforts are being made to deal with this public health problem by several means. First, taking the case of the Health sector which can do wonders in mitigating this issue but they somehow lag in addressing the violence against women. Apart from healing the consequences of the violence, health workers can make women understand that they are victims of the violence and they have to raise their voice against it. They can be more than just a physical healer to their patients particularly women. This life-saving response requires empathy, support, compassion, regular training, a supportive system, protocols, and referral networks. They can even provide greater benefits at the community level just by creating awareness about the benefits of postponed marriages for girls.
Second, ‘Prevention is better than cure’, but we have to start it in the early stages of life by educating young boys and girls as it is a crucial time when they learn and inculcate values and norms. It can be done by creating a sense of mutual respect, by making them aware that they can’t go away with disrespecting and hurting each other as it is the most basic right of each individual irrespective of their gender. We need to teach them to respect and embrace diversity. Implement programs that work with youngsters and teens for timely arbitrations. Third, use a participatory approach by engaging and involving men in the prevention activities, we can nip the cause of the violence in the bud. Engaging them as participants in education programs, as policymakers, gatekeepers, and as activists and advocates will also prove helpful. Fourth, laws formulation that promotes gender non- discrimination, women’s access to authorized and approved employment, and address gender based violence. Fifth, we need to promote coordination by supporting coalitions across sectors and firms at regional and state levels. Transformation of the communal environment, social customs, codes and preconceived notions and stereotypes is needed. Sixth, be certain of what a survivor has to say of her experience, never ever doubt the words and intentions of a victim, rather question gender presumptions and roles. All we can do to hold them up is respect their decisions in order to survive.
Besides all this, we have to build political commitment in terms of strict enforcement of laws and policies from leaders and policymakers against it. Allocate resources by investing in all types, kinds, and sizes of women’s organizations.
Violence in any form and against anyone is unacceptable and should be brought to a halt. To move in this light, mitigation of the risk factors and amplification of the protective factors is the initiating step. We ought to craft a theory of change by applying the directive principles of prevention. Adapt and scale-up to what works followed by monitoring, evaluating and measuring the progress.
The vital ingredients to this soup of revolution are a sight of grace, mutual respect among all the genders, basic moral education, choices of opinion, and the liberty to follow that opinion. To add to it, recognize, observe and celebrate all the facets of manhood including tenderness and sensitivity. This is the sole path through which we can bring in change keeping harmony & non-violence alive. My parting words lie with the thought of the great Albert Einstein-
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”