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Archives for : Domestic violence

#Sundayreading – ‘In Joy Or In Pain, Women Must Talk’- Maria Da Penha #Vaw

‘In Joy Or In Pain, Women Must Talk’


Kamayani Bali-Mahabal

FORTALEZA( BRAZIL)- Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes was fast asleep when her husband, Antonio Heredia Vivero, a teacher, shot at her. Though she was rushed to the hospital, the attack left her paraplegic. Four months later, when she came back home, Vivero made another attempt on her life – he tried to electrocute her. But Maria survived yet again. …

In thousands of homes across Brazil, women like Maria are subjected to extreme abuse by their husbands on an everyday basis. Recent statistics reveal a rather alarming picture. Every 15 seconds a woman is assaulted; every two hours a woman is murdered; 65 per cent of attacks on women happen behind closed doors. Whereas Brazil has the seventh highest rate of violence against women in the world, within the past three decades at least 92,000 women have succumbed to domestic violence.

Special law

Maria, however, has beaten these dismal odds. Instead of taking things lying down, she decided to fight a pitched battle against domestic violence to the extent that her efforts have resulted in a special law being named after her. The Maria da Penha Law on Domestic and Family Violence is one of the most comprehensive legislations in the world that gives the tate the powers to arrest, prosecute and punish perpetrators of violence against women.

Recalling her early days, Maria says, “I met my aggressor when I was doing my master’s at the University of São Paulo. He was a student from Colombia and was popular with my friends. When I went back to my hometown, Fortaleza, after completing my degree, he accompanied me. We got close and I married him. That was when he applied for Brazilian citizenship, and as soon as he got it, he started showing his true colours.”

It was in May 1983 that Vivero decided to do away with her altogether. “I was sleeping when I heard a shot, a very loud noise, in my bedroom. I tried to move but couldn’t. Thankfully, our neighbours came to my rescue and rushed me to a hospital. When the police questioned my husband he told them that four thieves had broken into our home and that he had fought them off. The attack had left me paraplegic, and I was under intensive treatment for nearly four months.

“I came back home at the time because I had no inkling that he was the shooter. But when he kept me in forced confinement at home for more than 15 days and tried to electrocute me, I knew I could not continue with that relationship. However, I still needed a legal separation from him so that I could take my three daughters with me when I left. I couldn’t risk losing their custody. As soon as I got the papers I returned to my parents,” she narrates.

In January 1984, she filed a case of attempted murder against her former husband. That was when her battle for justice began. It took seven years before he was sentenced by jury to 15 years in prison. The defence appealed the sentence and the conviction was overturned. A new trial was held in 1996 and a sentence of 10 years was applied. However, Vivero remained at large.

“I decided to write a book, ‘Sobrevivi… posso contra [‘I Survived… I Can Tell My Story’], on my experiences and the contradictions in the legal proceedings. This work was noticed by two non-government organisations, CLADEM (The Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights) and CEJIL (Centre for Justice and International Law) that invited me to submit a case against Brazil to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organisation of American States (OAS),” she says.

Brazil, however, did not answer the petition and remained silent throughout the procedure. Later, in a landmark ruling, the Commission criticised the Brazilian government for not taking effective measures to prosecute and convict perpetrators of domestic violence. In March 2002, the penal process in Brazil was terminated, and in October, Vivero was arrested. He received a sentence of just over six years for two counts of attempted murder, but he has served only two by making use of judicial remedies.

Meanwhile, between 2002 and 2004, several NGOs, including CLADEM, created a consortium to draft an improved domestic violence law. On August 7, 2006, following several discussions and consultations between the civil society and the state of Brazil, the Maria da Penha Law was approved.

Working as a coordinator Of Studies for the Association of Relatives and Friends of Victims of Violence in Ceara, Maria, who is wheelchair bound, is glad that the new law upholds the interests of women.

“This law is here to not just protect women from domestic violence but also to prevent it and also punish the aggressors. We need more number of women’s police stations, centres where survivors can seek preventive help and shelters for those who have walked out of their homes. In addition, we have to make sure that speedy trials happen in these cases so that justice is not delayed. It took 19 years and six months for my case to finally wrap up,” she says.

The advent of the Maria da Penha Law has given a new lease of life to the women’s movement. The central thought behind the enactment of this law, that every woman has the right to live her life free from domestic violence, has been widely publicised throughout the country through lectures, courses and trainings conducted within communities, schools, universities, businesses and institutions.

Nonetheless, Maria is convinced that a lot more needs to be done to secure women. “Women are still being murdered within their own homes by those who should be protecting and loving them. Before the law, although domestic violence was a crime it was considered a low potential offence. That reality has changed now and, indeed, wherever I go women acknowledge how much things have changed for them ever since 2006. But I do feel we need more financial resources to enforce all the measures the law promises,” she asserts.

The determined rights-activist is particularly referring to women living in the smaller towns where patriarchy still has a stronghold and there are not enough women’s police stations or shelters to safeguard them from harm.

“The law talks of setting up special courts and stricter sentences for offenders, besides other prevention and relief measures, in cities that have more than 60,000 inhabitants. But what about those living in small cities?” she says. In a sense, Maria feels that it’s not a law but a change in the attitude of the people that can bring about lasting change. “Till date, it’s the macho culture that has interfered with the creation of more gender friendly public policies. That has to change,” she adds.

Of course, the beginnings of a transformation are visible. On the fifth anniversary of the law in August 2011, the National Council of Justice of Brazil collected data showing positive results: more than 331,000 prosecutions and 110,000 final judgments, and nearly two million calls to the Service Centre for Women.

On its part the government has launched the Women, Living Without Violence programme, under which $265 million have been pledged to integrate public services and create women-friendly policies.

No more silent

With hope in her voice and a sparkle in her eyes Maria concludes, “In a society fuelled by machismo, there is bound to be a lot of resistance to change. But I believe that through our work we can motivate fellow citizens to fight for women’s rights. We are not silent anymore. Today, women’s voices cross borders and oceans. Together we are stronger and we hope that one day we will only be telling stories of our pain and struggle in the past.”


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Women across world denounce domestic violence on ‘Purple Hijab Day’ #Vaw

Thursday February 13, 2014 12:59 PM, News Network

Tripoli: The Voice of Libyan Women (VLW), a leading Libyan women’s NGO, is calling on everyone to wear a purple hijab, scarf or necktie to show their support for International Purple Hijab Day on Februray 13 – a day when all Muslims, men and women, unite against domestic abuse.

International Purple Hijab day

According to a report published by Libya Herald, the campaign, launched to commemorate the death of Aasiya Zubair, a Muslim American co-founder of Bridges TV (a network dedicated to promoting cultural awareness about Muslims), who was murdered by her husband on February 12, 2009, is to stress that domestic abuse in any form is not in any way tolerated..

Prior to her death, Aasiya Zubair had faced countless incidents of domestic abuse. Her husband excused himself in court, stating that Islamically it was permissible for him to kill her as she did not obey him.

Zubair’s death has sparked a grassroots movement among Muslim communities around the world to end domestic violence. Many initiatives were created including International Wear a Purple Hijab Day.

“It has been argued many times that violence against women is allowed in Islam, however, this is a grave falsehood due to the misinterpretation and misuse of religion. Islam does not teach, condone, or allow for the abuse of any living thing”, Voice of Libyan Women said in the appeal.

“It teaches Muslims not to harm others and Muslims are taught to believe there is a grave punishment for Muslims who do harm to others or abuse the land, sea or plant life”, it added.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the example of how excellent a human being can be, was known to have never harmed anyone in his family. He only used violence when on the battlefield against a clearly identified enemy.

“He taught self-restraint and peace during his time here on earth. Muslim advocates against domestic violence want to make it clear without any doubt that these heinous crimes that have been committed in some of the homes in the Islamic community are not supported by the Holy Qur’an or the valid Hadith (the sayings of the Prophet) and are not the norm”, it said.

“These are learned behaviors that have nothing to do with religious teachings or practices. On Feb. 13, we are asking you to participate with women around the world in speaking out against domestic abuse”, it said.

“As a Muslim community, let us support this cause and protect what is sacred to our religion and human rights. Wear your purple clothing proudly as you take on this mission of continuing the education of domestic violence to your own communities”, it said.

“We appreciate all your support on this day and ask you to please wear purple hijabs, scarves or neckties on Feberuary 13”, Voice of Libyan Women appealed.


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New Afghan Law Disastrous for Women #Vaw

Photo of an abused woman who was punished by having her nose, ears and hair cut off.

Bibi Aisha was 19 when I met her in Kabul’s Women for Afghan Women shelter. Her husband, a Taliban fighter, beat her from the day she was married, at age 12. After she escaped to seek a neighbor’s help, her husband cut off her nose, ears, and hair. Aisha later came to the U.S. for reconstructive surgery.


