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 ($327), or both. Official statistics pointed to rape as the country’s fastest growing crime, but underreporting also grew less severe. The NCRB reported 33,707 cases of rape nationwide in 2013, the latest year for which data were available, an increase of 35.2 percent compared with 2012. Observers considered rape an underreported crime. Law enforcement and legal recourse for rape victims was inadequate, overtaxed, and unable to address the problem effectively. Police 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 invasive “two-finger test” to speculate on their sexual history. In addition to the outlawing of the “two-finger test,” in March the government formulated new guidelines for treating rape victims, which included mandatory forensic and medical examinations within designated areas in all hospitals for rape survivors.
While the trial of six defendants in a high-profile 2012 Delhi rape case took place quickly, rapes occurring outside of the national capital were not investigated swiftly. Many investigations and legal proceedings relating to earlier rape cases during the year remained pending.
On June 12, police initiated an investigation against four police officers for the alleged gang rape of a woman inside a police station in the Hamirpur district of Uttar Pradesh, when she went to seek the release of her detained husband.
In July police arrested two men for their connection to the rape and hanging of a seven-year-old girl in Rajnagar village, West Bengal. A third man, the prime suspect, was said to have a history of assaulting young girls and was beaten to death by angry villagers.
In April a Mumbai court sentenced three men to death and two others to life imprisonment for two separate gang rapes in July and August 2013. In addition, on July 15, the Mumbai Juvenile Justice Board sentenced two minors to three years in a youth detention center for their participation in the crimes.
Women in conflict areas, such as in Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh, as well as vulnerable women, including Dalit 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 often perpetrated against Dalit women.
The law provides for protection against 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 a dispute continues, although a woman may seek 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.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development promulgated guidelines for the establishment of these social services, but because of the lack of funding, personnel, and proper training, services were primarily available only in metropolitan areas. Police officials, especially in smaller towns, were reluctant to register cases of crimes against women, especially against persons of influence.
On June 16, the Madhya Pradesh government established a crisis center for women in Jai Prakash Hospital with the help of the NGO Action Aid in Bhopal. The center provides victims of rape, dowry harassment, and domestic violence with medical and legal advice, psychological counseling, and advice on police procedures.
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 2013 there were 118,866 reported cases of “cruelty by husband and relatives.” an increase of 11.6 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 2013 NCRB statistics, there were 309,546 crimes against women in 2013, a 26.7 percent increase from 2012. These crimes included kidnapping, rape, dowry deaths, and domestic abuse. The NCRB noted that underreporting of such crimes was likely. The NCRB estimated the conviction rate for crimes against women to be 24 percent. Delhi recorded the highest number of crimes against women with 44,449 cases, followed by Mumbai with 2,946 cases and Bengaluru, Karnataka, with 2,608. Acid attacks against women caused death and permanent disfigurement. On January 13, a family acquaintance killed a 40-year-old woman and mother of three children in an acid attack in Swarupnagar, West Bengal. At year’s end police had not arrested the suspect. Although the government maintained statistics on gender-based violence and general assaults, it did not disaggregate acid attacks.
Acid is used as a household cleaner and is available at local markets. Despite a 2013 Supreme Court order regulating the sale of acid across the country, media reports indicated that acid was easily available. The NGO Stop Acid Attacks reported that at least 200 acid attacks against women had occurred since the Supreme Court order.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No national law addresses the practice of FGM/C. According to human rights groups, the practice of FGM/C was prevalent among the Dawoodi Bohra Muslims, a community located in the western part of the country.
Other 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 2013 there were 8,083 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 2,335 cases, followed by 1,182 cases in Bihar. Since many cases were not reported or monitored, however, statistics were incomplete. The NCRB reported that authorities arrested 24,418 persons for dowry death in 2013.
“Sumangali schemes” affected an estimated 120,000 young women. These plans, named after the Tamil word for “happily married woman,” are a form of bonded labor in which young women or girls work to earn money for a dowry in order to be able to marry. The promised lump-sum compensation, ranging from 50,000 to 70,000 rupees ($800 to $1,120), is withheld until the end of three to five years of employment. Compensation, however, sometimes went partially or entirely unpaid. While in bonded labor, 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 these states do not have a tradition of dowry, and dowry cases were rare. The Dowry Prohibition Act does not apply to Jammu and Kashmir. A 2010 Supreme Court ruling makes it mandatory for all trial courts to add the charge of murder against the accused in dowry-death cases.
On April 12, the Women’s Court in Chennai sentenced K. Velusamy to 10 years of hard labor and gave his mother, K. Iyammal, a three-year prison term for the dowry harassment of P. Shanthi, who committed suicide in 2009 by setting herself on fire. The Chennai police charged the husband and the mother-in-law with causing the woman’s death.
So-called honor killings continued to be a problem, especially in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana. 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 standing. Statistics for honor killings were difficult to verify, since many killings were unreported or reported as suicide or natural deaths by family members. In 2013 NGOs estimated that at least 900 such killings occurred annually in Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh alone. The most common justification for the killings cited by the accused or by their relatives was that the victim married against her family’s wishes. For example, in May a man killed his 22-year-old sister in Pilibhit, Uttar Pradesh, for marrying a man from another community against the wishes of her family.
