Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, except spousal rape when the woman is over age 15. Punishment ranges from prison terms of two years to life, a fine of 20,418 rupees ($333), or both. Official statistics pointed to rape as the country’s fastest growing crime. The NCRB reported 24,923 cases of rape nationwide in 2012, the latest year for which data were available. Observers considered rape an underreported crime. Law enforcement and legal avenues for rape victims were inadequate, overtaxed, and unable to address the problem 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 reported the crimes by using the “two-finger test” to speculate on their sexual history. The Supreme Court ruled in May that this practice violated the rape victim’s right to privacy and asked the government to provide better alternatives.
The Verma Commission, created following the December 2012 gang rape and killing of a 23-year-old woman and assault on her companion on a moving bus in New Delhi, identified areas of legislative reform to address crimes against women, some of which subsequently became law. The Criminal Law Amendment bill, passed in February, revised the penal code to introduce more stringent punishments for rape and other gender-based violence. Of the six persons accused in the December 2012 case, a court convicted four men and sentenced them to death, and convicted one juvenile and sentenced him to three years in custody. A fifth adult allegedly committed suicide in police custody before trial.
While authorities tried the six accused in the December 2012 Delhi rape case quickly, rapes outside of the national capital were not dealt with as swiftly. There remained concern that little progress was made for women since the Delhi rape case. Many investigations and legal proceedings relating to earlier rape cases during the year remained pending.
On June 7, a college student was raped and killed in Barasat, West Bengal. The state government faced widespread criticism after first offering the student’s family compensation and jobs, in an implied exchange for refraining from publicizing the crime. The family members refused, saying that all they wanted was punishment for the guilty. Police subsequently arrested eight men but were criticized for filing an incomplete charge sheet.
A 22-year-old photojournalist was gang raped in Mumbai on August 22 while she was on an assignment to take photos of an abandoned textile factory. Five assailants tied her colleague’s hands with a belt while she was gang raped. Police arrested all five alleged assailants. The Mumbai police stated that the men had previously committed at least five rapes at the same abandoned factory.
On October 26, the 16-year-old daughter of a taxi driver from Bihar was gang-raped in Madhyamgram, near Kolkata. She was gang-raped again on her way home after submitting a complaint at the local police station. In early November the girl received repeated threats from the accused to withdraw the police complaint, which led her family to move from their home to the Dum Dum area. The victim’s family alleged that on December 23, a close friend of one of the arrested culprits threatened severe consequences if she did not withdraw her complaint. Later the same day, her home was set on fire, and she died on December 31 as a result of the burns she sustained. Before dying she named the two men who set her house on fire to police. Authorities arrested the accused in both cases of rape and alleged murder, and the results of investigations were pending at year’s end.
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. National crime statistics indicated that, compared with other caste affiliations, rape was most highly reported among Dalit women.
The law provides for protection from some forms of abuse against women in the home, including verbal, emotional, and economic abuse, as well as the threat of abuse. 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 may seek alternative accommodations at the partner’s expense. Although the law also provides women with the right to police assistance, legal aid, shelter, and medical care, domestic abuse remained a serious problem. Lack of law enforcement safeguards and pervasive corruption limited the effectiveness of the law.
While the Ministry of Women and Child Development 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 ministry reported that there were 6,483 protection officers appointed in police forces across the country. Police officials, especially in smaller towns, were reluctant to register cases of crimes against women, especially if the cases were against influential persons. For example, authorities did not immediately take Bapu Asaram, a high-profile Hindu leader, into custody, despite the fact that a minor made formal allegations of sexual assault against him.
State governments took action to prevent violence against women. For example, in December 2012 West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that her government would create 65 all-female police stations across the state to help tackle crimes against women. Ten of these stations were operational by year’s end. On January 2, the West Bengal state cabinet met to identify steps to provide for swifter justice in cases of violence against women and decided to set up 88 permanent “fast-track” courts focused on timely hearings. No information was available as to how many of these courts existed by year’s end.
In January the chief justice of the Kolkata High Court inaugurated the country’s first women’s court (where female judges and staff deal exclusively with crimes against women) in Malda, West Bengal, a district with the highest reported rate of crimes against women in the state.
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 2012 there were 106,527 reported cases of “cruelty by husband and relatives,” an increase of more than 7.4 percent from the previous year. Advocates reported that many women refrained from reporting domestic abuses due to social pressures.
Available data from the NCRB showed that Tamil Nadu had the highest level in the country of cases of domestic violence: it registered 3,838 in 2012. According to NGOs the empowerment of women and better reporting resulted in higher numbers of domestic violence cases in Tamil Nadu.
