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Insights into Editorial: Power of the collective

Insights into Editorial: Power of the collective


Domestic violence, or intimate partner violence (IPV) as it is sometimes called, is a worldwide problem. Intimate partner violence is referred as a threatened physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse of a woman by their intimate partner.

Domestic violence in India includes any form of violence suffered by a person from a biological relative, but typically is the violence suffered by a woman by male members of her family or relatives.

The greed for dowry, desire for a male child and alcoholism of the spouse are major factors of domestic violence against women in rural areas.

IPV in India

Domestic violence or IPV is currently defined in India by the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005.

  • A 2014 study in The Lancet reports that the reported sexual violence rate in India is among the lowest in the world, the large population of India means that the violence affects 27·5 million over women their lifetime. The instance of violence was reported to be lowest among Buddhist and Jain women, and highest among Muslim women in India.
  • According to United Nation Population Fund Report, around two-third of married Indian women are victims of domestic violence and as many as 70 per cent of married women in India between the age of 15 and 49 are victims of beating, rape or forced sex.
  • In India, more than 55 percent of the women suffer from domestic violence, especially in the states of Bihar, U.P., M.P. and other northern states.
  • Physical injury is the most visible form of domestic/Intimate partner violence.
  • Emotional abuse has been gaining more and more recognition in recent years as an incredibly common form of domestic violence within the private home throughout developing nations such as India.
  • Most of the risk factors for intimate partner violence identified in slums appear to be similar to those identified in non-slum settings in India. For example, women’s employment has been found to be a risk factor for intimate partner violence in both slums and non-slum settings in India.
  • In Indian families with patriarchal norms, women with higher income or status relative to their partners are more likely to be seen as gender deviant and to face violence (NFHS).
  • In Indian families with patriarchal norms, women with higher income or status relative to their partners are more likely to be seen as gender deviant and to face violence.

Impact of Domestic violence on Women’s’ Health

In a study conducted in India reported that women with a lifetime history of IPV were more likely to have reported poorer physical and mental health compared to those without a lifetime history of IPV.

  • Violence against women is a significant public health problem in India with prevalence estimates ranging from 6 per cent in one State (e. Himachal Pradesh) to 59 per cent in another (i.e. Bihar).
  • In the National Family Health Survey, the prevalence of violence against married women in various slum areas in India was reported to be between 23 and 62 per cent.
  • The factors associated with intimate partner violence were early marriage, husband’s alcohol use, women’s employment, and justification of wife beating.

Norms related to gender roles, community attitudes and the broader social context, including the media, play a significant role in the acceptance and promotion of intimate partner violence.

Role of Self-Help groups to address IPV

Strategies to address IPV have included legal reforms, awareness creation drives, and strengthening of women’s civil rights. As criminal justice solutions have largely been inaccessible to socially precarious women, a more inclusive alternative is to have collective-based resolution mechanisms. The potential of large-scale groups of women, such as self-help groups (SHGs), becomes critical in the Indian context.

  • Many models of community dispute resolution mechanisms have been experimented in India like,
  • The Nari Adalats (women courts) in various States,
  • Women’s Resource Centres (Rajasthan),
  • Shalishi (West Bengal), and
  • Mahila Panchayats (Delhi)

They have seen IPV as a public issue rather than a personal problem.

  • Several NGOs have co-opted these models so that women can resolve cases of violence without getting entangled in tedious legal processes.
  • SHGs are the most widely present collectives across regions. The experiences of large-scale programmes offer valuable insights into action for IPV redressal within SHG-led development models.
  • Collectives of women need adequate investment for building their capacities and mediation of IPV requires specialised structures to avoid manipulation by kinship relations and political affinities.

Way Forward

Violence against women is an extreme manifestation of gender inequality in society and a serious violation of fundamental human rights.

Not all groups of women become safe spaces to discuss violence. SHGs must first become enabling spaces where the economic and social concerns of women are stated as priorities.

Freedom from violence must be stated as a necessary component of empowerment.

It takes time for most women to recognise that violence is unacceptable. To enable them to understand this, there must be investment in specific training, and gender analysis processes.

SHGs are mostly seen as administrative entities. Their social role can be enhanced to tackle the widespread problem of IPV.