Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape. Punishment ranged from prison terms as long as one year, a fine of 19,800 rupees ($375), or both. Official statistics pointed to rape as the fastest growing crime, even when compared to murder, robbery, and kidnapping. The NCRB stated that a woman is raped in the country every 30 minutes. The NCRB reported 22,172 cases of rape across the country in 2010. Law enforcement and legal avenues for rape victims were inadequate, overburdened, and unable to address the issue effectively.
Women in conflict situations, such as in Jammu and Kashmir, and vulnerable women, including lower-caste or tribal women, were often victims of rape. For example, human rights activists in Chhattisgarh alleged that on July 6, police in the Maoist-affected Surguja district raped and killed Meena Khalkho, a 16-year-old member of the Uraon tribe. The police claimed that Khalkho was a Maoist killed in an encounter near her village, a claim questioned by her family and several other villagers. A postmortem report revealed sexual assault, and Khalkho’s family alleged that police raped and killed her. The police tried to dismiss the allegation of rape by labeling Khalkho as a “slut and habitual sexual offender.” After severe media criticism and protests by villagers, the Chhattisgarh government ordered two parallel probes by a judicial magistrate and the state’s CID. The probes by the judicial magistrate and the CID continued at year’s end.
On November 26, a 30-year-old call center employee walking home from work allegedly was abducted from the Dhaula Kuan area of Delhi, gang-raped in a moving car, and dumped in a different part of the city. The victim was able to identify two persons, Shamshad and Osman, who were put in judicial custody. At year’s end five persons had been arrested. The victim’s name was not released to the media.
The law provides for protection from all forms of abuse against women in the home, including physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, or economic abuse, as well as threat of abuse; however, domestic abuse remained a serious problem. Lack of law enforcement safeguards and pervasive corruption limited the effectiveness of the law. The law recognizes the right of a woman to reside in a shared household with her spouse or partner while the dispute continues, although a woman can be provided with alternative accommodations at the partner’s expense. The law also provides women with the right to police assistance, legal aid, shelter, and access to medical care.
While the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) has issued guidelines for the establishment of these social services, in practice lack of funding, personnel, and proper training resulted in limited services, primarily available in metropolitan areas.
Domestic violence continued to be a problem, and the National Family Health Survey revealed that more than 50 percent of women reported experiencing some form of violence in their home. The NCRB reported that in 2010 there were 94,041 cases reported of “cruelty by husband and relatives.” The MWCD reported that there were 6,483 protection officers appointed across the country.
On August 2, the Ministry of Home Affairs informed parliament that according to the NHRC, 23,608 complaints of crimes against women were received between April 2007 and March 1, 2011. Of these, 23,254 cases had been resolved and 354 cases were pending for consideration. Delhi accounted for 15.4 percent of total crimes with 3,701 cases.
Crimes against women were common. The NCRB estimated that there were 213,585 crimes against women during 2010, compared with 203,804 in 2009, and noted that underreporting of such crimes was likely. These crimes included kidnapping and abduction, molestation, sexual harassment, physical and mental abuse, and trafficking. The NCRB estimated the conviction rate for crimes against women was 28 percent. Delhi recorded the highest incidence of crime against women with 3,886 cases, followed by Bengaluru, Andhra Pradesh with 1,570.
Harmful Traditional Practices: The law forbids the provision or acceptance of a dowry, but families continued to offer and accept dowries, and dowry disputes remained a serious problem. The law also bans harassment in the form of dowry demands and empowers magistrates to issue protection orders. Deaths associated with the nonpayment of dowries rose in the past several years. According to the NCRB, in 2010 there were 8,391 reported dowry deaths. Delhi had the highest incidence of dowry deaths with 112, followed by 92 deaths in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. However, since many cases were not reported and not properly monitored, statistics were not complete. On August 4, the MWCD told parliament that 5,650 cases of dowry were reported in 2009. The NCRB reported 2,917 criminal cases related to dowries, with a conviction rate of 21 percent.
Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Bihar, and several other states had a chief dowry prevention officer, although it was unclear whether these officers were effective. In 2010 Madhya Pradesh required all state government employees to produce sworn affidavits that no dowry was exchanged, however, at year’s end no updates were available on the implementation of this provision. In November 2010 the Supreme Court made it mandatory for all trial courts across the country to add the charge of murder against persons accused in dowry death cases.
So-called honor killings continued to be a problem, especially in Punjab and Haryana, where as many as 10 percent of all killings were honor killings. In some cases the killings were the result of extrajudicial decisions made by traditional community elders such as “khap panchayats,” unelected village assemblies that have no legal authority. In an April decision, the Supreme Court of India declared the decree or encouragement by khap panchayats to commit honor killings illegal. Statistics for honor killings were difficult to verify, since many such killings were unreported or were passed off as suicide or natural deaths by the family members involved. NGOs estimated that at least 900 such murders occurred every year in Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh alone. On April 20, the Supreme Court directed all states to root out honor killings, warning them to punish officials who fail to act against offenders; on May 11, the court expressed its support for the death penalty in honor-killing convictions. The most common justification for the killings offered by those accused or by their relatives was that the victim married against her family’s wishes.
On May 13, relatives of newlywed bride Gurleen Kaur killed Kaur and her mother-in-law and injured the groom, reportedly because the couple married against the wishes of the bride’s family. Police registered cases against eight persons by year’s end. The incident happened despite the fact that after the marriage the couple was under the protection of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
On September 8, a Delhi court sentenced five people to death, holding them guilty of murder and fining each 20,000 rupees ($380) in a 2008 honor killing case. The bride’s brothers and close family members killed the groom’s brother because the bride and groom were from different religious groups.