Eve Conant

National Geographic


National Geographic photographer Lynsey Addario says that a new Afghan law, passed by parliament and awaiting signature by President Hamid Karzai, would effectively silence victims of domestic violence.

Addario first traveled to Afghanistan 14 years ago when it was under Taliban rule and has returned every year since. Over that time, rights and protections for Afghan women have been strengthened, and many women now have access to education and jobs.

But last year, Afghanistan saw a 28 percent increase in reports of attacks against women, according to the UN, with little rise in prosecutions. And now, a small but consequential change to the criminal code could make domestic violence—already rampant in Afghanistan—nearly impossible to prosecute.

In her 2010 photo essay for National Geographic, “Veiled Rebellion,” Addario bore witness to both the abuse and the progress of Afghan women.

Photo of 2 women on a road in Afghanistan.

Nazer Begam and her pregnant daughter, Noor Nisa (at right), whose water had just broken, were stranded on the side of the road outside Faizabad after their car broke down on their way to a clinic. Their male relative had gone to look for another vehicle.

Her photographs show women maimed by their husbands for small acts of defiance. By contrast, ebullient teachers-in-training are seen picnicking in a women’s garden established by a female Afghan governor.

The groundbreaking 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) criminalized acts of child marriage, rape, and other forms of violence against women.

But laws are only as effective as their enforcement, and Addario details how the proposed new law could roll back many of the hard-won protections she’s documented in recent years.

Can you tell us about this new law the Afghan parliament has passed?

Basically what it’s saying is that relatives cannot testify when a woman has been assaulted or raped. Essentially what that means is that no onecan testify, because a woman only sees relatives, and a woman is only seen by relatives. Often it’s a family member who is perpetrating the crime, and the only other witnesses are relatives. They are the only people who would ever be privy to a woman while she was getting abused or afterwards. It’s a very indirect way of saying that you can do whatever you want to the women in your family. It’s essentially giving free rein to people as they’ll never have to worry about prosecution.

From what you’ve seen in Afghanistan, what do you think that change will mean for women?

Violence is ubiquitous. I interviewed about 300 women over two years for the National Geographic story, and an extremely high percentage of them were beaten repeatedly or suffered some sort of abuse. Being beaten is pretty prevalent—it’s a phenomenon that happens, I don’t know why. I’ve often talked to my male translators about it, and they’ve said maybe it’s a product of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] or war, or that it’s a cultural thing. This law will basically mean that it happens without any repercussions at all.

What’s changed since 2009—why has it gone from the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women to this?

I think rather than starting with 2009, you should start with 2000 or 2001—the war and the fall of the Taliban. There have been advances in protecting women’s rights, but a lot of them are not actually put into practice. Women don’t really have a place to go if they’re being abused. There are women’s shelters, like those run by Women for Afghan Women, but they’re not universally accepted in Afghanistan, and they’re constantly under threat of attack or being closed down.

If a woman’s husband is beating her on a daily basis, she can’t just ask for a divorce. It’s not acceptable in society. And if she does ask for a divorce, often she’ll be killed by her family—because it brings shame to her family—or she’ll be put in prison. I’ve met dozens of women in prison who’ve done nothing more than try to ask for a divorce. The international community is going to be pulling out of Afghanistan, and Afghans need to make decisions for themselves. If these are the decisions they’re making, it’s pretty terrifying. It’s a very scary future for women in Afghanistan.

Photo of National Geographic photographer, Lynsey Addario, on assignment in Afghanistan.

I was photographed here taking a break. This was the same road where we came upon Nazer Begam and Noor Nisa, whom we decided to take to a hospital in Faizabad. She vomited the entire way, because she was in labor and because she was carsick—she’d never been in a vehicle before that day.

When you’re photographing women rather than men, do you work with the camera differently?

Yes. I often don’t shoot very much, and I’ll keep my cameras in my bag. I’ll spend a lot of time talking to people and making them feel comfortable. Then I’ll get their permission, and then I’ll photograph. A lot of what I’m doing when the story is very sensitive is just hanging out, and then I’ll photograph very sparingly.

During your most recent visit, what were the women you were photographing communicating to you? Were you ever struck by some of the things they told you, or their impressions of you as a woman photographer?

I was there in September, on a women’s story that has not yet been published, so I can’t really talk about it yet. But I think my lifestyle, as a Western woman, is very confusing to an Afghan woman. Afghan women rarely leave their home or venture outside. They get married and have children, and their life revolves around the home. For years when I went to Afghanistan, the only questions they would ask me were “Are you married?” and “Do you have children?” And I answered no to both of those questions for many years. They always looked at me with these very sad expressions. They thought I would be lonely.

Educated Afghans who travel understand both worlds. But I try to be very careful as a journalist, to be very mindful of their culture and their traditions. I can’t really bring my perspective or my opinion and try to impose that on anyone. But if we’re talking about women’s human rights abuses, if we’re talking about ownership of women and basically taking away the only justice they have, then I would argue the laws are condoning and perpetuating violence against women.

Do you think the law will pass?

I don’t know. Human rights organizations are making their case to Karzai and asking him not to sign it. I don’t know, he’s pretty irreverent these days, so I’m not sure.

When you were in women’s shelters, did you see extreme violence?

Yes. Unbelievable. Extreme. I’ve seen women who have been burned with metal. I’ve seen women who have been gang-raped. I’ve seen women who’ve had their noses cut off. Everything. I mean everything. I’ve seen things that I never imagined a human being could do to another human being, much less a woman. I used to go to shelters routinely over the years, and almost every time I would end up in tears, paralyzed by sadness. For every step forward there are ten steps back. At some point Afghans need to decide for themselves if they want to move forward. This law, essentially, rolls back all the gains that have been made in terms of protecting women.

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Islam Will Not Teach My Son That Wife Beating’s OK

By Ranya Tabari Idliby

WeNews guest author

Sunday, February 2, 2014

One of the Quran‘s most controversial verses, Ranya Tabari Idliby was horrified to discover, was being taught to her American Muslim son. In this excerpt from “Burqas, Baseball and Apple Pie,” she interprets the verse as allegory, not instruction.


(WOMENSENEWS)–It had been a long day, and I was looking forward to the aromatic poached salmon and red pepper soup garnished with chunky croutons that our hostess had just served. My appetite, however, was about to be arrested by a friendly warning delivered by a well-meaning mom. Her son, a year ahead of mine at school, had a quiz on the Islam unit in his history book. “I thought of you the other day; next year Taymor will be learning about Islam in history class. The book teaches that Islam sanctions wife beatings.”

I thanked her for her concern and casually scooped a spoonful of red pepper soup, hoping that I would not choke or betray my mounting panic as I pictured my son Taymor in class next year with all eyes turning to him as the teacher explained how Muslims were allowed to beat their wives. I made a mental note: “Check out fifth-grade history book.” Surely there is an easy answer to this allegation.

Burqas, Baseball, and Apple Pie: Being Muslim in AmericaThere could not possibly be any moral ambiguity on the issue of wife beating. Not in this day and age, I reassured myself. After all, Islam had not invented misogyny. Other faith traditions have had to address scriptures and religious laws that have been less than generous to women, I reasoned. Surely, a little time surfing the Internet for perspective and information would help me put the issue to rest before a reasonable bedtime. Late into the night, I continued staring at my computer screen, gripped by my worst fears, enraged by the vile reasoning and the injustice and cruelty that were masquerading as Islam.

Not a Lone Preacher

I watched an animated cleric revel in the delivery of his sermon, fervently parsing one of the Quran’s most controversial verses: “We must know that wife beating is a punishment in Islamic law. No one should deny this because it was permitted by the creator of man,” he defiantly warned. Now that he was warmed up, he continued:

“We shouldn’t be ashamed before the nations of the world to admit that these beatings are part of our law. . . . The Quran says: ‘And beat them’–this is a wondrous verse. There are three types of women with whom life is impossible without beatings; unless he carries a rod on his shoulder. The first type is a woman who was brought up that way . . . so she became accustomed to beatings . . . we pray Allah will help her husband later. The second type is a woman who is condescending towards her husband and ignores him. With her, too, only a rod will help. The third type is a twisted woman who will not obey her husband, unless he oppresses her, beats her, uses force against her.”

As hard as I prayed, I knew I had not stumbled on a lone preacher being aired on some radical network. He was not the only Muslim on the Internet preaching this position. I quickly learned that the troublesome verse has Muslims divided into three different categories of approach in interpretation. This first approach, embraced by the literalists and Wahhabis, is the one that had kept me up horrified late into the night.

