Violence against women has been clearly defined as a form of discrimination in numerous documents. The World Human Rights Conference in Vienna, first recognized gender-based violence as a human rights violation in1993. In the same year, United Nations declaration defined violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that result in, or is likely to result in, physical sexual or psychological harm or suffering to a woman, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”.

It refers to ‘force’ whether overt or covert used to wrest from a women something that she does not want to give of her own free will which causes her either physical injury or emotional trauma or both. Liz Kelly has defined violence as “any physical visual verbal or sexual act that is experienced by the woman or girl at the time or later as a threat, invasion or assault, that has the effect of hurting or disregarding or removing the ability to control one’s own behaviour or an interaction, whether this be within the workplace, the home, on the streets or in any other area of the community”.

According to Gelles and Strauss, violence is an act carried out with the intention or perceived intention of physically hurting another person. According to Schuler, gender violence is defined as “any act involving use of force or coercion with intent of perpetuating and promoting hierarchical gender relations”. Adding gender dimension to that definition amplifies it to include violent acts perpetrated on women because they are women. With this addition, the definition is no longer simple or obvious. Understanding the phenomenon of gender violence requires an analysis of the patterns of violence directed towards women and the underlying mechanisms that permit the emergence and perpetuation of these patterns.

Three categories of Violence Against Woman :

Criminal violenceDomestic violenceSocial violence
Dowry death
Wife- battering
Sexual abuse by kins
Mai treatment of widows and
elderly women.
Torture of daughter-in-law
to commit sati,
Refusing to give share to women in property
Forcing wife
daughter-in- law to
to go for female
Forcing a young widow

Radhika Coomaraswamy identifies different kinds of violence against women, in the United Nation s special report on Violence against Women :

  1. Physical sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household dowry related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non spousal violence and violence related to exploitation.
  2. Physical sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution.
  3. Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the state, wherever it occurs. This definition added Violence perpetrated or condoned by the state’, to the definition by United Nations in 1993. Margaret Schuler has divided gender violence into four major categories:
  4. Overt physical abuse (battering sexual assault, at home and in the workplace)
  5. Psychological abuse (confinement, forced marriage)
  6. Deprivation of resources for physical and psychological well being (health/nutrition, education, means of livelihood)
  7. Commodification of women (trafficking, prostitution).

Who are victims ?

On the basis of empirical study conducted on crime against women, Ram Ahuja identifies four types of women.

  1. Who suffer from devaluation, altruistic powerlessness, and feel helpless depressed and poor self image.
  2. Who live in stressful family situation-structurally incomplete, economically insecure, morally deviant and functionally inadequate.
  3. Who lack social-interpersonal relation and suffer from behavioral problems.
  4. Whose husbands are either pathological personalities or are alcoholics.

Causal factors :

  1. Social values.
  2. Patriarchy.
  3. Contradictions of change.
  4. Role of Mass Media.
  5. Political violence.
  6. Situational Urge sometimes provokes a man to use violence e.g.-wife battering, rape case etc.
  7. Sometimes the victim provokes a person to use violence against her own behaviour-which is often unconscious.
  8. Intoxication too leads to violence i.e., some cases of violence occur when the aggressors are wildly excited and belligerent state of mind-scarcely comprehending of the likely fallout of their actions. For example, alcoholics rape. According to Ram Ahuja in his study of relationship between alcoholism and violence, found that wife battering was accompanied by the use of alcohol in 32% of cases. Hibernian had found in 93% of cases,Wolfgang in 67% of cases. However we can not proud any proof. It may be ‘cooperative’ factor rather them the ‘chief factor.
  9. Violence is also motivated by persons altered view towards women, values, patriarchy, and mass media, role conflict etc.
  10. Personality traits also compel a person to indulge in violence. Violence prone personalities are extremely suspicious, passionate, dominant, irrational immoral jealous, possessive and unjust Experiences in early life affect behaviour in adulthood According to Stewart, good number of aggressors and victims of child abuse and familial violence, and exposure to violence as a child strongly influence the probability of one being violent adult Violence against women is partly a result of gender relations that assumes men to be superior to women. Given the subordinate status of women, much of gender violence is considered normal and enjoys social sanction.
  11. According to Adriana manifestations of violence include physical aggression, such as blows of varying intensity, burns, attempted hanging, sexual abuse and rape, psychological violence through insults, humiliation, coercion, blackmail economic or emotional threats, and control over speech and action. In extreme, but not unknown cases, death is the result These expressions of violence take place in a man woman relationship within the family state and society. Usually, domestic aggression towards women and girls, due to various reasons remain hidden.
  12. Cultural and social factors are interlinked with the propagation of violent behaviour.With different processes of socialization that men and women undergo, men take up stereotyped gender role of domination and control whereas women take up that of submission, dependence and respect for authority.
  13. A female child grows up with a constant sense of being weak and in need of protection, whether physical-social or economic.This helplessness has led to her exploitation at almost every stage of life.
  14. The family socializes its members to accept hierarchical relations expressed in unequal division of labour between the sexes and power over the allocation of resources. The family and its operational unit is where the child is exposed to gender differences since birth, and in recent times even before birth, in the form of sex-determination tests leading to foeticide and female infanticide. The home, which is supposed to be the most secure place, is where women are most exposed to violence.