Other forms of societal violence targeting women continued to occur. On May 20, 11 persons invaded a house in Raipur District, Chhattisgarh, and assaulted a woman, blinding her with scissors, for witchcraft. Her husband also was blinded when he came to her aid. Authorities arrested 10 suspects. Chhattisgarh passed a Witchcraft (Prevention) Act in 2005 to prevent violence against women accused of being “witches,” but the law had minimal impact in tribal areas.
Sexual Harassment: On August 12, the MWCD reported to parliament that 15,700 complaints of harassment and offenses against women had been registered with the National Commission for Women (NWC) during 2010.
There are no legislative enactments or statutory policies against sexual harassment and abuse at workplaces; all charges of sexual harassment used the guidelines set forth in a 1997 judgment. The guidelines are treated as law declared by the Supreme Court and enforceable. The law does not provide for penalties; it outlines what conduct is considered harassment and makes it incumbent on the employer to include a prohibition of sexual harassment in employees’ rules of conduct and discipline. All state departments and institutions with more than 50 employees are required to have committees to deal with matters of sexual harassment.
According to the NCRB, 11,009 cases of sexual harassment were reported in 2009, the latest year for which figures were released. The NWC reported 15,566 complaints of sexual harassment during the same time period; however, the NWC does not have enforcement authority. According to a joint survey released on February 13 by the UN Development Fund for Women and the NGO Jagori, approximately 66 percent of women in Delhi had been sexually harassed between two and five times in 2010. The survey reported that more than 40 percent of incidents of harassment and molestation occurred in broad daylight, and nearly 45 percent of women believed that “the police will do nothing” if approached. A November 2010 survey of female employees in the information technology and outsourcing industry found that 88 percent of them had faced some form of sexual harassment at work. In two-thirds of the incidents, the perpetrator was a superior.
Sex Tourism: A 2009 nationwide study commissioned by the MWCD and completed by the NGO Gram Niyojan Kendra studied 68 tourist destinations. It found that sex tourism occurred at sightseeing attractions in major cities and also that pilgrimage centers were a growing hub of sex tourism. The report stated that domestic tourists were “overwhelmingly involved” in sex with commercial sex workers and pointed to the lack of legislation at the state level or effective measures to control sex offenders from revisiting sites. In response to the study, the Union Minister for Tourism released a code of conduct for “safe and honorable tourism” in July 2010. In 2011 the Ministry of Tourism released new guidelines for the selection and granting of licenses to regional tour guides.
Reproductive Rights: The government permits health clinics and local health NGOs to operate freely in disseminating information about family planning. There are no restrictions on the right to access contraceptives. Laws favoring families that have no more than two children remained in place in seven states, but authorities seldom enforced them. The laws provide reservations for government jobs and subsidies to those who have no more than two children and reduced subsidies and access to health care for those who have more than two. National health officials noted that the central government did not have authority to regulate state decisions on population issues.
According to the 2011 UN Population Fund State of World Population Report, the maternal mortality ratio was 230 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2008. The major factors influencing the high maternal mortality rate were lack of adequate nutrition, medical care, and sanitary facilities. The World Bank estimated that 75 percent of women received some prenatal care during the year, and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated 47 percent of births were attended by skilled help, 75 percent of women made at least one prenatal visit, and 50 percent made at least four prenatal visits.
The government and NGOs started numerous initiatives to improve women and children’s health, including providing financial incentives for women willing to give birth in a hospital, improving midwife training, and increasing prenatal care via text messages, which provide information on vaccinations, exercise, diet, medication, and how to deal with emergencies that arrive during pregnancy.
The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), which formulates and implements programs for the prevention and control of HIV and AIDS, reported that women accounted for about one million of the estimated 2.5 million citizens with HIV/AIDS. Infection rates for women were highest in urban communities, and care was least available in rural areas. Traditional gender norms, such as early marriage, limited access to information and education, and poor access to health services continued to leave women especially vulnerable to infection. NACO actively worked with NGOs to train women’s HIV/AIDS self-help groups.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination in the workplace; in practice employers paid women less than men for the same job, discriminated against women in employment and credit applications, and promoted women less frequently than men.
In August 2010 the Supreme Court ordered the country’s armed forces to grant permanent commissions to women in noncombat roles. Previously women in the armed forces were granted short-term commissions and then forced to retire after a specified time. On June 16, the air force announced a decision to grant permanent commissions to 22 female officers. Two women still were serving, while 20 had retired after serving for 14 years as short-service commission officers. In April newspapers reported that the army had given permanent commissions to 18 female officers in its Education Corps.
Many tribal land systems, notably in Bihar, denied tribal women the right to own land. Sharia (Islamic law) determines land inheritance for Muslim women, allotting them less than men. Other laws relating to the ownership of assets and land accorded women little control over land use, retention, or sale. Several exceptions existed, such as in Kerala, Ladakh, Meghalaya, and Himachal Pradesh, where women traditionally controlled family property and enjoyed full inheritance rights.
According to the 2011 national census, the national average male-female sex ratio at birth was 109.4 to 100. The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technical Act prohibits prenatal sex selection, but the law was rarely enforced. Numerous NGOs throughout the country and some states have attempted to increase awareness about the problem of prenatal sex selection, promote girl children, and prevent female infanticide and abandonment.