Two Other Approaches

The second approach, embraced by apologists, tries to whitewash the verse by offering conditions and qualifiers regulating and limiting the circumstances under which a Muslim husband can beat his wife. Muslims who use this approach prefer to use euphemisms such as “tap” or “beat lightly.” They emphasize that the measure is an extreme, to be used only as an absolute last resort when all other efforts and necessary other steps have failed to hold sway. A husband, we are told, must first try to admonish his wife, then he may try leaving the conjugal bed, and only when these preliminary steps have failed can he resort to “tapping” her lightly. Again as a way of whitewashing the verse, conditions are placed on how and to what degree. A wife should not be hurt, the husband cannot break bones or cause his wife to bleed or to bruise, and he must avoid her face and other sensitive parts of her body. The “tap” should be equivalent to being hit by a toothpick or toothbrush.

I find this approach tragic and comically absurd in its desperate efforts to resolve a Quranic verse that is clearly offensive–even to those defending it. Its proponents understand that the verse is unacceptable to the social and cultural values of the 21st century, but they are not ready to make that leap which requires the rejection of a verse that is in the Quran.

Progressive and reform-minded Muslims embrace the third approach. These are Muslims who understand that, first and foremost, the Quran needs to be read as a whole in the context of the time and culture of its revelation. When there are seemingly contradictory or ambiguous verses, they read them in deference to the most important value expounded in the Quran: justice. They take heart in the fact that the Quran has an overwhelming number of verses calling on its faithful to use their heads and minds, reminding us that the Quran itself asserts that “there are some verses that are absolute and unequivocal, and others that are alligorical and equivocal.” The wife-beating verse clearly belongs to the latter.

Wife battering knows no religion. In America, 22 percent of marriages cite domestic violence as the cause of divorce. The surgeon general’s office has shown domestic violence to be the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44; more common than automobile accidents, muggings and cancer deathscombined. Every year, domestic violence results in almost 100,000 days of hospitalizations. No just God would sanction the use of violence as a basis for marriage. Muslims know that their God does not either.


Ranya Tabari Idliby is also the co-author of the New York Times bestseller “The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew: Three Women Search for Understanding,” an intimate dialogue on faith and identity in America. She has spoken in churches, temples and mosques, as well as at interfaith organizations, the United Nations and the State Department.

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#India – My Husband -My Rapist- By staying silent, society condones #Maritalrape #Vaw


ARADHNA WAL  | Tehelka 

In a sunny schoolroom, off a small dusty lane in Madanpur Khadar, a resettlement colony on the outskirts of New Delhi, a group of 10 women are talking amongst themselves. Some giggle nervously. With a reporter in their midst, they’re too shy to make anything other than small talk, until Bhagwati, a slender, self-assured woman who looks younger than her 39 years, speaks up. She gives a clear, unwavering account of a marriage that had become a living hell. “For many years, I didn’t even know what meant. I would just take the anger, the shouting, and the beatings. He would hit me for the smallest of reasons. If there was too much salt in the food, I’d get slaps across my face.” After the beatings, came the rapes. “He would force me into bed for sex. Aisa lagta tha ki uske maarne ka maksad sirf mujhe nanga karne ka tha (It felt as if his beating was aimed at getting me naked).”

Marital rape is defined simply as non-consensual sex where the perpetrator is the victim’s spouse. What Bhagwati’s husband did may have been rape but because he is married to her, and she is not under 15 year of age, it is not a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). In early 2000, two-thirds of married Indian women surveyed by the United Nations Population Fund claimed to have been forced into sex by their husbands. The last National Family Health Survey of India (2005-2006) found that 40 percent of women (aged 15-49), married at least once, had experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence perpetrated by spouses. This from a sample size of 1.25 lakh women across 29 states.

The women in Madanpur Khadar, all domestic abuse victims, are gathered for a meeting with Jagori, a Delhi-based women’s rights NGO for which Bhagwati now volunteers. They laugh at the idea of their husbands asking for permission. “If they cared about consent, we wouldn’t be here,” Bhagwati says. People mostly associate violence and brutality with ‘stranger rape’. Indeed, they mostly associate rape with strangers. Despite the precipitous rise in stranger rape in Delhi to around 10 percent, the national figure still hovers around two percent, meaning that the overwhelming number of reported rapes are committed by men known to the victim. Yet, violent stranger rape is the subject of an anguished public discourse while the daily sexual violence women live with in their marriages is unacknowledged, kept hush-hush.

‘My husband said that he spent money on me, how dare I not sleep with him. But he never once kissed me. On our wedding night he had sex with me seven times. I was in so much pain I couldn’t move’

Neha, 26 Lucknow | Separated

Talking to gender rights activists, field workers, lawyers, counsellors, and women across India, it becomes abundantly clear that sexual abuse in marriages (of which the penetrative act of marital rape is just one part) is rife across regions, classes and communities. Such abuse exists, according to Flavia Agnes, the lawyer and feminist, “in a continuum of a range of violence that takes place within the matrimonial relationship.” Violence can include excessive sexual demands, making your wife perform sex acts despite her protests, forcing her to watch and reenact porn, or verbally humiliating her during sex. But rape in India is accompanied by a culture of shame and silence, enforced and internalised by victims. Women, particularly married women, are conditioned to not talk about abuse.

Unlike with most stranger rape, the sexual violence in a marriage is meted out systematically over time, until behaviour that would be criminal outside marriage becomes acceptable. Violence that should be an aberration, a shock, becomes normal. Imagine such a life in which unrelenting fear is normal, in which you are forever uncertain what might trigger your husband’s wrath, in which saying no to sex is unthinkable. You might then empathise with and perhaps even begin to understand the sort of life Bhagwati has led. Or taste the sickening brew of fear and shame that pushed 28-year-old Anita, a market research employee from Lucknow, to attempt suicide.

Anita was married in 2005, to a man in Maurana village in Unnao district, UP. The abuse started almost immediately. Her husband forced her to be available for sex at his beck and call, day or night, sometimes both. He made her perform oral and anal sex despite her resistance. He wouldn’t even let her leave the bed to go to the bathroom. “This was not a marriage. There was no love between us,” Anita says now. “He was just not concerned with me, never bothered even to talk to me.” His utter indifference and constant demands on her body took their toll. Depressed, afraid, and full of hate for her husband and herself, Anita stopped eating and fell frequently ill. Each time the doctor would tell her husband to abstain from sex for the sake of his wife’s health, he ignored the advice. “He would deny that he that done anything wrong,” she says of her husband. “So many times I tried talking to him, I tried compromising, but he never listened.”

‘My husband raped and beat me even when I was pregnant. Three months ago, I tried to commit suicide’

Smita, 35 New Delhi | Separated

Suicide seemed the only escape. Sadly, Anita could not even rely on support from family and friends. “I asked them to help me,” she says, “but they didn’t listen, didn’t want to understand.” When she found the courage to run away, her family forced her to attempt a compromise, to go back to her abusive husband. Relief came only when Anita got in touch with the Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives (AALI), a feminist group in Lucknow that helped her file for divorce. Her husband agreed for a divorce on mutual grounds, only after AALI lawyers warned him about cases under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (DV Act).

Anita’s case is a typical one — the early onset of abuse; the husband who doesn’t care; families that don’t support women leaving their marriages; a culture of shame. When the Delhi gangrape caused frenzied discussion on sexual abuse in a patriarchal society, the government had an opportunity to do the right thing by married women. But the Parliamentary Standing Committee chose to exclude marital rape from the Criminal Amendment Bill 2013. Criminalising marital rape, the committee argued, would weaken traditional family values. As if the institution of marriage were built entirely on a man’s entitlement to his wife, as if she were his property. It is an inherently skewed gender equation. Sex for a married woman is a matter of submitting to her partner’s pleasure. A married woman has no autonomy, no rights over her body. It is almost like the doctrine of coverture followed in England and the United States well into the 19th century, in which a married woman’s rights were essentially signed over to her husband. Back then, British feminists argued that marriage amounted to little more than legal prostitution.

‘It feels as if he was like a lion who could come into a jungle, do whatever he wanted and disappear. No one could stop him’

Sujata, 30 Hyderabad | Separated

Bhagwati’s husband clearly thinks the same, refusing to give her money for food and clothes for herself and her children when she began to resist his demands for sex. He was only doing what society enabled. As the lawyer Indira Jaising says, by accepting that marriage presumes consent, we have “legitimised an act of violence associated with sex”. The logic of men like Bhagwati’s husband is crude: sex is the price of food and shelter. Neha, a former school teacher from Lucknow, says her husband told her point blank that he had spent money to marry her and thus had every right to sex.

