Last year, around this time the world saw many women putting up black and white pictures of themselves to spread awareness about the increasing femicide in Turkey. Crime against women is not an alien concept, it’s one of most common forms of crime. The rise in domestic violence cases (in India especially) and femicide cases (all over the world) in the backdrop of the pandemic just shows how unsafe the world is for women. The situation is so bad that women seek protection from their own families and friends. Sexual violence is just a pat of it, women are subject to other forms of physical and mental harassment as well.
According to the NCRB report of 2017, there were 3.38 lakh crimes registered against women. The sad fact is most of the cases of violence against women go unreported so these numbers are not in any way close to the real number of cases. The majority of the reported crimes fell under the category of ‘Cruelty by husband or his relatives’ also known as Domestic Violence. Domestic Violence is mainly faced by married woman on grounds of dowry. The ‘gas burn deaths’ are in reality a form of dowry death that goes unreported in most instances. The main legislation dealing with Domestic Violence is the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. The sections of the Indian Penal Code dealing with the topic is Section 498-A. The concept of bringing in Dowry death under the scope of Section 498-A of IPC was put forth by the Supreme Court in the judgement of the case Modinsab Kasimsab Kanchagar v State of Karnataka, 2013 4 SCC 551.
The next major offence faced by women is Rape. Section 375 deals with Rape and Section 376 deals with punishment for rape. According to the NCRB Report, 32,559 cases of rape were reported in India. The highest number of cases were recorded in Madhya Pradesh followed by Uttar Pradesh. The most problematic part of rape cases is that the accused are known to the victim as a result they rarely tend to file cases, and even if cases are filed the procedures are not handled in the best of ways. Another issue is if the victim was killed during the commission of the crime, then the case is registered as a murder case and not rape. Rape in case the victim is a minor is dealt in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCS Act). The punishment is given in Section 4 and 6 of the Act and is further read with Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code. After the infamous Nirbhaya rape case of 2012, Section 376 of the Indian penal Code was amended according to the Criminal Law Ordinance of 2018, that designated Capital Punishment for the offence of Rape if the victim is below the age of 12.
Another important issue is Marital Rape. Marital Rape refers to non-consensual sexual intercourse between a husband and wife. The main problem with present day law is that marital rape is not recognised as a criminal offence in the country. Any act between the husband and wife is taken to be consensual. Marital immunity is provided. The law with respect to Section 375 B of the Indian Penal Code criminalises marital rape only if the wife is below the age of fifteen. This changed in 2017, in the case of Independent Foundation v Union of India, the Supreme Court criminalised the cases of marital rape in cases where the wife was fifteen and eighteen years of age. For married women above the age of 18, the Domestic Violence Act offers a civil remedy.
Another major crime faced by women is Assault. Assault is defined under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code. The section has been expanded after the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 including 4 sub-sections namely: Section 354 A refers to sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment, Section 354 B deals with Assault or use of force on women with intent to disrobe, Section 354 C deals with Voyeurism and Section 354 D deals with Stalking. The #MeToo movement sparked debates about sexual harassment faced by women at workplaces. India firstly followed the Vishaka Guidelines as put forward in the case of Vishaka and ors v. State of Rajasthan JT 1997 (7) SC 384. These guidelines were brought in the afterbath of the infamous Bhanwari Devi Rape case. The guidelines have now been brought into a legislation; Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplaces (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
These are few legal guidelines, legislations and data with respect to crimes against women. Violence faced by women is a very vast topic with different form of violence. The laws present are not stringent enough, in most cases the accused walks free. The moist horrible of scenarios is a rapist marrying the victim. These are not solutions to the crimes or do not serve justice in any way. These existing laws need to be more stringent in order to be more effective. Celebrating woman hood should not stop at our social media handles, the society should transform itself to a safer space. Laws need to be more stringent. The fact that acid attack is still not severely punished is wrong. Marital Rape immunity should be scrapped. The laws should be more effective, especially with regard to cases of domestic violence and the patriarchal tone underlying in most judgements should change in order for a safer space.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.
We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge