Home truth! Women are most unsafe at home – Correcting this needs a system

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Updated: November 29, 2018 3:21:37 AM

The most dangerous place for women in the world is their home—often, with their partner—according to a UN report on gender-related killings of women and girls.

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The most dangerous place for women in the world is their home—often, with their partner—according to a UN report on gender-related killings of women and girls. A total of 87,000 women were intentionally killed in 2017, with 58% of the deaths at the hands of intimate partners or family members. Although men are victims of the vast majority of homicides world over (80% vs 20% for women), women and girls are the subject of an overwhelming share of intimate partner/family-related homicides (64% vs 36%). These results indicate that women are, to a much larger extent, subjected to lethal and fatal victimisation as a result of skewed and inequitable gender norms and standards. There is also severe under-reporting of violent crimes against women by family members since, more often than not, the victim is either economically or emotionally dependent on the perpetrator. Murder by an intimate partner does not happen at random and is no spontaneous act; rather, it is often the culmination of unmet expectations and pent up frustrations that are almost always rooted in stereotypes relating to gender.

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The study highlights that combatting this requires more than just legal changes and amendments to the criminal justice system—it needs a change in entrenched societal behaviour and norms, behavioural interventions that specifically target gender norms, and the tackling of violent and toxic masculinity. For instance, despite the Union government outlawing the payment of dowry in 1961 and the criminalisation of any harassment perpetuated by the male partner’s family in 1986, between 1999 and 2016, on average, between 40% to 50% of all female homicides recorded in India by the National Crime Records Bureau were due to dowry. An example of an effective and replicable intervention can be found in the Bahamas, where the ‘Healthy Teen Relationship Campaign’ sought to educate teenagers on sexual consent, healthy and open forms of communication with their loved ones, and the creation of awareness of different types of abuse, be it sexual, emotional or physical. To eliminate violence against women in all forms, therefore, coordinated, multi-agency efforts— from judicial systems to the police to wellness and rehabilitation centres—are needed as well as imparting sensitisation via education. There also need to be laws that provide adequate redressal and hold men accountable for their actions.

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