Radhika Coomaraswamy points out that woman are vulnerable to various forms of violent treatment for several reasons, all based on gender:

  1. Because of being female, a woman is subject to rape, female circumcision/genital mutilation, female infanticide and sex related crimes. This reason relates to society’s construction of female sexuality and its role in social hierarchy.
  2. Because of her relationship to man, a woman is vulnerable to domestic violence, dowry murder, sati. This reason relates to society’s concept of a woman as a property and dependent of the male protector, father, husband son, etc.
  3. Because of the social group to which she belongs, in times of war, riots, or ethnic, caste, or class violence, a woman may be raped and brutalized as a means of humiliating the community to which she belongs. This also relates to male perception of female sexuality and women as the property of men. For example reports of group rape from Somalia.

Combining these types of abuse with the concept of hierarchical gender relations, a useful way to view gender violence is by identifying where the violence towards women occurs. Essentially, violence happens in three contexts-the family, the community and the state and at each point key special institutions fulfils critical and interactive functions in defining legitimating and maintaining the violence :

  1. The family socializes its members to accept hierarchical relations expressed in unequal division of labour between the sexes and power over the allocation of resources.
  2. The community (i.e., social economic, religious and cultural institutions) provides the mechanisms for perpetuating male control over women’s sexuality, mobility and labour.
  3. The state legitimizes the proprietary rights of men over women, providing a legal basis to the family and the community to perpetuate these relations. The state does this through the enactment of discriminatory application of the law.

Forms of violence against women

Rape, Sexual harassment and Abuse : Rape, sexual harassment eve teasing, molestation and abuse of women by act as function of limiting women’s freedom and perpetuate the nation women need male protection at various stages of life. These how been case of gang rapes in colleges and incidents of acid throwing on young girl for defacing them in several parts of India. Sexual harassment and abuse at the workplace is least challenged or reported for fear of losing employment and stigmatization. It is futile to argree that provocative dresses worn by women are responsible for sexual harassment or molestation. In many cases Saree and salwar kameez clad women have been sexually harassed It is scant regard for women which is responsible for sexual harassment of women besides their being regarded as commodities with no feeling, to be played with.

Rape is a violent sexual intercourse performed against the will and consent of the women. It demonstrate a power relationship between men and woman. It diminishes identity of women as an individual and objectifies her. In India every two hours, a rape occurs. What is must frightening and disgusting about rape is that a large percentage of these rape victims are children below the age of 12. Paradoxically in our society, the victim of rape get stigmatized in the society.The woman who is the victim of rape is blamed because the nation is that, “she must have invited it”.

Curative Measures

  1. First, to meet the needs of protection, support and advice to the victims.
    • Voluntary organization schemes.
    • Financial support
    • Short term accommodation to victims.
  2. Assistance in finding employment and child care facilities and immediate financial support.
  3. Establishment of cheaper and less formal courts-courts to handle only female cases. The scope of existing family courts should be enlarged to include all types of domestic and non-domestic problems of women. Judges, magistrates and lawyers with knowledge and interests in female matters should be appointed
  4. Strengthening and increasing voluntary organization which could take up individual women’s problems with their in laws, police, or the courts or the concerned individuals. Voice of individual woman has less effect Voices of women organized for a cause are more effective.
  5. Publicity has to be given to those organizations which provide free legal aid to women. So needy women can approach them.
  6. Change in parent’s attitude-helping attitude towards daughters being victimized.

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