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In India, approximately 45,026 women died by suicide in 2021, nearly 1 in every 9 minutes. Out of this, more than two-thirds were married women!
Trigger Warning: Domestic violence, attempt to murder, mention of suicide.
Devti Devi (Name Changed), has a difficult life. At the age of 15, she was married by her parents and ever since she has been fighting domestic violence. Her husband even tried to burn her alive, but she survived. Sharing another traumatizing experience, she said, “One day, he tried to smother me using a pillow.”
Devti is a resident of Ason village in Bageshwar district’s Kapkot block in Uttarakhand. Lately, cases of domestic violence in Uttarakhand have been on a rise. According to a report published last year, every day 60 women are reported to face domestic violence across the state.
Besides, during Covid-19, in the 20 days of February 2021, out of a total of 2041 complaints of harassment of women in the control room, 1210 complaints were of domestic violence.
As per another report, in 2019, 727 domestic violence cases were reported to Legal Services Authorities and Uttarakhand accounted for 144 out of the 727, the highest in the country.
Tired of domestic violence, Khasti Devi, (name changed) another woman from the same village, tried to end her life. “I have not spent a single day without the fear of getting thrashed by my husband,” lamented Khasti.
In India, approximately 45,026 women died by suicide in 2021, nearly 1 in every 9 minutes. Out of this, more than two-thirds were married women and over half of them, 23178, were housewives states the annual report of the National Crime Records Bureau.
Women and girls residing in some of the most inaccessible hilly villages in Uttarakhand have difficulty accessing the legal and medical aid options made available by both the government and non-government organizations.
Their geographical location, lack of resources and development infrastructure often acts as a major hindrance. On the other hand, half of the women, with no access to information, are unaware of the existence of such schemes/assistance and do not have the guidance to access these aids.
For the safety and security of women facing domestic and other forms of gender-based violence, in 2015, a Centrally Sponsored Scheme was formulated by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), for establishing One Stop Centre (OSC) as a sub-scheme of National Mission for Empowerment of women.
As per government’s press release, OSCs provide a range of integrated services under one roof including police facilitation, medical aid, legal aid and counselling, psycho-social counselling and temporary shelter to women affected by violence or in distress.
Since 2022-23, the scheme is subsumed into Sambal sub-scheme of Mission Shakti.
As on February 11, 2022, 733 OSCs have been approved for 730 districts across the country, out of which 704 OSCs have been operationalized in 35 States/ UTs, which have assisted over 4.50 lakh women.
Although the scheme has been able to address the issue for women residing in ‘accessible’ areas, the location of these centres at district level makes it difficult for women who live in remote villages. In this case, OSC is located in Bageshwar district.
Anju Pandey, an advocate who works at the One Stop Centre in Bageshwar, while informing the process of receiving cases of domestic violence from the women in villages, said, “Usually the survivors report to the Pradhan of the villages who support them to report the cases to the nearest police station. From the police station, the cases are then referred to our centre.”
The ‘definition’ of nearest police station needs some attention here as the distance from the village might be 20 km or beyond without availability of transport and, at the time, a motorable road.
The socio-economic status of these women also doesn’t allow them to report the cases. Unless the Pradhan of their villages take some serious action, they continue to face the violence.
Social activist Neelam Grandy from Charson village in Garur block in Bageshwar while shedding light on the situation shared that although women have been facing some serious violence at the hands of their own partners, they back out from reporting it.
“Women lack the support to file cases against the husbands. They fear the defamation of themselves and their family members. For the ones who report it, are often taunted by the neighbours or family members saying they have ‘damaged the peace’ of the family,” said Neelam adding, “The irony is that even in the media is not bothered much. This is the reason that instead of making headlines, such cases get buried in a corner of the newspaper,” she added.
The impact of domestic violence on the primary victim is worrisome, it can also have a long-lasting traumatic effect on those who witness it, especially children. At times, even they face the abuse. Akshita (name changed), a teenager from the same village, shared that every day, not only does her father fights with her mother, but also abuses and beats her.
“Their quarrel directly affects my mental status and studies. Whenever I prepare myself to study, the flashes of my father thrashing my mother dominates my thoughts. It becomes difficult to focus and concentrate on studies or to have a positive outlook towards life,” expressed Akshita.
Although, the local administrations have undoubtedly come up with redressal mechanism at their levels to address the increasing violence against women, the accessibility should be equally focused.
For many women who do not understand the redressal procedures or lack the support to take any actions, should be reached out without any failure. For long-term solution, there is a dire need to address the root-causes of such violence against women.
Image source: Greenaperature, via Getty Images, free on CanvaPro
The article was first published in Daily Pioneer.
Diya Arya, the writer, is a student of Class 10 from Kapkot, Bageshwar, Uttarakhand.
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