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HOW SAFE ARE OUR WOMEN?- VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN INDIA

Violence against women is present in every country, cutting across the boundaries of culture, class, education, income, ethnicity and age. Even though it is now forbidden in most parts of the world, the reality is that violations against women’s rights are often sanctioned under the garb of cultural practices and norms or through misinterpretation of religious tenets. Moreover, when the violation takes place within the home, as is very often the case, the abuse is effectively condoned by the tacit silence and the passivity displayed by the state and the law-enforcing machinery.

In India even in the 21st century, women cannot step out of their house at any given time, assured of her physical and sexual safety. Everyday women in this society face more problems than men. The fear of violence and teasing restricts a woman’s anatomy, curtails her mobility and her ability to work and participate in social activities. Even today in India, women can’t move at night in secluded places and even at daytime at crowded places. Hundreds and thousands of incidents of physical / sexual abuse and culturally justified violence happens every day to women in this country.

Violence against women is often a cycle of abuse that manifests itself in many forms throughout their lives. Even at the very beginning of her life, a girl may be the target of sex- elective abortion or female infanticide in cultures where son preference is prevalent. During childhood, violence against girls may include enforced malnutrition, lack of access to medical care and education, incest, female genital mutilation, early marriage, and forced prostitution or bonded labour. Some go on to suffer throughout their adult lives – battered, raped and even murdered at the hands of intimate partners.

Other crimes of violence against women include forced pregnancy, abortion or sterilization, and harmful traditional practices such as dowry-related violence, sati (the burning of a widow on the funeral pyre of her husband), and killings in the name of honour. And in later life, widows and elderly women also experience abuse.

While the impact of physical abuse may be more ‘visible’ than psychological scarring, repeated humiliation and insults, forced isolation, limitations on social mobility, constant threats of violence and injury, and denial of economic resources are more subtle and insidious forms of violence. The intangible nature of psychological abuse makes it harder to define and report, leaving the woman in a situation where she is often made to feel mentally destabilized and powerless.

Every day I see women suffering in public places especially in trains and buses. When a girl enters the general compartment, 90% of men scan her from top to bottom and comment on her appearance and dress. The most frequent comment that is passed on is “Why she enters general compartment when there is ladies coach?” – What a shameful dominating attitude. I always wonder why these people don’t have the image of their daughter/sister/wife at such times. This happens everywhere, in the bus stop and even in the office where she works.

The 17-year-old girl, who is pursuing studies in fashion designing in the national capital, was attacked on July 13th at Guwahati, Assam when she was returning home after celebrating the birthday of her friend, a teenaged girl, at a bar. The girl was subjected to assault and molestation for nearly half an hour before being rescued by some passers-by. This brutal act was carried out in a busy road while everyone were watching as if they were being entertained with some fun. The teenaged girl was molested, groped at and beaten up, all in full public view, by a mob in Guwahati, triggering widespread protests in the state.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi admitted that the law and order situation in Guwahati is deteriorating . He instructed the administration and police to monitor the bars, clubs, discos and hotels and raid them as and when required.

Where does that strict and constructed image disappear while staring at the other women in society?
The physical, sexual and psychological abuse, sometimes with fatal outcomes, inflicted on women is comparable to torture in both its nature and severity. It can be perpetrated intentionally, and committed for the specific purposes of punishment, intimidation, and control of the woman’s identity and behaviour. It takes place in situations where a woman may seem free to leave, but is held as a prisoner by fear of further violence against herself and her children, or by lack of resources, family, legal or community support.

The usual argument in cases of sexual harassment / rape is that the female must have provoked the assaulting male by either being out of her home so late at night or by her clothes or manner. I want to ask the men: Why do you always look at women as a commodity? Aren’t woman a part of society? Don’t you feel the warmth of love of your mother, sister or friend? If an eve teasing occurs, it’s she is who is being blamed for the way she dresses and not he for the affront. It’s a human rights violation and is highly condemnable.

The society and the government which advices women what to wear failed to give out a strong message to those culprits who are involved in violence against women. Today India is listed as 4th dangerous country for women to live in. Is this is the achievement we gift our mother land? Is this what we are going to gift to our daughters, friends, wives and mothers? Raise your voice and join hands to curb this menace. Every man should encourage and empower your daughter, sister, wife to follow their dreams confidently.

For me women’s safety is not just about safeguarding her from sexual harassment; it also includes safe spaces, freedom from poverty and access to all basic amenities, safe public transportation, financial security and autonomy and safer healthier community. Building such a nation is everyone’s job. It’s a mandatory duty of government and judicial system to perfectly ensure women safety and most important duty is to take severe actions against culprits and to give a strong warning.

Today, we are witnessing more violence against women in different forms in our country which is turning our nation into hell. I hope you all are aware of what actually happening in this nation which is now having more lusty beasts. It is time for our entire society to eradicate all forms of violence against women and to gift a safer nation to our coming generations.

If one reads at least 4 or 5 articles about woman harassment every day, how can one feel safe? It calls to our attention as to why women cannot be independent of men – why should women walk in the shadows of men? Police records show increased incidences of crimes against women in India. It was reported that the rate of crimes against women would surpass the population of India by the year 2010 in a study conducted by the National Crime Records Bureau in 1998. However, as many of the women related crimes such as rape and molestation include a rather ‘severe’ form of social stigma, the crimes were often left unsaid and no complaints were filed. So it can be seen that societal norms and mentality are the root causes of women being silent about their traumatic experience.

Although there have been various attempts by the government and NGOs to prevent such crimes, many still circumvent the established rules. How do we prevent this? This is something that we should think about – how do we help to prevent such crimes? One must not think that this problem occurs only amongst the lower social classes; even the socially higher people get blinded with acts of violence towards women through the aforementioned ways.

Over 32000 murders, 19,000 rapes, 7500 dowry deaths and 36500 molestation cases are the violent crimes reported in India against women. There are many instances of crime especially against women go unreported in India. These are figures released by the National Crime Records Bureau recently. While Madhya Pradesh is worst off among the states, the national capital New Delhi continues to hold on to its reputation of being the most unsafe city in India. Delhi takes the top slot for crimes ranging from murders and rapes to dowry deaths and abductions.

Rape is the fastest growing crime in the country today and as many as 18 women are assaulted in some form or the other every hour across India. Over the last few months cases of rapes and assault have made it to the headlines with alarming frequency. Mumbai watched with shame as an ugly mob attacked women on New Year’s Eve. In Latur a 14 year old was raped and killed by four young men. In Konark four men were charged with dragging a woman out of a bus and gang raping her. It is an ordeal simply to file a police report and the investigations thereafter have been stories of apathy and down right humiliation meted out to the victims. Where convicted, punishments have ranged from capital punishments to a day in jail.

Equally horrific are news reports of foreign tourists being sexually assaulted. An American was molested in Pushkar, a British journalist raped in Goa, Canadian girls attacked in Kumarakom to list the few instances. It looks like that India as a nation has ceased to know how to treat women as human beings who have a right to dignity and safety. The crime against tourists is against our culture of “atithi devo bhava’ Government has decided to meet and discuss with the state government the safety of women tourists as a reaction from the fear that such incidents will impact India’s image.

Despite the trauma women across all classes are reporting crimes such as rape and assault and do not feel helpless or abandoned by family or society as was the prevalent case before. Society is changing and government is forced to take action as it has run out of excuses such as society’s mindset or class divide.

This is the story not only in India but in most of the other countries as well. Now we the women are the agents of change. Lets not remain silent. Lets not give up. Every woman who is silent is with a voice unheard. So please speak out. And that will bring the change. Bring an end to this bloodshed and humiliations.

We will never live just for the sake of living as mere survivors. But as real winners of this world.

We are born to live, live in peace, live in unity, live in justice and make lives.

If you want something you never had, do something you have never done…..
Don’t go the way life takes you, Take life the way you go….
Remember, You are not living because you are born!!!
You are born to live ..

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Comments

weaverheart's picture

How to change the world!

Hi Sharontina,

Thank you for writing this. You raise so many important issues about the treatment of women in India, and also around the world. But India seems to have particular conditions that makes the abuse of its women pervasive. Also there is so much contradiction as well. A country whose main religion reveres the Goddess in all her forms, and yet treats its flesh and blood women poorly and as you point out, with abuse in so many social strata.
How can we change this?! It is the million rupee question, no?! You have raised so many important points that it is impossible to address all of them here, nor to change them all at one time. If we could do that, we might be able to be prime minister... (a goal to pursue fot he future) ;-) We need to start with what YOU can do, within your life and your circle of people. We all need a starting place and I think it is wonderful that your vision is so broad. But also the depth of the challenges at hand can seem overwhelming, so I think it is good to see the whole picture, but begin locally.
I think you are on to something when you talk about educating and empowering the men as well. We cannnot empower women without also changing the attitudes and behaviors of the men. And yes, if only they would consider the value of their own mothers, sisters, aunts, wives when leering at other women. Although attitudes towards women have been culturally ingrained for centuries. Place in society, caste, and so many other influences have formed this imbalanced relationship.
YES, women need to be educated/empowered. It is wonderful that you wrote this very important piece. It raises so many issues. To change a whole country, we need only begin with ourselves. Share ideas with others, as you are doing here, and also elsewhere. Make small changes... plant seeds wherever you go to introduce these ideas to others.
Moreover, please don't give up. We need people like you to instigate change and shake things up!
Thank you again for writing!

All my best,
Laura

Laura R.

Sharontina's picture

Thanks

Dear Laura,

Thanks for stopping and sharing your valuable comments on that. I am very much encouraged to go ahead with my work with these energy boosters like this. Yeah, words are so powerful to make or break a force. Thanks to WP for this wonderful platform paving way to meet great people like you.

I am doing my part to be the drop in the ocean and the rest is up to God. Lets all hope for the best.

Love.

Merlin Sharontina

Sharontina's picture

Thanks

Dear Laura,

Thanks for stopping and sharing your valuable comments on that. I am very much encouraged to go ahead with my work with these energy boosters like this. Yeah, words are so powerful to make or break a force. Thanks to WP for this wonderful platform paving way to meet great people like you.

I am doing my part to be the drop in the ocean and the rest is up to God. Lets all hope for the best.

Love.
Sharon

Merlin Sharontina

weaverheart's picture

Your work is a gift...

Dear Sharon,
I am glad to hear that you feel buoyed by the support given you here on WP. It is from people like you who WILL make change, speak up and create shifts in the paradigm. It is an honor to read and support your work. Please continue it!
The cause for women in India lives very close in my heart and soul. I LOVE your country dearly, with all it's myriad of contradiction. The beauty that emanates from the smiles of the people is beyond words for me.

I have done a small bit of work with an ngo in Kolkata that is helping to make change and support young women who were trafficked or enslaved. Their lives are now becoming their own, for the first time. They are loved and supported, receiving an education or training in some kind of work that will empower them to be able to support themselves in the future. These young women are among some of the most beautiful and open hearted beings I have ever met. I long to return to them, which I am planning to do. There is so much potential there. With the support of their dreams and our intentions, we will continue to water the seeds of hope for them and for EVERY young girl with a future in front of her.

Many blessings to you....
Much love,
Laura

Laura R.

Sharontina's picture

Welcome

You are most welcome dear Laura - yeah, India is a wonderful country with a vivid mixture of cultures and traditions. It is the place where women are worshiped as Goddesses as well as thrown into hell at the same time. i wish someday this comes to an end and women are given their space. Not in mere laws and papers but in reality.

Thanks for that pat on my shoulder. It means a lot to me.

Hugs.

Merlin Sharontina

weaverheart's picture

News article

I read this today and was reminded of the many issues you have raised here in your piece. How old ways and attitudes in so many cases seem to be set in stone.

In case you have not seen it, here is the link to the article in the NY Times:
http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/12/in-rural-haryana-women-blamed-...

With love,
Laura

Laura R.

Strange's picture

Amazing letter!

This is such a great account of this! I find it to be very concise and academic though also very readable. It is one of the most detailed reading i have seen here. It is great to see the connections between different parts of the world and different aspects of society. Both positive and negative. Never stop speaking out! You have a fantastic voice. Never let anyone silence you

" We will never live just for the sake of living as mere survivors. But as real winners of this world.
We are born to live, live in peace, live in unity, live in justice and make lives.
If you want something you never had, do something you have never done…..
Don’t go the way life takes you, Take life the way you go….
Remember, You are not living because you are born!!!
You are born to live .."

and yours too Laura; thank you for sharing this

"I have done a small bit of work with an ngo in Kolkata that is helping to make change and support young women who were trafficked or enslaved. Their lives are now becoming their own, for the first time. They are loved and supported, receiving an education or training in some kind of work that will empower them to be able to support themselves in the future. These young women are among some of the most beautiful and open hearted beings I have ever met. I long to return to them, which I am planning to do. There is so much potential there. With the support of their dreams and our intentions, we will continue to water the seeds of hope for them and for EVERY young girl with a future in front of her. "

jocelym46's picture

Women Group Contacts in India

Hi Sharonina,
As a Board of Directors member of the National Organization for Women (NOW) here in the US we are trying to locate some women's groups in India we can contact to help organize again the rape and violence that just happened in Delhi, India. Please post it here or send it to my email address. Yours in Global Sisterhood,

Jocelyn "Joyce" Morris
NOW Board of Directors
Co-Chair, NOW Combating Racism Committee
http://www.now.org

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