She recalled in detail her horrifying wedding night, when her husband had sex with her seven times, leaving her crying in excruciating pain and unable to move. “It could be any time of the day, anyone could be in the house, I could be menstruating, it didn’t matter to him,” she says. “He would use abusive words, kick me, make me perform oral sex. And if I refused he would hit me. If I screamed he would tell people I was mad.” Neha tried talking to her parents. Their advice was for her to adjust to her new home. Her husband drank daily and the violence escalated to the point where he began harassing her outside the school where she worked. She had to leave her job. Like Anita, Neha too talks about the lack of love and affection in her marriage. “It was rape,” she says, “not a relationship.” As of now, her complaint is being heard by their gurudwara, as her family is too scared to seek legal redress. “He’s richer and more powerful than me. Will the police listen to me, a lone woman? How will I fight him?”

‘I was so scared of my husband, and hated myself so much that I tried to kill myself ’

Anita, 28 Unnao, UP | Divorced

This feeling of inadequacy, of utter helplessness is all too familiar to any woman who has faced or continues to face abuse. There is nowhere to turn. Not to family, for whom the stigma of a broken marriage appears to override all other concerns. Which is why, the most common advice given to women is to adjust. When Bhagwati began to attend Jagori’s meetings, and began to stand up for herself, her family was appalled. Relatives tried to talk her down from her ‘rebellion’. Please your husband, they told her. Learn to live with him, to make the peace. “When I would refuse,” she says, “they would get so angry, they would tell my husband to beat me more.”

Age, social standing, none of it seems to matter. Kameshwari, for instance, is a 60-year-old woman from a village near Aelur, Andhra Pradesh. For years she was raped and beaten by her husband who branded her an unfit, sexually unsatisfying wife. She’s finally ready to leave her 65-year-old abusive husband but her octogenarian mother won’t hear of it. She is dead against the breaking up of a marriage.

If overbearing, controlling family isn’t enough, when women do summon the courage to leave, or to complain about their husband’s abuse they also need to deal with the police. Indian police is notorious for its callousness towards sexual complaints of any nature. The women of Madanpur Khadar talk about the contempt with which the police treat married women who complain of abuse, either siding with their husbands or calling them to the police station alone and keeping them there well into the night. Neha, from Lucknow, says she went to the police a two years ago. “They shooed me away. They told me to stay at home with my husband like good women are supposed to.” Several victims of domestic abuse in Delhi said how hard it was to even get their complaint registered. When TEHELKA spoke to Suman Nalwa, the Deputy Commissioner of the Crime Against Women Cell in Delhi, she denied any knowledge of the police not registering complaints of sexual abuse. When asked why she thought women were hesitant to approach the police, she said, “I don’t know, you’ll have to ask them.”

‘I bled for days after my husband raped me, and my in-laws thought I had gotten pregnant by another man. My children would go hungry and thirsty if I would say no to my husband’

Jaya, 28 Lucknow | Separated

The uncaring attitudes of the police, of family members, are for abused women confirmations of their worthlessness. In other words, they are a continuation of the abuse begun by their spouses. In an abusive marriage, the victim’s vulnerabilities are preyed upon. Beyond sex, many say, their husbands could barely bring themselves to acknowledge their wives’ existence. They were, they say, to their husbands less than human. To talk of rape and sexual abuse in the context of a marriage challenges the culture’s notions of how marriages should function, challenges the sanctity granted to the institution, challenges the accepted gender roles — aggressive masculinity that validates itself by asserting dominance and passive femininity that seeks to keep the peace.


Read more here-

The uncaring attitudes of the police, of family members, are for abused women confirmations of their worthlessness. In other words, they are a continuation of the abuse begun by their spouses. In an abusive marriage, the victim’s vulnerabilities are preyed upon. Beyond sex, many say, their husbands could barely bring themselves to acknowledge their wives’ existence. They were, they say, to their husbands less than human. To talk of rape and sexual abuse in the context of a marriage challenges the culture’s notions of how marriages should function, challenges the sanctity granted to the institution, challenges the accepted gender roles — aggressive masculinity that validates itself by asserting dominance and passive femininity that seeks to keep the peace.

Dr Harish Shetty, a Mumbai-based psychologist, points out that children internalise these codes, these so-called traditional family values. They see how their mothers rarely get angry at their fathers. It is women, he says, who bear the burden of negotiating peace, who grow up being taught to please everyone and say sorry. Their sons learn that to be a woman means to be submissive.

“When our traditions dictate that satisfying her husband sexually is a wife’s duty, then we’re fighting against a widespread and entrenched mentality,” explains Sandhya Rani Valluripalli, one of Hyderabad’s doughtiest women’s rights activists. “Women are supposed to conform to the notion of bearing and honouring their husband’s name. Where is the space for a woman to talk about or understand sexuality? To express her needs? The public will turn on a woman who does so.” There does seem to be an extreme cultural hostility to and discomfort with women’s sexuality in contemporary India. Women are not supposed to be the initiators of sex, nor are they supposed to desire it. If they do, there is something wrong with them.

‘When I stood up to my husband, my family told me to just listen to him and keep him happy’

Bhagwati, 39 | New Delhi | She and her husband have been living in the same house but different rooms for six years

“We are taught from before marriage that sex is a duty you have to perform for your husband,” says Bhagwati, “that’s why there is no question of them asking for our consent.” Most women TEHELKA spoke to for this article knew what they wanted from their marriages. They universally wanted their husbands to talk to them, to show some affection, to understand their needs. They wanted pleasure from sex, something most said they had known only rarely. “My husband never even kissed me,” says Neha. Fareeda, a volunteer at Jagori, like Bhagwati, says her work with the NGO’s support groups helped her understand that women too deserved pleasure from sex. “Jis cheez se auraton ko itna anand mil sakt hai, usko itna ganda kar diya hai (men have ruined something that could give so much pleasure to women),” she says, to loud agreement from the other women in the group. “A woman’s problems,” she adds, “start from and end in bed.” Fareeda has even managed to make her husband see the light. Sort of. He used to stop eating just to make her feel guilty on days she refused him sex. Now, she says, he is slowly coming to terms with the notion of consent.

When couples meet with Dr Shetty, one of the most important things he says he does is to get them talking to each other about their sexual needs. “Most men rarely even kiss their wives,” he says. Little things help enormously. Getting men to walk alongside their wives, for instance, rather than ahead of them. Dr Shetty advises men to hold their wives close, to kiss them unexpectedly, to try to give them joy. It’s his attempt to chip away, however slightly, at the masculine edifice.

Outside Dr Shetty’s office, though, sexual pleasure is still very much a male prerogative. Vineeta, a 32-year-old government employee from Lucknow, got married three years ago. Though the sex was mostly forced, there were rare occasions when she did feel some pleasure. But if she were to ever express that pleasure, her husband would become incensed and even suspicious. “What kind of relationship was it that I was too scared to feel pleasure in sex?” And if she were to say no to sex, he would say that another man must have just sated her – “tum kisi aur se bhari hui ho”. While riding pillion on his scooter, if her head moved in any direction away from his shoulder, he would scream at her publicly to stop looking at men on the street.

He beat her and raped her with increasingly regularity. According to Vineeta, her husband would “hit me and then ask me whether that hurt a little or a lot.” Typically, he would taunt her, tell her that she was “too dark or too old and not worthy of his love.” It was her brother who finally brought Vineeta to AALI. She has now filed a civil suit under the DV Act, but wishes there was some way her husband could face criminal charges for what he did to her.

‘My husband admitted openly that he rapes me. He said it to humiliate me. The last time we fought, he pushed a wooden toy inside me and broke my skull’

Prabha, 40 Lucknow | Separated

As in Vineeta’s case, sexual abuse is not just immediate physical violence but systematic mental abuse and psychological coercion. Women will routinely be told that they are not good enough in bed, not beautiful enough, not good at their chores, not worth anything. Threats will be directed at children. “If a woman says no to sex, the husband can refuse to feed and clothe their children,” says Flavia Agnes. “What will she do if there is no food on the table and no money to pay the children’s school fees?” Breaking down your wife, making her completely dependent on you, is a classic tactic of abusive husbands. In India, it is a tactic that is helped by social sanction, by the veneration of the marriage bond.

Which is why, women in India don’t talk about abuse in a marriage. For every woman who has spoken up, there are countless others who have stayed mute. They are scared of a broken marriage, of what people might say, of becoming destitute. Many are dependent on their husbands for financial security. They have no place to go, no way to provide for themselves and their children. Their own families won’t take them back. Many times, women who approach activists for help end up going back to their husbands. Sruthi, for instance, a working-class Dalit woman from Bengaluru, went to the police to register a case against her in-laws for extorting money. She used this to force her husband to reduce the physical and sexual violence to which he had subjected her throughout their marriage. Within a month, she went back to him. As Dr Shetty observes, an abusive husband is better than an absent one.

