Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, except spousal rape when the woman is over age 15. Punishment ranged from prison terms of two years to life, a fine of 20,418 rupees ($375), or both. Official statistics pointed to rape as the fastest growing crime, even when compared to murder, robbery, and kidnapping. The NCRB reported 24,206 cases of rape across the country in 2011, the latest year for which data was available; rape is considered an underreported crime. Law enforcement and legal avenues for rape victims were inadequate, overtaxed, and unable to address the issue effectively. Law enforcement officers sometimes worked to reconcile rape victims and their attackers, in some cases encouraging female rape victims to marry their attackers. Doctors sometimes further abused rape victims who had come to report the crimes by using the “two finger test” to speculate on their sexual history.
Women in conflict situations, such as in Jammu and Kashmir, and vulnerable women, including lower-caste or tribal women, were often victims of rape or threats of rape. For example, villagers from Sarkeguda in Bijapur District told a civilian enquiry team that CRPF men dragged two women to the fields nearby and tore their clothes and threatened three other women with rape June 28.
On February 9, a woman reported to police that she was gang-raped in a car after leaving a pub in Kolkata’s Park Street neighborhood on February 5. The victim told media that police were reluctant to register her complaint. When media reported the incident, the chief minister (also the home minister) and Kolkata police commissioner went on record alleging that the incident was fabricated to malign the government, even as the investigation was in progress. After Kolkata’s detective chief found evidence of rape and molestation, the detective chief was transferred to another position as punishment.
In July a YouTube video recording the sexual molestation of a teenage girl by a crowd of men in Guwahati, Assam, went viral, sparking widespread debate about gender violence. The local journalist who videotaped the incident was later arrested on charges of instigating the men. The National Commission for Women was criticized publicly for its handling of the case when the name of the victim and an image of her were leaked to the press. In December, 11 of the men charged in the case were convicted, while four were acquitted of charges.
The brutal gang rape and assault of a 23-year-old woman and her companion on a moving bus in New Delhi on December 16 sparked widespread public outrage and mass rallies against the Indian government’s inability to stem the rise in gender-based violence. The victim died of her injuries on December 29. In response to national protests, the government announced two judicial commissions of inquiry, one headed by former chief justice J.S. Verma and the other by former Delhi High Court judge Usha Mehra. At the end of the year, the Verma Commission was working to identify potential areas of legislative reform to address crimes against women, while the Mehra Commission was investigating police handling of the Delhi gang-rape case in order to recommend ways to improve women’s safety in Delhi. Five men and a boy were in custody for allegedly perpetrating the assaults and subsequent death.
The law provides for protection from some forms of abuse against women in the home, including verbal, emotional, and 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 seek alternative accommodations at the partner’s expense. The law also provides women with the right to police assistance, legal aid, shelter, and medical care.
While the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) has guidelines for the establishment of these social services, lack of funding, personnel, and proper training resulted in limited services, primarily available only in metropolitan areas. The MWCD reported that there were only 6,483 protection officers appointed in police forces across the country.
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 2011 there were 99,135 reported cases of “cruelty by husband and relatives,” an increase of 5.4 percent from the previous year. Advocates reported that many women refrained from reporting domestic abuses due to social pressures.
Crimes against women were common. According to the NCRB Crime in India 2011 Statistics, there were 228,650 crimes against women in 2011, a 7 percent increase from 2010. These crimes included kidnapping and abduction, molestation, sexual harassment, physical and mental abuse, and trafficking. The NCRB noted that underreporting of such crimes was likely. The NCRB estimated the conviction rate for crimes against women to be 27 percent. Delhi recorded the highest proportion of crimes against women with 4,489 cases, followed by Bengaluru, Karnataka, with 1,890.
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 2011 there were 8,618 reported dowry deaths, mostly bridal deaths at the hand of in-laws for failure to produce a dowry. Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of dowry deaths with 2,322 cases, followed by 1,413 cases in Bihar. However, since many cases were not reported or monitored, statistics were incomplete. The NCRB reported that 23,280 persons were arrested and 6,503 persons were convicted for dowry death in 2011.
