Dowry deaths continue to account for a substantial share of all female homicides in India despite legislation prohibiting it, according to a UN study which says the home is the most dangerous place for women around the world.
Around 87,000 women were killed around the world last year and some 50,000 – or 58 per cent – were killed at the hands of intimate partners or family members. This amounts to some six women being killed every hour by people they know, according to new research published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
In India the female homicide rate in 2016 was 2.8 per cent, higher than the rate in Kenya (2.6), Tanzania (2.5), Azerbaijan (1.8), Jordan (0.8) and Tajikistan (0.4). Further, in India 33.5 per cent of women and girls aged 15-49 who experienced physical violence (irrespective of perpetrator) at least once in their lifetime and 18.9 per cent in the past 12 months, according to data from 1995-2013.
Dowry-related deaths in India continue to be a matter of concern. The study noted that available data on dowry-related killings from the National Crime Records Bureau indicate that female dowry deaths account for 40 to 50 per cent of all female homicides recorded annually in India, representing a stable trend over the period 1999 to 2016.
“Despite legislation adopted by the Indian Government in 1961, prohibiting the payment of dowry, the practice continues throughout the country and dowry deaths continue to account for a substantial share of all female homicides,” it said.
Sorcery accusations also affect some women living in countries in Africa, Asia and Oceania and can be the driver behind gender-related killings. Data from Papua New Guinea and India on homicide resulting from sorcery accusations show that, although in small proportions, this phenomenon still exists.
“While data are not sex disaggregated, it is likely that women account for a large share of the victims,” it said.
The study, released for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, examines available homicide data to analyse the gender-related killing of women and girls, with a specific focus on intimate partner and family-related homicide and how this relates to the status and roles of women in society and the domestic sphere.
“While the vast majority of homicide victims are men, women continue to pay the highest price as a result of gender inequality, discrimination and negative stereotypes. They are also the most likely to be killed by intimate partners and family,” UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said.
“Targeted criminal justice responses are needed to prevent and end gender-related killings. UNODC is releasing this research for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2018 to increase understanding and inform action.”
Looking at the rate of female victims of homicide by intimate partners or family members, the study found that the global rate was around 1.3 victims per 100,000 female population.
In terms of geographical distribution, Africa and the Americas are the regions where women are most at risk of being killed by intimate partners or family members. In Africa, the rate was around 3.1 victims per 100,000 female population, while the rate in the Americas was 1.6 victims, in Oceania 1.3 and in Asia 0.9. The lowest rate was found in Europe, with 0.7 victims per 100,000 female population.
According to the study, tangible progress in protecting and saving the lives of female victims of intimate partner/family-related homicide has not been made in recent years, despite legislation and programmes developed to eradicate violence against women.
The conclusions highlight the need for effective crime prevention and criminal justice responses to violence against women that promote victim safety and empowerment while ensuring offender accountability. The study also calls for greater coordination between police and the justice system as well as health and social services and emphasizes the importance of involving men in the solution, including through early education.