Crimes against women were common. According to the NCRB Crime in India 2012 Statistics, there were 244,270 crimes against women in 2012, a 6.8 percent increase from 2011. These crimes included kidnapping, 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 26 percent. Delhi recorded the highest number of crimes against women with 5,194 cases, followed by Bengaluru, Karnataka, with 2,263.
Acid attacks against women caused death and permanent disfigurement. For example, on July 21, a 28-year-old woman died, and three others sustained injuries, following an acid attack by a former romantic interest in Morena District, Madhya Pradesh. Although the government maintained statistics on gender-based violence and general assaults, it did not disaggregate acid attacks.
Acid was commonly used as a household cleaner and was widely available at local markets. The Supreme Court issued an order on July 18 to regulate the sale of acid across the country. The government issued guidelines in August aimed at preventing attacks and also moved to oblige states to implement guidelines requiring dilution and licensing of acid sold in retail shops. Those who purchase acid are required to show identification and proof of residence. The guidelines also direct states to pay 300,000 rupees ($4,880) to victims of acid attacks and treat victims free of cost at government hospitals. Individuals convicted of acid attacks face a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison. The new regulations were not fully implemented in all states by year’s end and were inconsistently enforced where implemented.
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. According to the NCRB, in 2012 there were 8,233 reported dowry deaths, mostly bridal deaths at the hands of in-laws for failure to produce a dowry. Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of dowry deaths with 2,244 cases, followed by 1,275 cases in Bihar. Since many cases were not reported or monitored, however, statistics were incomplete. The NCRB reported that authorities arrested 33,240 persons and convicted 4,296 persons for dowry death in 2012. According to the NCRB dowry deaths doubled in Kerala from 15 dowry deaths reported in 2011 to 32 deaths in 2012.
“Sumangali schemes” affected an estimated 120,000 young women. These plans, named after the Tamil word for “happily married woman,” were a form of societal abuse and bonded labor in which young women or girls worked to earn money for a dowry, without which they would not be able to marry. The promised lump-sum compensation, ranging from 30,000 to 56,000 rupees ($488 to $910), was withheld until the end of three to five years of employment, although such compensation sometimes went partially or entirely unpaid at the end of that term. During their years of bonded labor, the women were subjected to serious workplace abuses, severe restrictions on freedom of movement and communication, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, and death. The majority of sumangali-bonded laborers came from the SCs, and of those, Dalits, the lowest-ranking Arunthathiyars, were subjected to additional abuse. Trade unions were not allowed in sumangali factories, and most sumangali workers did not report abuses due to fear of retribution.
Most states have dowry prohibition officers, but Mizoram and Nagaland do not, since there is traditionally no dowry system in these states, and cases rarely were registered. The Dowry Prohibition Act does not apply to Jammu and Kashmir. In 2010 the Supreme Court made it mandatory for all trial courts nationwide 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, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana, where as many as 10 percent of all killings were honor killings. These states also had low female birth ratios due to gender-selective abortions. In some cases the killings resulted from 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 killings were unreported or passed off as suicide or natural deaths by family members. NGOs estimated that at least 900 such killings occurred annually 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. For example, in January the parents of a 21-year-old woman in Sangrur District, Punjab, killed their daughter because she intended to marry a man of her choice.
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 sex work in temples, by their families to mitigate household 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 to curb prostitution or sexual abuse of women and girls in temple service. Enforcement of these laws remained weak, and the problem was widespread. Observers estimated more than 450,000 women and girls were in this system.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): According to human rights groups, the practice of female genital cutting was prevalent among the Dawoodi Bohra Muslims, a community located throughout the western part of the country. A short documentary film, A Pinch of Skin, on this practice debuted in the country.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment, sometimes euphemistically called “eve teasing,” remained prevalent. According to the NCRB, 9,173 cases of sexual harassment were reported in 2012, a 7 percent increase from 8,570 cases in 2011. There were 45,351 cases of molestation in 2012, nearly a 6 percent increase from 42,968 cases in 2011. Cases of rape and molestation remained largely unreported due to social pressure.
In February parliament passed the Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act which is based on guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in 1997 to prevent harassment of women in workplaces. The law applies to domestic workers and agricultural labor in both the formal and informal sectors. All state departments and institutions with more than 50 employees are required to have committees to deal with matters of sexual harassment. By law sexual harassment includes one or more unwelcome acts or behavior, such as physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favors, making sexually colored remarks, or showing pornography. Punishment is a fine of up to 50,000 rupees ($813). The law also includes provisions for safeguarding against false or malicious charges.
