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Domestic violence cases in India increased 53% between 2001 and 2018: Study

The data analysed by the researchers was extracted from the annual reports of the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) under four domestic violence crime headings.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: April 29, 2022 6:37:40 pm
A total of 1,548,548 cases were reported under cruelty by husband or his relatives in India from 2001 to 2018, with 554,481 (35.8%) between 2014 and 2018. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

A longitudinal research study by BMC Women’s Health analysing trends and lessons on domestic violence faced by Indian women from 2001 to 2018 has highlighted that India needs to focus on efforts to reduce the gaps in the administrative data which includes underreporting and almost stagnant data over the time.

Between 2001 and 2018, the majority of the domestic violence cases were filed under ‘cruelty by husband or his relatives’, with the reported rate of this crime increasing by 53% over 18 years.

The study has also highlighted that the rate of cases of cruelty by husbands or relatives was 28.3 per 1,00,000 women in 2018, which is an increase of 53% from 2001. The rate of reported dowry deaths and abetment to suicide was 2% and 1.4%, respectively, in 2018. The data analysed by the researchers was extracted from the annual reports of the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) under four domestic violence crime headings – cruelty by husband or his relatives, dowry deaths, abetment to suicide, and protection of women against domestic violence act.

A total of 1,548,548 cases were reported under cruelty by husband or his relatives in India from 2001 to 2018, with 554,481 (35.8%) between 2014 and 2018. The reported rate of this crime in India was 18.5 in 2001 and 28.3 in 2018 per 1,00,000 women aged 15–49 years, marking a significant increase of 53% over this period. Wide variations were seen in the rate for reported cruelty by husband or his relatives in 2018 at the state-level.

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Delhi, Assam, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Jammu and Kashmir documented more than 160% increase in this reported crime rate during 2001–2018.The greatest decline in the rate of this reported crime was seen in Mizoram, 74.3% from 2001 to 2018.

“However, it is important to note that only some states recorded changes in the reported rate with the almost stagnant reported rate of domestic violence in many states over time,” said Prof Rakhi Dandona, the lead researcher of the study and a professor at the Public Health Foundation of India.

The study also underlined that the non-availability of anonymised individual level data of the cases registered in the public domain limits the exploration of patterns in domestic violence that can enable evidence-based policy action. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 5 is to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls and the two indicators of this progress are rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) and non-partner violence. The WHO has estimated a 26% prevalence of IPV in ever-married /partnered women aged 15 years, this prevalence is at 35% for southern Asia.

“Data and Information systems must be strengthened for better evidence- informed policy to address the issue of domestic violence in India. The lessons from nearly 20 years of surveillance of domestic violence in Indian women points out that the change in the reported rate of domestic violence cases is seen only in some states while some had an almost stagnant rate. This underlines the importance of understanding the under-reporting of cases by women and by police, thereby, increasing robustness of available data. More standardisation in data recording and increase in the range of data by the police will strengthen utility of this data more effectively to inform policy and prioritise prevention strategies to reduce the cases of domestic violence against women in India,” Dr Dandona said.

The poor response of a formal system to reduce domestic violence is also reflected in the legal recourse as only 6.8% of the cases filed completed trials in 2018, with the majority of accused being acquitted. “This bleak state of waiting, extended trials and low conviction is known to further discourage women from reporting cases,” Dr Dandona added.

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