Most states have dowry prohibition officers. However, Mizoram and Nagaland do not since there is traditionally no dowry system in these states, and cases rarely were registered. As of August 21, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim did not have dowry prohibition officers. The Dowry Prohibition Act does not apply to Jammu and Kashmir. In 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 by traditional community elders such as “khap panchayats,” unelected caste-based village assemblies that have no legal authority. Statistics for honor killings were difficult to verify, since many were unreported or passed off as suicide or natural deaths by family members. NGOs estimated that at least 900 such murders occurred every year in Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh alone. 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.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav transferred and demoted the deputy inspector general and a district police chief who appeared to endorse the practice of honor killing in a case involving a missing 14-year-old girl (who was later recovered).
On August 24, Sanjana Raj and her three-year-old daughter were killed in Gulab Bagh, Bihar, allegedly by family members who did not approve of her marriage outside of her caste.
In some areas of the country, women and girls dedicated in symbolic marriages to Hindu deities reportedly were subjected to instances of rape or sexual abuse at the hands of priests and temple patrons--a form of sex trafficking. NGOs suggested that some SC girls were sent to these symbolic marriages, and subsequent service in temples, by their families to mitigate financial burdens and the prospect of marriage dowries. The women and girls were also at heightened risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Some states have laws in place to curb prostitution or sexual abuse of women and girls in temple service. However, enforcement of these laws remained weak and the problem was widespread; observers estimated that there were more than 450,000 women and girls in this system.
Other forms of societal violence targeting women continued to occur in rural areas. In Rajasthan several women were branded as witches and harassed. On August 6, a woman in Keshavnagar, Pali District, Rajasthan, was forced to lie on hot coals and burned with tongs, suffering severe burns, after family members, including her husband, branded her as a “witch.” Police arrested her husband, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment, sometimes euphemistically called “eve teasing,” remained prevalent. According to the NCRB, 8,570 cases of sexual harassment were reported in 2011, a 14 percent decline from 9,961 cases in 2010; however, there were 42,968 cases of molestation, nearly a 6 percent increase from 40,613 cases in 2010. Cases of rape and molestation remained largely unreported due to social pressure.
There are no legislative enactments or statutory policies against sexual harassment and abuse in 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 but do not provide for penalties. Instead, the guidelines outline what conduct is considered harassment and make 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.
Reproductive Rights: The government permitted 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.
Government efforts to reduce the fertility rate were in some cases coercive; in many areas health workers were offered rewards for encouraging sterilization or given targets for quotas of female sterilizations and threatened with pay cuts or dismissal for failing to reach the set number. National health officials noted that the central government did not have authority to regulate state decisions on population issues. Some states also introduced “girl child promotion” schemes, intended to counter gender-biased sex selection, some of which required a certificate of sterilization for the parents in order to collect benefits. In some areas sterilizations were practiced in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. The Human Rights Law Network alleged that more than 50 women in Bihar were sterilized by flashlight while lying on school desks without follow-on medical care; one woman reportedly miscarried as a result of the procedure.
According to the 2012 UN Population Fund State of World Population Report, the maternal mortality ratio was 200 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010. 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 estimated that 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 National AIDS Control Organization, which formulates and implements programs for the prevention and control of HIV and AIDS, reported that women accounted for approximately 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. The National Aids Control Organization actively worked with NGOs to train women’s HIV/AIDS self-help groups.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination in the workplace, but 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.
On March 14, subsequent to a 2010 Supreme Court order to the armed forces to grant permanent commissions to women in noncombat roles, the Delhi High Court directed the air force to give permanent commissions to three women officers. On May 28, Defense Minister AK Anthony directed the army, navy, and air force chiefs to explore more options for granting permanent commissions to female officers in the armed forces.
Many tribal land systems, notably in Bihar, deny tribal women the right to own land. Muslim personal law traditionally determines land inheritance for Muslim women, allotting them less than men. Other laws relating to the ownership of assets and land accord women little control over land use, retention, or sale. Several exceptions existed, such as in Kerala, Ladakh District, and Himachal Pradesh, where women could control family property and had inheritance rights.
Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the 2011 national census, the national average male-female sex ratio at birth was 109.4 to 100. In 2011 there were 914 girls per 1,000 boys under age six, down from 927 girls per 1,000 boys in 2001. The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technical Act prohibits prenatal sex selection, but the law was rarely enforced. Numerous NGOs throughout the country and some states attempted to increase awareness about the problem of prenatal sex selection, promote girl children, and prevent female infanticide and abandonment.