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article imageDomestic violence in India: Women's existence 'privatized' Special

By Michael Krebs     Aug 1, 2013 in World
As domestic violence and women's rights matters in India continue to make headlines in the international press, one woman is working to elevate the issues in a troubling and challenging environment.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Dr. Jill Biden, recently visited The Dilaasa Crisis Intervention Department for Women in Bandra and shared her experience in a White House blog entry.
"The center is the first hospital-based crisis center in India for female survivors of domestic violence and came out of a partnership between the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, a public entity, and the Center for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes, a private trust," Biden wrote. "This relationship illustrates how dedicated both the people and the government are to creating a safe space for the victims of gender based violence and to ensuring that this nightmare ends for so many women."
Domestic violence - and violence against women in general - is a considerable issue in India, the prevalence of which is estimated to be as high as 60 percent, according to a 2012 study, The Risk Factor of Domestic Violence in India, published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
With this backdrop in mind, I caught up with Dr. Vibhuti Patel, Professor and Head, Post Graduate Department of Economics at SNDT Women's University. Patel recently published Domestic Violence: A Violation of Human Rights of Women, citing how "men exist as public, legal entities that enjoy civil and political rights and in a way define the nature of rights discourse. Women's existence, on the other hand, is 'privatized,' thus, seen as existing outside the purview of the state's obligation."
Krebs: As free and democratic societies, India and the United States share many values and similarities. In your opinion, what is it about Indian society in particular that contributes to violence against women?
Vibhuti Patel: Constitutional guarantees for women enshrined in the fundamental rights have not realized even after 60 years of India's independence. Women are treated as playthings, door-mats, object for male gratification and perpetual minors who need to be tamed, disciplined with beating and punishment and used/abused as per the whims of men-husbands, fathers, brothers.
Krebs: What do you see as the most pressing challenges facing women in India?
Vibhuti Patel: Dealing with physical, psychological and sexual violence against women is the pressing challenge in the consumerist society that believes in instant gratification that women are expected to provide to their male counterparts.
Krebs: Are their regions within India that are seeing greater incidents of violence against women (urban vs rural, prosperous vs poor)?
Vibhut Patel: Forms of violence against women vary in rural and urban areas. Caste based violence, honour killing, witch killing, superstition related violence are more pronounced in the rural areas; while gang-rape, stalking, cyber crimes, acid attacks, child sexual abuse and pornography related violence against girls and women are reported more in the urban centres. During 2012, there were 45000 cases of rape reported in the police stations as per the National Crimes Records Bureau of Government of India.
Krebs: IB Times just reported on a 24 year-old woman who was forced into an arranged marriage and gang-raped by her in-laws. How does the practice of arranged marriage factor into domestic violence? How does one overcome ancient village laws?
Vibhuti Patel: In the arranged marriage, extended family has a major say in all day to day matters. Incest is rampant in the joint families in India. Now, women have mustered up courage to approach the police and criminal justice system to get the culprits punished.
Krebs: What is the Indian government or the private business community or academia doing to prevent further abuses against women?
Vibhuti Patel: The Steering Committee on Women’s Agency and Empowerment for the 12th Plan of government of India has suggested several important interventions to address the gender based disadvantages confronting girls and young as well as elderly women. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has launched a helpline for women, development of a distance learning programme on women’s rights, implementation of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, relief to and rehabilitation of rape victims - but the amount allocated for these schemes is grossly inadequate. There is no financial allocation for Swayamsidha Phase II for self employed women and women entrepreneurs that was considered by the 11th Plan, the main agency for women’s empowerment. Private business community has started establishing prevention of sexual harassment committees within their organisations.
Krebs: What can American activists and feminists do to help?
Vibhuti Patel: American activists and feminists should also fight against violence against women in America and also express their solidarity towards struggles of women in rest of the world.
More about Domestic violence, Women, Women's health, India, Rape
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