Other areas of the country also reported honor killings. On August 9, Bayya Lingamalu in Nalgonda, Telangana, allegedly killed his 19-year-old daughter because she married against his wishes and outside their caste.
Caste-based honor killings, particularly among Dalits and Other Backward Classes, increased in southern parts of Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Nadu Police arrested four suspects in a March honor killing. According to police a girl from the Thevar caste in Ramanathapuram married a man from a lower Dalit caste in March 2013 without the permission of her family. In March 2014 she was killed while visiting her parents and buried near the family residence. After her husband filed a petition, her mother confessed to her murder.
There were reports of village councils ordering the rapes of women to resolve local disputes in West Bengal and Jharkhand. The Kolkata High Court expressed concerns over the increasing prevalence of village councils using rape and violence against women for revenge. In July, Jharkhand village council leader Ghosal Pasi ordered the rape of a 13-year-old girl while spectators from the village watched as punishment for her brother’s alleged sexual harassment of a woman. The police arrested Ghosal Pasi and the man who raped the girl, Nakabandi Pasi, and sent them to judicial custody.
There were reports that women and girls in symbolic marriages to Hindu deities were victims 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 by their families 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. Some observers estimated that more than 450,000 women and girls were engaged in temple-related sex work.
There was an increase in reports of attacks on women accused of practicing witchcraft. On June 5, Dulari Bai’s in-laws allegedly beat the 52-year-old woman to death, suspecting her of practicing witchcraft after her niece fell sick in Uparwara village, Chhattisgarh. Police arrested her four relatives and charged them under the 2005 Chhattisgarh Witchcraft (Prevention) Act.
Discrimination against widows occurred throughout the country but was more prevalent in the states of West Bengal and Bihar. According to some cultural traditions, a widow is a bad omen and is often outcast by her own family. Many widows end up destitute and are forced to resort to begging.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment, sometimes euphemistically called "eve teasing," remained prevalent. According to the NCRB, 12,589 cases of sexual harassment were reported in 2013, a 37 percent increase from 9,173 cases in 2012. There were 70,739 cases of molestation in 2013, a 56 percent increase from 45,351 cases in 2012. Cases of rape and molestation remained largely unreported due to social pressure.
All state departments and institutions with more than 50 employees are required to have committees to prevent and address sexual harassment. By law sexual harassment includes one or more unwelcome acts or behavior, such as physical contact, a request for sexual favors, making sexually suggestive remarks, or showing pornography. Employers who fail to constitute internal complaint committees face fines of up to 50,000 rupees ($800). The law also includes penalties for false or malicious charges.
On August 28, a group of students allegedly assaulted a female student and her boyfriend at Jadavpur University in Kolkata. The assailants allegedly attacked the boy and dragged the girl inside the boys’ dormitory, locking her up in a room full of inebriated students who sexually harassed her. After several attempts, both victims met the vice chancellor, who told the female student not to come to classes and that it would take at least 15 days to form a university committee to investigate the incident during the 15-day university committee investigation. On September 3, the victim filed a complaint with police but was told they could not investigate the matter without the vice chancellor’s approval. On September 16, the two victims and other students protested outside the vice chancellor’s office, demanding inclusion of a human rights activist and a retired judge on the inquiry committee. The vice chancellor called the police, who assaulted students protesting and “rescued” the vice chancellor. The police injured 60 students and arrested 30, who were later released.
Reproductive Rights: The government permitted health clinics and local NGOs to operate freely in disseminating information about family planning. Nonetheless, the country continued to have unmet needs for contraception, deaths related to unsafe abortion, maternal mortality, and coercive family planning practices, including coerced or unethical sterilization and policies restricting access to entitlements for women with more than two children. Policies and guideline initiatives penalizing families with more than two children remained in place in seven states, but some authorities did not enforce them. The policy and guideline initiatives 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 occasionally coercive. Health workers and facilities in some areas were paid a fixed amount for each procedure performed and reviewed against quotas for female sterilizations. In some states health workers were threatened with pay cuts or dismissal for failing to meet quotas. Health workers received a payment of approximately 250 rupees ($4) for each sterilization patient they delivered to a facility. Women in high-fertility states received 600 rupees ($9.60) as compensation for undergoing sterilization. Women in low-fertility states received 250 rupees ($4), unless they were from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes or were below the poverty line, in which case they received 600 rupees ($9.60) to be sterilized. 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. Some doctors reportedly withheld health services unless a woman agreed to be sterilized.
Although national health officials noted the central government did not have the authority to regulate state decisions on population issues, the central government creates all guidelines and funds state level programs for contraceptive information and services. A 2005 Supreme Court decision deemed the national government responsible for ensuring quality care for sterilization services at the state level. Almost all states also introduced “girl child promotion” schemes, intended to counter sex selection, some of which required a certificate of sterilization for the parents in order to collect benefits. Administrative hurdles and high demands for documentation made these schemes inaccessible to many marginalized families.
