BY DR. MUNISH KUMAR RAIZADA
“I don’t want to rot in the soil. Please don’t cry. I love you”, she told her mother. “I wish I could have hugged you until I died.”. These were the last words of Reyhaneh Jabbari, the 27 year old Iranian woman who was hanged a month ago on the charges of killing a man who was trying to rape her.
And if you think that was unjust, what would you say about ‘British-Iranian woman jailed for a year for trying to watch volleyball game inTehran!’? Visible in different avatars, violence against women is a worldwide phenomenon, with the countries in the middle-east taking the top honours.
Nature made men and women differently. It is no co-incidence that the occupations which demand utmost gentleness and kindness, such as nursing, are exclusively related to the women. Similarly, while women have been granted the bliss of reproducing, they have also been made much gentler than the men. There are some obvious physiological differences between men and women that make women much more susceptible to violence than men.
The United Nations has given a call for ‘Orange YOUR Neighbourhood’ campaign from 25th November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10 December (Human Rights Day). This 16-day campaign asks the people to show solidarity to the cause by putting upOrangecoloured posters, flyers and banners at all their neighbourhood and nearby public spaces. At a time when we have solved innumerable mysteries about mankind, space and nature, this is one of the few evils which are still prevalent in well developed countries as well. Globally, about 35% females end up facing physical or sexual form of violence in their lifetime. Even more horrifying is the data that over 125 million women are living testimony to the dangerous and painful procedure of ‘female genital mutilation/cutting’ (fgm/c). This loathsome practice is prevalent in about 30 African countries andMiddle East. UNICEF estimates that 30 million females are at risk of ‘being cut within the next decade’.
According to the official data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in the year 2003-12, domestic violence accounted for 21 % of all victimizations inUSA. Domestic violence covers a gamut of phenomena ranging from simple or aggravated physical assault to sexual violence to rape committed by intimate partners or family members and relatives. Even though the rate of domestic violence has decreased over last 2 decades, yet according to Centre for Disease Control (CDC), every minute 20 people become victims of physical violence by an intimate partner inUSA. This includes both men (in 5) and women (1 in 2) who experienced sexual violence other than rape at some point in their lives. TheUSgovernment has come up with a number of laws to tackle this menace. The National Domestic Violence Hotline –partly funded by theU.S.government- operates open 24 x 7 and assists the victims in more than 170 languages.
Not surprisingly, on almost all the aspects of violence against women,Indiastands out when compared to the statistics taken across the world. Based on the reports compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau of India, women inIndiaface a crime every 3 minutes. While certain patterns of the violence are seen uniformly throughout the world including Physical and sexual violence, there are some other horrific forms of violence against women which are unique toIndiaand some other third world countries. Examples include female foeticide and infanticide, acid attacks, human trafficking, honour killing and violence and harassment related to dowry.
While cases such as sexual violence and honour killings manage to get noticed, the growing evil of human trafficking has been a silent assassin over the past few years. Each year, thousands of girls from the states of Bihar, Jharkhand,Biharand Chhattisgarh are brought to the metro cities and sold off to work either as domestic help or forced into human flesh trade. Thousands of girls are also illegally brought from neighbouring countries likeNepalandBangladeshand forced to work in circus shows. Official figures inNepalsuggest that between 5,000 to 10,000 girls are trafficked toIndiaevery year. While on the outside, these girls get to live in big houses while working as domestic help, they face just as much physical and mental and sexual harassment.
Lack of strict laws and open sale of concentrated acids have resulted in a major spike in the number of acid attacks in the country. Indian women have been at the receiving end of most acid attacks in the past few years. The prevalence of honour killings, especially in the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan is yet another blot on the Indian society. More sickening is the fact that most of the honour killings are tacitly supported by the fellow villagers and relatives.
Till date, a number of laws have been framed to fight against this growing menace, including Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques Act of 1944 (to prevent pre-birth sex determination), Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 and Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act of 1956. It would also be incorrect to say that all these laws have been completely futile. However, with new dimensions of violence against women emerging with every passing year, law makers, law enforcers, judiciary would do mighty well to win the race against such criminals of humanity. However, above all, the society must reflect as to how to usher more peace and sobriety. As the U.N. correctly says, violence against women and girls is not inevitable and prevention is possible.
The author is a practicing medical doctor (Neonatologist) in Chicago and a socio-political commentator. Twitter: DrMunishRaizada