One in Six Women Face Violence at Home: WHO
In a landmark global study on violence against women, the first-ever World Health Organisation (WHO) study on domestic violence reveals that intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence in women’s lives.
Women’s Health and Domestic Violence Against Women, released on November 25, 2005 to mark the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, also notes that physically or sexually abused women are more likely to suffer longer-term health problems, including distress and attempts at suicide.
The study highlights the enormous toll that physical and sexual violence by husbands and partners has on the health and well-being of women around the world and the extent to which partner violence is still largely hidden.
With one in six women globally being the target of domestic violence, sometimes even during pregnancy, intimate partner violence is the most common and under-reported form of physical abuse in a woman’s life -- much more so than assault or rape by strangers or acquaintances.
For policy makers, the greatest challenge is that abuse remains hidden. At least 20 per cent of women reporting physical violence in the study had never told anyone before being interviewed.
In this context, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, recently passed by the Indian Parliament is a welcome step. The law, which came into effect in September 2005, is a result of sustained campaigning by the Indian women’s movement. The law aims at protecting women from verbal, emotional, economic and sexual abuse and offers free legal service and civil remedies to women survivors of domestic violence.
The Indian law is unique in that it aims to protect not only wives, but also extends to sisters, widows, mothers, single women and women living under the same roof. The focus of the new law is on protection. It empowers a magistrate to stop the offender from “aiding or committing” violence in the workplace or any place frequented by the woman. It also bars the aggressor from communicating with the woman, taking away her assets or intimidating her family and those assisting her against the violence.
The implementation of the Act, through “protection officers” appointed by the state governments, remains a challenge in India, given the strong grip of the family as well as the lack of options, which forces women to remain silent about domestic violence.
For more information on the WHO study visit: http://www.who.int/gender/violence/who_multicountry_study/en/index.html