In his experience, Dr Shetty says he has found that women in India do not know how to live alone. They have never learnt to. Most often, they want to preserve the sanctity of their marriage. If they do try to live by themselves, they are viewed as sex objects, accessible and always available. A woman who has left her husband becomes incredibly vulnerable. “It’s a man’s world,” says Anita, explaining why she prefers the civil remedy of the DV Act, rather than pressing criminal charges against her husband. “He may go to jail, but people will point fingers at me. They’ll twist things to make it my fault.”

This is a problem present across class boundaries. “Working class women still fight,” claims Madhu, a counsellor with Jagori, “but women in the upper middle classes clam up. For them it’s a matter of honour, social status, and wealth. It’s surprising. One would think, with their education, they would be more enlightened about women’s rights.” Renu Mishra, the Lucknow Programme Manager for AALI, told TEHELKA she had dealt with a woman in 2003, an educated upper middle class woman who had been sexually abused throughout her married life and never said a thing. She hadn’t even known it was abuse, submitting to her husband’s appetite because she didn’t want to make a fuss.

‘My husband said it’s not a big deal for a woman to be hit by her husband. He would beat me and say that only he had a right to my body. If I ever got pleasure out of sex he would get suspicious and angry with me’

Vineeta, 32 | Lucknow | Separated

Of course, this is not true of all upper middle class women, just as the example of a Dalit woman is not true for all Dalits. The Mumbai-based sexologist, Dr Mahinder Watsa, for instance, insists that the well-to-do women he meets are assertive and expressive about their rights, that they expect to be treated as equal partners. As women make more money, he argues, they are less willing to put up with a husband’s abuse. He acknowledges, though, that even in his circles, including diplomats and wealthy businessmen, he has seen and heard of wife-beating and sexual abuse.

For lawyers like Agnes, and Madhu Mehra, executive director for Partners for Law and Development, the pervasive nature of sex abuse make them wary of including marital rape within the rape laws. It would privilege the single act of penetration above all other forms of sex abuse. In Agnes’s experience, women seek protection, security and compensation, which are provided under the DV Act. She finds the Act an impressive piece of civil legislation. The provisions, and protection orders, were not there under the IPC and the DV Act includes sexual abuse (along with physical, verbal, emotional and economic abuse) among the forms of abuse perpetrated in a marriage.

This helps women who do not want to talk about sexual abuse alone, says Agnes. Especially in a system in which “even Supreme Court judges make callous and unsubstantiated comments such as S498A is a ‘terrorist law’ through which women hold their husbands to ransom.” (S498A being a criminal law pertaining to cruelty to a woman in marriage.) Lawyers, Agnes says, often have to tone down accounts of sexual abuse in order for the judge to take the petition seriously. Civil remedies provide women with the recourse and protection they need. Still, some want at least the option of being able to file criminal charges. C, a transgender man from Tamil Nadu, was raped by his husband before he came out as a trans male. It took him 18 months to be able to leave the marriage. Today, he is vocal against marital rape, and says that if it were part of the rape laws he would file case against his former husband.

‘My husband would rape me, threaten to divorce me, and then sleep in another bed, so that people would think he wasn’t having sex with me’

Radha, 25 | New Delhi | Separated

In the end, though, both genders are implicated in marital rape (to varying degrees, of course): the men who think they are entitled to a woman’s body and who raise their sons to think so; the women who help perpetuate gender imbalance — the mothers who refuse to help their daughters, the mothers-in-law who view their daughters-in-law with suspicion and hostility, who further aggravate their sons against their wives. These may appear soap opera stereotypes but in conversation with survivors of marital rape, many held up. According to Harish Sadani, a Mumbai-based activist working with Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA), the problem is rooted in how our culture has shaped masculinity.

He cites a 2012 UNICEF Global Report Card on Adolescents which shows that 57 percent of Indian boys and 53 percent of Indian girls, between the ages of 15 to 19, find nothing wrong in a wife being beaten if she hasn’t cooked the food well, answers back, fails to inform her husband before leaving the house, neglects the children, or refuses her husband’s demands for sex. There is also the 2011 study by the International Center for Research on Women, a Washington-based non-profit, which revealed that one in every five Indian men surveyed admitted to forcing their wives into sex. In his years working with young men, Sadani has seen how notions of machismo become inculcated from an early age. The movies they watch, the music they listen to, the power equations in their own homes, all combine to persuade them that they have “a license to sex” as young man once told Sadani.

He does not, despite this, seek easy answers by blaming pop culture alone. There is no space, he says, for boys to talk about sexuality to counter all that they see and hear. Just as women have no space to talk about their desires, men have no space to understand sex as mutual pleasure and satisfaction for both parties.  is not just a women’s issue, it is gender issue, where each generation keeps perpetrating the same vicious cycle. Masculinity dictates that men don’t talk about issues of sex, unless they’re bragging. Alcohol is set up as a demon, causing men to rape both strangers and their wives. But alcoholic rage is only symptomatic of the aggression towards women that men grow up with. “We need to help boys evolve a gender-equitable definition of masculinity,” says Sadani. “Sadly, most feminists I’ve come across don’t want to include men in their work.”

With MAVA, Sadani runs premarital guidance workshops, where men talk about sex without immediately being labelled as abusers. Many times, this talking helps them sort out their aggression towards their partners. The sort of aggression that leads to a man forcing his wife to have sex with him so many times, and so roughly, that she bleeds for days on end, as was the case with Jaya, a domestic worker in Lucknow. The ingrained violence towards women that made her husband threaten to break her limbs off when she resisted. The suspicion with which society views women that leads her in-laws to think that Jaya’s bleeding was the result of her sleeping with another man. The violence that left Prabha, a cook from Lucknow, with horrific injuries after her husband inserted a wooden toy into her vagina and then bashed her head in. Or lead Smita, another Madanpur Khadar resident, to attempt suicide after countless rapes and beatings during which he would hit her, scratch her, tear her clothes off, even when she was pregnant. Her mother-in-law knew all this but did nothing.

“Where there isn’t aggression, there is an apathy towards women and their sexuality,” says writer Mridula Garg, who wrote about marital sex abuse in her story Tuk. The story is told in the first person about a woman deeply in love with her husband who uses her for sex and rapes her one evening after losing at bridge. “Indian men” Garg says, “don’t know and don’t care about a woman’s satisfaction.” This disregard extends to her well-being, her diet, her likes and dislikes. Garg and Dr Shetty both point out the inability of many men to deal with a woman who has an independent mind. To deal with her husband’s inferiority, to keep him happy, even a high-earning, confident-seeming upper middle class woman will revert to the pliant type when the husband has senior colleague over for dinner.

Our unwillingness to criminalise marital rape should force us to ask questions about what marriage means in our society. What are these traditional family values that the Parliamentary Standing Committee is so afraid will weaken were husbands who rape their wives sent to prison? Is the state really so intent on preserving an outmoded, irrelevant male dominance? And if the Indian marriage is so resistant to change, so indifferent to female sexuality, so ungenerous and inequitable, is it worth saving? If traditional values mean men continue to have it all their own way, expect those values to soon be discarded on the dustheap of an unbecoming history.

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 45, Dated 9 November 2013)


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One woman in three , worldwide suffer domestic violence: WHO #Vaw #Womenrights


Agence France-Presse | Updated: June 20, 2013 20:55 IST

Geneva: More than one woman in three around the globe is a victim of domestic violence, with those in Asia and the Middle East most-affected by the scourge, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

In what it billed as the first-ever systematic study of global data on the prevalence of violence against women and its health impact, the UN agency said 30 percent worldwide faced such abuse at the hands of their partners.

“These to me are shocking statistics,” said Flavia Bustreo, head of the WHO’s family, women’s and children’s health division.
“It’s also shocking that this phenomenon cuts across the entire world,” she told reporters.

The WHO blamed taboos that prevent victims from coming forward, failings in medical and justice systems, and norms that mean men and women may see violence as acceptable.
The findings were extrapolated from figures provided by 81 countries which maintain data, and did not single out individual nations.

The scale of abuse was highest in Asia, where data from Bangladesh, East Timor, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand showed that 37.7 percent of women were affected.
Next was the Middle East, where prevalence averaged at 37 percent. Sub-Saharan Africa followed, with 36.6 percent.

An average of 23.2 percent were affected in a group of high-income countries including North America, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
“These data really show the tremendous toll violence has on the health of women,” said Claudia Garcia-Moren, a WHO specialist on gender, reproductive rights, sexual health and adolescence.

Underlining the impact of such abuse, the WHO said that globally, 38 percent of female murder victims were killed by their partners.
In addition, it said, violence also leaves scars long after bruises disappear and broken bones heal.

Women with a violent partner were twice as likely to suffer from depression and develop an alcohol problem, compared to women who did not experience abuse.
Victims of violence were also found to be far more likely to contract a range of sexually-transmitted diseases, from syphilis to HIV.