Reproductive Rights: The government permitted health clinics and local health NGOs to operate freely in disseminating information about family planning. There were no restrictions on the right to access contraceptives. Laws penalizing families with 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. Some reports described a “sterilization season,” in which health-care workers pressed to reach quotas for sterilizations before the end of the fiscal year on March 31. National health officials noted that the central government did not have the authority to regulate state decisions on population issues. Some states also introduced “girl child promotion” schemes, intended to counter gender-based 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.
Some women were pressured into having hysterectomies because of financial incentive structures for health-care workers, and others reported being paid approximately 615 rupees ($10), which could equal one week’s wages, to undergo sterilization. This pressure often affected poor and lower-caste women disproportionately. In one village, news reports indicated that 90 percent of women had hysterectomies, including many of those well below the age of likely medical necessity.
There were reports of more than 7,000 unwarranted hysterectomies conducted on illiterate tribal women, largely by doctors in 169 hospitals in Chhattisgarh. Reports alleged that doctors who recommended the procedures sought to make money by charging the maximum fees allowable for the procedure under the government insurance scheme for underprivileged families. In April the NHRC sought a detailed report on this matter from the Chhattisgarh government covering a period of 30 months. Most of the women belonged to poor families or indigenous tribes. As a result the Chhattisgarh government suspended the licenses of nine doctors. Following a PIL filed by the HRLN in March, the Supreme Court issued petitions to the state governments of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Bihar, where such hysterectomies took place. The petitions sought state monitoring, inspection, and accountability mechanisms for the private health-care industry and suspension of the doctors’ licenses, in addition to initiation of criminal proceedings against doctors who engaged in fraudulent health-care practices.
According to the most recent data from the 2012 United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) 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. According to the UNFPA report, the major indicators for maternal mortality were poverty and inadequate access to medical facilities during pregnancy and at birth. The World Bank estimated that 75 percent of women received some prenatal care during the year, and the World Health Organization estimated that skilled help attended 47 percent of births, 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 in its 2011-12 annual report that women accounted for nearly one million of the estimated 2.39 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 worked actively with NGOs to train women’s HIV/AIDS self-help groups.
NGOs reported that early marriage (under age 18) and early pregnancy remained common in West Bengal. Approximately 57 percent of women had home delivery births, according to NGOS, and prenatal and postnatal care were low in hard-to-reach rural areas. NGOs also reported a lack of prenatal education in remote areas.
Maternal mortality rates were highest in Madhya Pradesh, closely followed by Chhattisgarh. In comparison Maharashtra had better maternal survival rates. A common cause of maternal mortality was poor access to modern health facilities where women could safely deliver children. Madhya Pradesh also lacked doctors, especially gynecologists in public-health centers. Chhattisgarh started special ambulance services with a toll-free number to increase institutional deliveries.
The 2010-12 Sample Registration Report of the Registrar-General of India, released in December, showed that during three years the maternal mortality rate declined 16 percent from 212 to 178 per 100,000 births. Assam’s maternal mortality rate was the highest in the country at 328, followed by Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand at 292. The southern states of Kerala at 66 and Tamil Nadu at 90 had the lowest rates, and both met the Millennium Development Goal of 103 deaths per 100,000 live births. The main reasons for maternal mortality included women giving birth at an older age, giving birth at an early age, immediately conceiving after giving birth, and giving birth to many children.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination in the workplace and requires equal pay for equal work, 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.
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-based 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 Prenatal Diagnostic Technical Act prohibits prenatal sex selection, but it was rarely enforced. Numerous NGOs throughout the country and some states attempted to increase awareness about the problem of prenatal sex selection, promote female children, and prevent female infanticide and abandonment.
Andhra Pradesh, through the Bangaru Thalli Girl Child Promotion and Empowerment Act (2013), mandates that economically disadvantaged families with female children be given money at different intervals from birth until the time the girl reaches age 21. The government of Odisha introduced a similar program, the “Odisha Girls Incentive Program,” to support Dalit and tribal girls through annual scholarships for education. Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh had incentive schemes as well as Save the Girl Child campaigns in varying formats.
In April the Tamil Nadu government increased fixed deposits from 22,000 rupees ($359) to 50,000 rupees ($816) for underprivileged female children under the state government’s Girl Child Protection Scheme. The program began in 1992 to eradicate female infanticide/feticide.