Women culpable for domestic assault? Judges believe so
By Annie Banerji
The country that has a woman president, four women chief ministers and has generated the likes of internationally renowned actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and PepsiCo chief Indra Nooyi hasn’t scored too well when it comes to the condition of the fairer sex.
The Indian government released census data on Thursday that said every 14th girl child born in India dies before she can celebrate her fifth birthday. The March Census 2011 revealed a highly skewed gender ratio with the lowest level of child sex ratio (number of girls per 1,000 boys below five years of age) in the country’s history — 914 from 927 in 2001.
In today’s global scenario where Christine Lagarde has been appointed chief of the IMF and musical sensation Lady Gaga is number one on Forbes’ annual Celebrity 100 list, India, an emerging global power, seems to be widening the gulf between men and women in a putative patriarchal country.
Nearly 39 percent of Indian men and women believe that a man beating his wife is a justifiable act. This figure surfaced from the latest U.N. Women report titled “Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice“.
The study illustrates that 35 percent respondents stated to be victims of physical violence by their partners while 10 percent faced sexual violence at the hands of their companions.
Quoting from a non-governmental organisation’s survey on India’s judicial system, the U.N. report highlighted that of the 109 interviewed judges, ironically, half of them believed women who are abused by their “better” halves have no one else but themselves to blame for their plight.
“India significantly lags behind the rest of the world, with women making up just 3 per cent of judges,” the report said shedding light on the representation of women in the Indian judiciary system.
It appears that Asia’s third-largest economy needs more women like Kiran Bedi, the nation’s first and highest-ranking woman police officer who joined the Indian Police Service in 1972 and espouses the cause of women. Accordingly, U.N. Women has appealed to women for greater representation in the police force to give victims of violence more confidence while registering complaints.
Though not many women have stepped up to the plate in the urban judiciary system, the U.N. Women report praises the millions-strong participation of women in local governance and policy making systems in India’s rural villages.
These studies suggest that men are still placed on a superior platform than women by both sexes in India. Government sources suspect the inadequate caring of the girl child after birth is the cause for such conditions because through the decreasing maternal mortality rate one can sense the improvement in medical care, but unfortunately it is not being availed of for the good health of girl children.
It’s not as though India does not have enough provisions for women. It has several women’s healthcare and empowerment programmes, reservations for women in education and jobs and also the pending Women’s Reservation Bill, which when finally cleared will ensure 33 percent reservation for women in parliament and state legislative bodies. Not only that, with each passing year, girls have outshined boys in national high school examinations and make their mark even at college levels.
Nevertheless, these reports display India’s ignominious state of affairs regarding the fairer sex. Perhaps a change of mindset and easier availability of women-oriented benefits will help resuscitate this declining status of Indian women.