The study also flagged the higher likelihood of abused women having an unwanted pregnancy, an abortion, or an underweight baby — and their children were more likely to become abusers or victims in adulthood.


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Open Letter to Facebook- to take action on gender-based hate speech #FBRape #Vaw


May 21, 2013

An Open Letter to Facebook:

We, the undersigned, are writing to demand swift, comprehensive and effective action addressing the representation of rape and domestic violence on Facebook. Specifically, we call on you, Facebook, to take three actions:

  1. Recognize speech that trivializes or glorifies violence against girls and women as hate speech and make a commitment that you will not tolerate this content.
  2. Effectively train moderators to recognize and remove gender-based hate speech.
  3. Effectively train moderators to understand how online harassment differently affects women and men, in part due to the real-world pandemic of violence against women.

To this end, we are calling on Facebook users to contact advertisers whose ads on Facebook appear next to content that targets women for violence, to ask these companies to withdraw from advertising on Facebook until you take the above actions to ban gender-based hate speech on your site. (We will be raising awareness and contacting advertisers on Twitter using the hashtag #FBrape.)

Specifically, we are referring to groups, pages and images that explicitly condone or encourage rape or domestic violence or suggest that they are something to laugh or boast about. Pages currently appearing on Facebook include Fly Kicking Sluts in the Uterus, Kicking your Girlfriend in the Fanny because she won’t make you a Sandwich, Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs, Raping your Girlfriend and many, many more.  Images appearing on Facebook include photographs of women beaten, bruised, tied up, drugged, and bleeding, with captions such as “This bitch didn’t know when to shut up” and “Next time don’t get pregnant.”

These pages and images are approved by your moderators, while you regularly remove content such as pictures of women breastfeeding, women post-mastectomy and artistic representations of women’s bodies.  In addition, women’s political speech, involving the use of their bodies in non-sexualized ways for protest, is regularly banned as pornographic, while pornographic content – prohibited by your own guidelines – remains.  It appears that Facebook considers violence against women to be less offensive than non-violent images of women’s bodies, and that the only acceptable representation of women’s nudity are those in which women appear as sex objects or the victims of abuse.  Your common practice of allowing this content by appending a [humor] disclaimer to said content literally treats violence targeting women as a joke.

The latest global estimate from the United Nations Say No to Violence Campaign is that the percentage of women and girls who have experienced violence in their lifetimes is now up to an unbearable 70%. In a world in which this many girls and women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, allowing content about raping and beating women to be shared, boasted and joked about contributes to the normalisation of domestic and sexual violence, creates an atmosphere in which perpetrators are more likely to believe they will go unpunished, and communicates to victims that they will not be taken seriously if they report.

According to a UK Home Office Survey, one in five people think it is acceptable in some circumstances for a man to hit or slap his wife or girlfriend in response to her being dressed in sexy or revealing clothes in public. And 36% think a woman should be held fully or partly responsible if she is sexually assaulted or raped whilst drunk. Such attitudes are shaped in part by enormously influential social platforms like Facebook, and contribute to victim blaming and the normalisation of violence against women.

Although Facebook claims, in a narrowly-defined defense of free speech, not to be involved in challenging norms or censoring people’s speech, you have in place procedures, terms and community guidelines that you interpret and enforce.Facebook prohibits hate speech and your moderators deal with content that is violently racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic every day. Your refusal to similarly address gender-based hate speech marginalizes girls and women, sidelines our experiences and concerns, and contributes to violence against them.  Facebook is an enormous social network with more than a billion users around the world, making your site extremely influential in shaping social and cultural norms and behaviors.

Facebook’s response to the many thousands of complaints and calls to address these issues has been inadequate. You have failed to make a public statement addressing the issue, respond to concerned users, or implement policies that would improve the situation. You have also acted inconsistently with regards to your policy on banning images, in many cases refusing to remove offensive rape and domestic violence pictures when reported by members of the public, but deleting them as soon as journalists mention them in articles, which sends the strong message that you are more concerned with acting on a case-by-case basis to protect your reputation than effecting systemic change and taking a clear public stance against the dangerous tolerance of rape and domestic violence.

In a world in which hundreds of thousands of women are assaulted daily and where intimate partner violence  remains one of the leading causes of death for women around the world, it is not possible to sit on the fence.  We call on Facebook to make the only responsible decision and take swift, clear action on this issue, to bring your policy on rape and domestic violence into line with your own moderation goals and guidelines.


Laura Bates, The Everyday Sexism Project

Soraya Chemaly, Writer and Activist

Jaclyn Friedman, Women, Action & the Media (WAM!)

Angel Band Project

Advocates for Youth

Anne Munch Consulting, Inc.

Arts Against Abuse

Association for Progressive Communications Women’s Rights Programme

Black Feminists

The Body is Not An Apology


Caleb’s Hope

Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters & Transition Houses

Canadian Women’s Foundation

Catharsis Productions

Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation

Collective Action for Safe Spaces

Collective Administrators of Rapebook

Collective Shout

Cornershop Creative


Dear Facebook

End Violence Against Women Coalition

Equality Now

The EQUALS Coalition


The Fawcett Society

Fem 2.0

Feminist Peace Network

The Feminist Wire

FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture

A Girl’s Guide to Taking Over the World

Girls’ Globe

Guerilla Feminism

Hardy Girls, Healthy Women


Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault

International Council of Jewish Women

Jackson Katz, PhD., Co-Founder and Director, Mentors in Violence Prevention

Je Suis Féministe

Lauren Wolfe, Director of WMC’s Women Under Siege

The Line Campaign

Make Me a Sammich

Making Herstory

Media Equity Collaborative

Ms. Magazine

New Moon Girls

No Hate Speech Movement

No More Page 3

O Clítoris da Razão


Our Bodies, Ourselves

Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health

The Pixel Project

Powered By Girl

Rape Victim Advocates

RH Reality Check


Sanctuary for Families

SEASN (Solidarity, Equity & Activist Support Network)

Secular Woman

Sheryl Sandberg “Lean In” and Remove Misogyny from Facebook

The Sin City Siren

Social Media Week

SPARK Movement

Stop Street Harassment

Take Back the Tech!

Tech LadyMafia

Time To Tell

Unite Women NY

The Uprising of Women in the Arab World


The Voices and Faces Project

White Ribbon Campaign

Women In Media & News (WIMN)

Women Inspire Network

Women on the Edge Foundation

Women Online/The Mission List

The Women’s Media Center

Women’s Networking Hub

The Women’s Room

Women’s Views on News

World Wide Women

YWCA Canada

YWCA Moncton

YWCA Toronto


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UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences finalises country mission to India



Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences finalises country mission to India

NEW DELHI (1 May 2013) – At the end of her official country mission to India, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Rashida Manjoo, delivered the following statement:

“I have been mandated by the Human Rights Council to seek and receive information on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and to recommend measures to eliminate all forms of violence against women.

I would like to begin by expressing my thanks to the Government of India for having invited me to visit the country from 22 April to 1 May. The invitation, which was in response to a request from my mandate, was received prior to the events that led to the death of a young woman in Delhi on 16 December 2012. The protest actions and outpouring of sadness and anger; and the extensive coverage by the media, both local and global; has generated a huge focus on the issue of violence against women and girls in India.  This mission has generated country-wide interest, and also, demands for the addressing of this systemic problem as an urgent imperative, at both the State and the non-state levels.

During my visit, I held meetings in New Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Manipur, and gathered information from other states, including Tamil Nadu. I am grateful to all my interlocutors, including Union and State authorities, National Human Rights Institutions, representatives of civil society organisations, and United Nations agencies. Most importantly, I want to thank the individual women who shared their personal experiences of violence and survival with me. The pain and anguish in the testimonies of loss, dispossession, and various human rights violations, was visceral and often difficult to deal with.

The Government of India has signed and ratified numerous international human rights instruments and has also adopted numerous progressive laws and policies at the Union and State levels. Numerous laws, including amendments to existing laws, have been enacted to address various manifestations of violence against women. Among others, these include: the Indian Penal Code which broadly includes crimes against women. This law includes the crimes of rape, kidnapping and abduction for specified purposes, homicide for dowry, torture, molestation, eve teasing, and the importation of girls, among others. More specific laws on crimes against women include: the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prohibition, Prevention and Redressal) Act 2013, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act 1986, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, the Commission of Sati Prevention Act 1961, and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956 among others.

Furthermore, the following Bills are currently under discussion: the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill 2012, the Readjustment of Representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Bill 2013, the Removal of Homelessness Bill 2013, the Prevention of Female Infanticide Bill 2013, the Abolition of Child Labour Bill 2013, the Child Welfare Bill 2013, the Indecent or Surrogate Advertisements and Remix Songs (Prohibition) Bill 2013 and among others.