In some areas sterilizations were conducted in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. The number of reported failed sterilization operations for women increased from 456 in 2012 to 15,460 in 2013. Health facilities conducted “sterilization camps” in which a single doctor operated on dozens of women, often without adequate hygiene, counseling, presurgical lab tests, and postoperative recovery. According to statistics from the Directorate of Family Welfare, even in Tamil Nadu, a state with relatively strong health indicators, the mortality rate for sterilizations was one for every 1,000. State health department sources attributed sterilization-related deaths to poor pre- and postoperative care and complications due to anesthesia.
There were no formal restrictions on the right to access contraceptives, but the government sometimes promoted permanent female sterilization to the exclusion of alternate forms of contraception. Repeated studies by the government and NGOs showed most women had no knowledge of the nonpermanent forms of contraceptives offered through the public health system, such as birth control pills, intrauterine devices, and condoms. The highest unmet need for contraceptives was among women with one child who wanted to delay a second pregnancy. Reports from NGOs showed that pharmacists across the country, especially in Maharashtra, limited women’s access to legal over-the-counter emergency contraceptive pills and to legal medical termination prescription drugs.
In November, 16 women died after undergoing laparoscopic tubectomy surgery (a permanent family planning method where fallopian tubes are surgically tied) in Chhattisgarh. NGO reports cited death from infection stemming from multiple problems, including contaminated medicines, improperly sterilized equipment and facilities, and blood loss. The victims were among 83 women who participated in a sterilization campaign implemented by the state government in the Bilaspur district. Twenty-five women were reported to be in critical condition after the procedure. A government surgeon and one assistant conducted the surgeries in a five-hour period on November 8 with a single surgical instrument in an abandoned campus of a private charitable hospital. The state government family planning initiative promoted sterilizations through compensation campaigns in which women were paid 1,400 rupees ($22.40) to undergo the procedure, doctors were paid 150 rupees ($2.40) per surgery, and the health worker referring the case was paid 200 rupees ($3.20). The women who participated in the sterilization campaign were all indigenous, tribal, and Dalit peoples. The Chhattisgarh state government paid compensation to the victims’ families and suspended senior health officials. The Chhattisgarh High Court asked the state government to submit a detailed report on the deaths within 10 days. The state government did not submit a report by year’s end.
Unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, inadequate spacing between pregnancies, and reduced autonomy over one’s own body all contributed to maternal mortality. Although abortion is legal and regulated to ensure safety, at least 8 percent of all maternal deaths were attributable to unsafe abortions. According to the law, contraceptive information and services must be available, accessible, acceptable, and of reliable quality. While official policy promotes the right of a woman to access contraceptive information and services, the unmet need for contraception remained high. Family Health International reported that 13 percent of married women between the ages of 15 and 49 did not wish to have additional children or wished to space births but could not access contraception.
Some women were pressured to have hysterectomies because of the payment structures for health-care workers and insurance payments for private facilities. This pressure disproportionately affected poor and lower-caste women. In one village, news reports claimed that 90 percent of women had undergone hysterectomies, including many of those well below the age of likely medical necessity.
Although the government achieved a significant increase in institutional births, there were reports that health facilities continued to be overburdened, underequipped, and undersupplied, in addition to substandard regard for hygiene and patient dignity. Most maternal deaths resulted from inadequate access to quality services, facilities, emergency care, and staff.
In community health centers, 69.7 percent of gynecologist positions remained unfilled, according to a 2012 report by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on rural health statistics. Only 13 percent of the centers had the requisite number of specialists. Poor health infrastructure disproportionately affected marginalized women, including homeless women, tribal women, women working on tea estates or in the informal labor sector, Dalit women, and women with disabilities.
The 2010-12 Sample Registration Report of the Registrar-General, released in December 2013, showed that during three years the maternal mortality rate declined 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. Maternal mortality rates were difficult to calculate in many northeast states, which suffered from inadequate infrastructure and insufficiently trained medical staff.
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.
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 governs 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 may control family property and have inheritance rights.
Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the latest census (2011), the national average male-female sex ratio at birth was 1,000 to 940. The state of Kerala had the highest male-female sex ratio at birth at 1,000 to 1,084 and the state of Haryana the lowest, at 1,000 to 877. A 2002 law prohibits prenatal sex selection, but it was rarely enforced. Even when state governments obtained convictions, doctors did not always lose their professional license, although the Medical Council canceled the license to practice medicine of six doctors from Maharashtra convicted under the law.
Numerous NGOs throughout the country and some states attempted to increase awareness of the problem of prenatal sex selection, promote female births, and prevent female infanticide and abandonment. From April 2013 to March 2014, the Tamil Nadu government distributed fixed deposits of 47,226 rupees ($755) to underprivileged female children under the state government’s Girl Child Protection Scheme.
On June 11, a Mumbai court sentenced Anilkumar Kanojia to life imprisonment for killing his wife because she failed to give birth to a son; he strangled her for giving birth to two daughters.