New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Violence against women has been on the rise in India for several years and is now more widespread in the cities than in the countryside. In a joint initiative United Nations agencies and the pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson will fund programmes designed to fight domestic violence against women and counter the spread of AIDS. Similar programmes exist in Botswana, the Dominican Republic, Nigeria and Vietnam. The goal is to raise awareness and empower women, uphold laws, provide medical assistance, train service providers and reduce stigma and discrimination.
“Violence against women and HIV are pandemics that deny women's human rights and devastate individual lives and societies,” United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Executive Director Noeleen Heyzer said.
“Violence makes women more susceptible to HIV infection and the fear of violent male reactions, physical and psychological, prevents many women from trying to find out more about it, discourages them from getting tested and stops them from getting treatment,” Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) Executive Director Peter Piot was quoted as saying.
India’s latest National Family Health Survey indicated that, nationwide, 37.2 per cent of women “experienced violence” after marriage and cited lack of education as the main reason for their woes. The survey was conducted by the Women and Family Welfare Ministry.
The survey comes on the heels of a National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) warning that Indian women are caught up in a wave of violence.
“In 2000, an average of 125 women faced domestic violence every day and after five years, the figure jumped to 160,” the NCRB reported after India.
According to the NCRB, in 2005 more than 19 women were killed daily for not bringing enough dowry, 50 were raped and 480 women were targeted with various types of crime including abduction and molestation.
In January India enacted its first law aimed at tackling domestic violence, but now the challenge is to enforce it and change attitudes.
“Women with no education were much more likely than other women to have suffered spousal violence,” the survey indicated. “However, spousal abuse also extends to women who have secondary or higher secondary level of education, with 16 per cent reporting abuse,” it said.
Bihar was listed as the most violent state for women with 62.2 per cent of its city women and 58.5 per cent in villages facing physical, mental or social deprivation.
In Rajasthan 46.3 per cent of married women reported post-conjugal violence, the survey said.
In cities, Chennai headed the list with 40.6 of its women reporting abuse, whilst New Delhi had the lowest reports of abuse at “only” 16.3 per cent.
Discrimination begins even before birth when hundreds of thousands of female foetuses are aborted each year. However, to combat the problem India’s central government is planning to spend large sums of money in favour of women.
Mgr John Baptist Thakur, bishop of Muzaffarpur (Bihar) and chairman of the Commission for Women of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, told AsiaNews that the Church has worked on behalf of women for years.
“Women have suffered discrimination and been the victims of violence not only for cultural reasons but also because of ignorance. For this reason, money is welcome and significant for it is coming on the 30th anniversary of Women’s Day in India,” he said.
“Too often women are silent victims of domestic violence and the rising number is alarming. Most cases go unreported. It is tragic that domestic violence is widespread, especially in the big cities, among the well-to-do and educated. It affects every caste and social class. For decades the Church has been helping women and children, providing them basic education and crèches in rural areas and helping them become more self-reliant.”