At the institutional level, the realisation of the promotion and protection of human rights broadly, and women’s rights and children’s rights specifically, are vested in numerous Union and state level Ministries, Departments, Commissions, Committees and Missions for the empowerment of women. Furthermore, I was informed about numerous programs and policies that have been put in place in recent years to address the issue of violence against women within a human rights and development framework. These include schemes addressing the needs of victims of rape, trafficking, domestic violence, and so on. Some of these schemes address counselling, support, skills development, access to benefits and also to shelters. Public/private partnerships have been forged within different spheres including the police sector. The laws and schemes highlighted above will be analysed and discussed fully in my mission report.

I welcome the Government of India’s speedy response after the rape incident of 16 December. A judicial committee headed by the late Justice Verma was established, and new legislative measures were adopted earlier this year. While this legislative reform is to be commended, it is regrettable that the amendments do not fully reflect the Verma Committee’s recommendations.

It is unfortunate that the opportunity to establish a substantive and specific equality and non-discrimination rights legislative framework for women, to address de facto inequality and discrimination, and to protect and prevent against all forms of violence against women, was lost. The speedy developments and also the adoption of a law and order approach to sexual wrongs, now includes the death penalty for certain crimes against women. This development foreclosed the opportunity to establish a holistic and remedial framework which is underpinned by transformative norms and standards, including those relating to sexual and bodily integrity rights. Furthermore, the approach adopted fails to address the structural and root causes and consequences of violence against women.

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act is a positive development in the aspirational goal of protection for victims of family violence. The discrepancy between the provisions of the laws and the effective implementation thereof, whether through the use of the police generally or the Protection Officers in particular, was a recurrent complaint which I heard. Despite provisions intended to offer legal, social and financial assistance to victims, many women are unable to register their complaints. As a result, the vulnerability of women increases, and further, they are also deprived of the benefits prescribed in the law – as proof of registration of cases is required for access to many benefits. Furthermore, prevention of violence, as a core due diligence obligation of the State, does not feature in the implementation of this law.

Despite numerous positive developments, the unfortunate reality is that the rights of many women in India continue to be violated, with impunity as the norm, according to many submissions received. Mediation and compensation measures are often used as redress mechanisms to address cases of violence against women, thus eroding accountability imperatives, and further fostering norms of impunity.

Manifestations of violence against women

Numerous experiences of violence, whether direct or indirect, in different spheres including the home, the community, and in institutions, whether perpetrated by state actors or condoned by the State, was shared with me during the mission. Violence is being experienced in situations of peace, conflict, post-conflict, and displacement among others. The denial of constitutional  rights in general, and the violation of the rights of equality, dignity, bodily integrity, life and access to justice in particular, was a theme that was common in many testimonies. Violence against women as a cause and consequence of de factoinequality and discrimination was also a common theme in numerous submissions received.

Violence against women and girls in India manifests in numerous ways and varies in prevalence and forms based on numerous factors including geographic location. Some manifestations include: sexual violence, domestic violence, caste-based discrimination and violence, dowry related deaths, crimes in the name of honour, witch-hunting, sati, sexual harassment, violence against lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, forced and/or early marriages, deprivation of access to water and basic sanitation, violence against women with disabilities, sexual and reproductive rights violations, sex selection practices, violence in custodial settings and violence in conflict situations, among others. These manifestations of violence are rooted in multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and inequalities faced by women, and are strongly linked to their social and economic situation. One interlocutor described violence against women and girls as functioning on a continuum that spans the life-cycle from the womb to the tomb.

During my visit, I heard numerous testimonies of many women who are survivors of domestic violence, whether at the hands of their husbands or other family members. Many of these women live in family settings with deeply entrenched norms of patriarchy and cultural practices linked to notions of male superiority and female inferiority. The lack of effective remedies, the failure of the State to protect and prevent violence against women, the economic dependence of many women on the men in their lives, and the social realities of exclusion and marginalization when speaking out, often results in women accepting violence as part of their reality. The current focus by state actors on preserving the unity of the family is manifested in the welfare/social approach and not in the human rights based approach. It does not take into consideration the nature of relationships based on power and powerlessness; of economic and emotional dependency; and also the use of culture, tradition and religion as a defence for abusive behaviour.

Sexual violence and harassment in India is widespread, and is perpetuated in public spaces, in the family or in the workplace. There is a generalized sense of insecurity in public spaces/amenities/transport facilities in particular, and women are often victims of different forms of sexual harassment and assault.

On the issue of conflict-related sexual violence, it is crucial to acknowledge that these violations are occurring at the hands of both state and non-state actors. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has mostly resulted in impunity for human rights violations broadly, according to information received. The law protects the armed forces from effective prosecution in non-military courts for human rights violations committed against civilian women among others, and it allows for the overriding of due process rights. Furthermore, in testimonies received, it was clear that the interpretation and implementation of this act, is eroding fundamental rights and freedoms – including freedom of movement, association and peaceful assembly, safety and security, dignity and bodily integrity rights, for women, in Jammu & Kashmir and in the North-Eastern States. Unfortunately in the interests of State security, peaceful and legitimate protests often elicit a military response, which is resulting in both a culture of fear and of resistance within these societies.

In India, women from the Dalit, Adivasi, other Scheduled castes, tribal and indigenous minorities, are often victims of a multiplicity of forms of discrimination and violence. Despite protective legislative and affirmative action laws and policies, their reality is one where they exist at the bottom of the political, economic and social systems, and they experience some of the worst forms of discrimination and oppression – thereby perpetuating their socio-economic vulnerability across generations. They are often forced to live in displacement settings, experience forced labour practices, prostitution and trafficking, and also experience intra-community violations of rights.

In consultations in Manipur, I heard anguished stories from relatives of young women who have disappeared without trace or who were found dead shortly after going missing. The lack of response from the police is the norm in such cases, with the attitude being that these are mostly elopement cases. I am deeply concerned about other consequences of such disappearances of young women, including exposure to sexual abuse, exploitation or trafficking. More generally, many tribal and indigenous women in the region are subjected to continued abuse, ill-treatment and acts of physical and sexual violence. They are denied access to healthcare and other necessary resources, due to the frequency of curfews and blockades imposed on citizens. Moreover, the chronic underdevelopment prevalent in the region, coupled with frequent economic blockades, is having an impact on the overall cost of essential items, and is exacerbating the already vulnerable situation of women and children living in the region.

Customary and religious practices such as child marriages and dowry-related practices, sorcery, honour killings, witch-hunting of women, and communal violence perpetrated against cultural and religious minorities, were highlighted in numerous testimonies. Communal violence, inspired by religious intolerance, does manifest in some parts of India. Indiscriminate attacks by religious majorities on religious minorities, including Christian and Muslim minorities, is frequently explained away by implying that equal aggression was noted on both sides. Also, such violence is sometimes labelled as ‘riots’, thereby denying the lack of security for religious and other minorities, and disregarding their right to equal citizenship. This issue is of particular concern to many, as the wounds of the past are still fresh for women who were beaten, stripped naked, burnt, raped and killed because of their religious identity, in the Gujarat massacre of 2002.

I am also concerned about the declining female sex ratio in India. The deeply entrenched patriarchal social norms, prevailing views of daughter-aversion and son-preference, the dowry-related link, and, the general sense of insecurity in light of high prevalence rates of gender-based violence, is fuelling a significant drop in female births throughout the country. The Indian Government’s concern about this issue has resulted in the adoption of policies and schemes. The implementation of such interventions is resulting in the policing of pregnancies through tracking/surveillance systems and is resulting in some cases in the denial of legal abortion rights, thereby violating the sexual and reproductive rights of women.

With regard to domestic workers, I am dismayed by the prevalence of numerous violations faced by these women and girls. Many of them, often migrant and unregistered women, work in servitude and even bondage, in frequently hostile environments; performing work that is undervalued, poorly regulated and low-paid. According to testimonies, they are also denied access to essential services and resources provided by the State, as they lack proper identification, and view this as a barrier to access. They are often the victims of various acts of violence, including sexual harassment and victimization by their employers and others.

I have also been informed that women with disabilities experience numerous forms of violence, including sexual violence, forced sterilization and/or abortions and forced medication without their consent. In addition, their experience of discrimination, exclusion and marginalisation reinforces the need for greater attention and specificity.

