Nearly a third of women in four states out of 17 surveyed so far have experienced domestic violence, and in three states the numbers reported have increased, with Karnataka showing a doubling of the number of cases of domestic violence over the last survey, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFSH)-5. The data was released by the Union Health Ministry on Saturday.
Domestic violence against women include both physical and sexual violence, and the states where more than 30 per cent reported having suffered violence by their spouses are Karnataka, Telangana, Assam and Bihar. The number of cases reported went up in Karnataka, Telangana and Maharashtra.
NFHS-4 data was for 2015-16. The next round of NFSH-5 data is likely to be released next summer.
In Karnataka, over 44.4 per cent of both rural and urban women surveyed as part of NFHS-5 reported having experienced spousal violence – the figure was 20.6 per cent in NFHS-4. About 11 per cent of young women surveyed in the state reported having experienced sexual violence by the age of 18 in NFHS-5. The corresponding figures in the 2015-16 survey was 10.3 per cent.
Why the jump in figures is seen as good news
While the jump in Karnataka's figures appear alarming, experts in gender violence put the increase down to improved reporting of domestic violence cases, and therefore “good news’’. Women rarely come out and report domestic violence cases, and thus an increasing trend in numbers is seen as a good sign. It's states where the numbers have remained stagnant, or have even shown a decline, that are a matter of some concern, since it is possible that domestic violence is not being reported in those states, according to Ranjana Das from Oxfam.
According to the National Commission for Women’s (NCW) data, the overall complaints received from Karnataka have increased. The NCW received 311 complaints of violence from women in the state in 2020; of these, 124 cases were that of domestic violence. In contrast, NCW had received 52 cases of domestic violence in 2019.
“We believe that the rise in cases is because of the social awareness campaigns run by our state office (in Karnataka), as well as more avenues now open for complaints to be lodged, such as through social media,’’ NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma said.
In Telangana, about 36.9 per cent women surveyed reported facing spousal violence, with more rural women reporting violence than their urban counterparts. About 5 per cent of the young women surveyed reported having experienced sexual violence by age 18.
Oxfam’s Ranjana Das, who has worked in Telangana for three years in creating awareness campaigns on gender violence, said, “Telangana and Karnataka governments have had a number of flagship programmes on creating awareness and have been very active on gender issues.” In contrast, she said, “In Bihar, for instance, where I have worked, while the government pushes gender empowerment programmes such as banking for women, gender norms and domestic violence is rarely discussed.”
According to NFSH-5, 40.6 per cent women in Bihar reported spousal violence (up from 43.7 per cent in NFSH-4)
In Assam, 32 per cent women reported experiencing domestic violence – up from 24.5 per cent in NFHS-4.
A third state where the percentage of cases reported increased was Maharashtra – 25.2% as per NFSH-5, compared to 21.3% in 2015-16.