India has embarked on a journey of aggressive economic growth and this path is viewed as the route to simultaneously addressing its human development challenges. Despite the inclusion of beneficial provisions for women and children in the Five Year Plan, the impact of economic development policies on women is resulting in forced evictions, landlessness, threats to livelihoods, environmental degradation, and the violation of bodily integrity rights, among other violations. The adverse consequence of resulting migration to urban areas is reflected in the living and work conditions of many of these women and children, for example living in slums or on the streets, engaging in scavenging activities and in sex work etc. Some women have committed suicide; others are frequently exposed to acts of harassment and violence, including sexual assault. It was strongly argued by many interlocutors that India’s pursuit of neo-liberal economic growth must not be pursued at the expense of vulnerable women and children, and their right to a healthy and secure environment.


Numerous human rights mechanisms have addressed the violation of women’s human rights in India. The substance of some relevant recommendations addresses the following issues:

1)    There is  a need for urgent measures to end the alarming decline in sex ratios (CEDAW, CRC)

2)    The negative effect of personal status laws on the achievement of overall gender equality (CRC, CCPR, and CEDAW). Such laws need to be reformed to ensure equality in law (CEDAW).

3)    The social and cultural patterns of discrimination against women require urgent action by the State (CEDAW).

4)    Ensure that all victims of domestic violence are able to benefit from the legislation on domestic violence. Develop a comprehensive plan to combat all forms of violence against women (CEDAW). Domestic violence is endemic. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act and Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code must be enforced effectively (CESCR).

5)    The implementation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Public Safety Act and the National Security Act, and the Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Powers Act should be repealed (HRC, SR Summary Executions), as it perpetuates impunity (HRC), and is widely used against Human Rights Defenders (SR HRD).

6)    Grave concerns are noted as regards the continuing atrocities perpetrated against Dalit women. There is a culture of impunity for violations of the rights of Dalit women (CEDAW). Concerns are further expressed for the failure to properly register and investigate complaints of violations against scheduled castes and tribes, the high rate of acquittals, the low conviction rates, and the alarming backlog of cases related to such atrocities (CRC, CEDAW and CERD).

7)    The practice of devadasi is of concern (HRC). The effective enforcement of relevant legislation and the Indian Constitution is required to end this practice (CERD).

8)    To expeditiously enact the proposed Communal Violence (Prevention, Control andRehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005 with the incorporation of: sexual and gender-based crimes, including mass crimes against women perpetrated during communal violence; a comprehensive system of reparations for victims of such crimes; and gender-sensitive victim-centred procedural and evidentiary rules, and to ensure that inaction or complicity of State officials in communal violence be urgently addressed under this legislation.

9)    Grave concern is expressed about the continued existence of women and girls employed as domestic workers and their experiences of sexual abuse (CEDAW).

10) Harmful practices on women and girls, including forced marriage, dowry and dowry-related violence are of great concern (CEDAW, CRC, CERD, and HRC). Violence and social sanctions due to inter-caste relationships are also of concern (CERD).

11) The impact of mega-projects on the rights of women should be thoroughly studied, including their impact on tribal and rural communities, and safeguards should be instituted (CEDAW).

12) Continuing disparities in literacy levels are of concern, in particular the educational status of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and Muslim women (CEDAW). Effective measures must be adopted to reduce the drop-out rates among Dalit girls (CERD).

13) More effort is needed to end customary practices which deprive women fromunderprivileged classes, castes and religious minorities of their rights to human dignity and to non-discrimination (HRC).

I would like to encourage the government of India to ensure specificity in addressing the multiple and intersecting inequalities and discrimination that women face. My mandate has consistently voiced the view that the failure in response and prevention measures stems from Government’s inability and/or unwillingness to acknowledge and address the core structural causes of violence against women. Linkages should be made between violence against women and other systems of oppression and discrimination prevalent within societies. A legislative and policy approach will not bring about substantive change if it is not implemented within a holistic approach that simultaneously targets the empowerment of women, social transformation, and the provision of remedies that ultimately address the continuum of discrimination and violence, and also the pervasive culture of impunity.

My comprehensive findings will be discussed in the report that I will present to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2014.”


Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Manjoo also holds a part-time position as a Professor in the Department of Public Law of the University of Cape Town. Learn more, visit:

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Gujarat Cops don’t cooperate with women complainants: Activist

The Times of India, 15 March 2013

VADODARA: Days within the Supreme Court rapped the Punjab and Bihar police for their excesses on women, a city-based NGO has accused them of being insensitive towards cases of sexual harassment and domestic violence. Activist Trupti Shah, who runs non-governmental organization for women’s rights, said the city police don’t cooperate with women complainants and instead make them do rounds of the police station.

She cited a recent case of a working woman, who wanted to file FIR against her company’s chief operating officer (COO) for sexual harassment. “When she approached Chhani police in October last year, they asked her to strike a compromise with the company. They told her that it was in her own interests,” Shah told TOI.

“The victim had agreed to compromise if the COO tendered a written apology, but when it didn’t happen, she approached the cops. The police instead told her that registering such complaint would put blot on her name. The then police inspector even shouted at me and accused me of instigating the girl,” Shah said and added that while her complaint was taken in January this year, the police refused to register it as per the details provided by her.

Shah claimed that she got 10 cases of domestic violence and two cases of sexual harassment in last eight months. “In six cases of domestic violence, no FIR was registered as the police insisted the women strike a compromise,” Shah said.

Shah has written to city police commissioner, state DGP, National Commission for Women and Gujarat State Commission for Women informing them about the problems faced by women complainants.

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#India- All-Women Bank is A Non-Solution #Budget2013 #Womenrights

FEBRUARY 28, 2013
Kavita Krishnan

kavita Krishnan

Kavita Krishnan is secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association.

She can be contacted at

Women’s Safety and Welfare Need Adequate Budgetary Allocations,

Not Hollow and Cynical Gestures

The Govt Takes Nirbhaya’s Name, Why Hasn’t It Provided Budgetary Backing for the Rehabilitation and Medical Care of All Rape and Acid Attack Survivors?

The Finance Minister’s Budget speech made several references to women. But since these have not been backed by sufficient allocations in the required areas, these references appear to be mere token and hollow gestures.

The ‘Nirbhaya fund’ is the most glaring instance of this. In the case of Nirbhaya (the Delhi gang-rape braveheart), the Government had responded to the public outcry by taking over all the medical costs of Nirbhaya. The Congress party leaders had even offered a flat to her family members. The Budget was the Government’s chance to show that these were not mere ‘charity’ gestures in one single case. In fact, the Government ought to show that it owns responsibility for the safety of all women, by providing every single survivor of rape or acid attacks with state-funded rehabilitation and medical care. The 1000 crore Nirbhaya fund, a mere corpus fund rather than a Budgetary allocation, is as of now far from adequate for covering the rehabilitation and medical costs of survivors of gender violence. In Haryana, dalit rape survivors have been forced to relocate away from their village, and the Government has ignored their demands for rehabilitation costs. Acid attack survivors and grievously injured rape survivors (as in Nirbhaya’s case) often have to travel for specialized medical care such as burns units, plastic surgery, and certain operations. Such travel costs ought to be covered by the Government also. For the Government to cynically use Nirbhaya’s name for a fund that fails to offer a guarantee of support for all survivors of gender violence, is shameful. The Rs 200 crore that has been allocated to the WCD Ministry is again, inadequate as well as vague as to its purpose.

Legislations against violence faced by women (such as the Domestic Violence Act and laws against sexual violence) need to be backed by budgetary allocations. The Budget should also have announced specific allocations for safe houses and shelters for women who face domestic violence, incest, and for homeless women. There are any number of instances where girls and women facing incest are forced to continue to stay in the same house as their molester, for want of a safe shelter. Homeless women remain ever-vulnerable to violence on the streets. And the few existing shelters are so harsh in their conditions that women commonly refer to many of them as ‘women’s jails.’

One can compare these amounts (1000 crore, 200 crore) with the Budget’s statement of revenues foregone. The Budget promises to forego revenues to the tune of 68007.6 crore on corporate taxpayers (defined by the Government as prioritised tax payers) for the year 2012-13; in 2011-12 this amount was 61765.3 crore. If the Government can write off taxes to the tune of between 60-70000 crore every year for super-rich corporations as ‘incentives’, why is it that women’s safety is not seen as a similar priority by the Government?

The Finance Minister’s announcement of a public sector women’s bank is rather mystifying. Why can’t existing public sector banks offer affordable institutional loans to women? By creating a women’s bank (whose purpose is as yet unclear), are existing banks being absolved of their responsibilities to women? Like the SHGs (which leave women debtors at the mercy of the micro-finance institutions), the women-only banks might end up being projected as the highly inadequate and misplaced ‘substitute’ for institutional bank-support for women.

The Government should, in addition, have announced allocations to ensure more judges and courts (to ensure speedier trials); forensic investigations facilities all over the country, and primary health care centres in every village, specially equipped to deal with diagnostics and care for women.

Kavita Krishnan,

Secretary, AIPWA

On behalf of the ongoing Bekhauf Azadi campaign against sexual violence


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