International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls: Focus on India
Irene Asia Scomparin – South Asian Countries Researcher, Global Human Rights Defence
November 25, 2022 marks the designated date for the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls. This day was set as an annual celebration of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women that occurred in 1993, but it also stands as a constant reminder for the numerous cases of violence. In fact, it represents a possibility for governments, international organisations, and the civil society to join together to combat and prevent any instance of violence against women and girls, and to participate together to the activities organised every year on this date to raise public awareness on this issue (GOV India).
Eradication of Violence is the final goal
As reminded by the United Nations for this year’s International Day, Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in the world to this day (UN Website). The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defines VAWG as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life” (UN Website). Regardless of the high rates of diffusion of violence perpetrated against women in the world, it still remains a largely unreported phenomenon, due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it.
The 2022 UN campaign is ‘UNiTE! Activism to End Violence against Women & Girls’: its aim is to gather together with the end goal of becoming activists for the prevention of VAWG to create a world free from violence. The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women will mark the launch of the UNiTE! campaign that will last for a total of 16 days, from November 25 to December 10, the day that commemorates the International Human Rights Day.
India’s pledge to end VAWG
“A distortion has crept in our conduct and we at times insult women. Can we take a pledge to get rid of this from our behaviour and values? It is important that in speech and conduct we do nothing that lowers the dignity of women” - Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Ministry of Women and Child Development).
As underlined in this year’s press publication for International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Central Government of India is committed to eliminating any form of VAWG through policies, schemes and programmes. The national Constitution is the primary document granting women equality and seeking for the empowering measures to end violence, discrimination and to ease the cumulative barriers of socio-economic, educational and political disadvantages faced by them (Ministry of Women and Child Development). To ensure the respect of the constitutional provisions, the State has enacted various legislative measures. The crimes which are directed specifically against women are characterised as ‘Crimes Against Women’, and can be identified under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or under the Special laws (Ministry of Women and Child Development). To counteract the practices of VAWG in practical terms, the Government of India set up a statutory body called the National Commission for Women (NCW), with a specific mandate to study and monitor all matters relating to the Constitutional and legal safeguards provided to women (Ministry of Women and Child Development). Moreover, a series of schemes and programmes have been put into place to be able to receive victims of VAWG and to help them in their recovery and legal processes.
With the 2022 International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, the Government is launching the ‘Nai Chetna’ program: a month-long campaign aimed at encouraging women in rural areas to speak out against gender violence, and providing them with grievance and legal redressal (Times of India). The campaign is based on three pillars: awareness, outreach and redressal. Rural Development Ministry Secretary Nagendra Nath Sinha said the scheme will seek to sensitise women in villages to “not accept gender-based violence as normal” and to help them be able to identify violence and eventually to seek support (PGurus). The campaign will be launched by Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh at an even on November 25 to mark the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls. According to the ministry, the 5-years goal of the scheme is to ensure a common understanding and recognition of gender disadvantage, discrimination and violence on all levels of the community (PGurus).
However, there are still a lot of instances where the commitment of the Indian Government to protect women against gender-based violence and crimes is not actually fulfilled. In fact, the 2021 report published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) registered a significant increase in the crimes against women and girls (around 40%) but a low rate of chargesheet. An example of VAWG and its related impunity is the 2002 Bilkis Bano case, where the original sentence was recently changed and all the 11 people convicted for a crime of gang-rape have been granted freedom (Frontline). The majority of these assaults are still occurring within the domestic and family circle (with 31.8% of registered crimes being categorised as cruelty by husband or relatives), as it occurred for the Shaddha Walkar case.
Much remains to be improved both on a national and international scale, with violence against women and girls representing a constant obstacle to the achievement of gender equality, development and peace, and “the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - to leave no one behind - cannot be fulfilled without putting an end to violence against women and girls” (UN Website).
Ghildiyal, Subodh (November 25, 2022). Campaign in rural areas to encourage women to speak up against gender violence to be launched. Times of India. Retrieved from: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/campaign-in-rural-areas-to-encourage-women-to-speak-up-against-gender-violence-to-be-launched/articleshow/95753212.cms.
Goyal, Shikha (November 24, 2022). International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2022: Date, Theme, History, Significance, and Key Facts. Jagran Josh. Retrieved from: https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/international-day-for-the-elimination-of-violence-against-women-1606221896-1.
IASbaba (August 31, 2022). National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) Report. IASbaba. Retrieved from: https://iasbaba.com/2022/08/national-crime-records-bureau-ncrb-report/.
Katakam, Anupama ( November 11, 2022). All 11 persons convicted of rape in 2002 Bilkis Bano case released. Frontline. Retrieved from: https://frontline.thehindu.com/news/all-11-persons-convicted-of-rape-in-the-2002-bilkis-bano-rape-case-released/article65774788.ece.
Ministry of Women and Child Development (November 24, 2022). International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (November 25) Government of India committed to eliminate any form of violence against women. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. Retrieved from: https://static.pib.gov.in/WriteReadData/specificdocs/documents/2022/nov/doc20221124135201.pdf.
PGurus Newsdesk (November 25, 2022). Nai Chetna Centre to Launch Month-long Nationwide Campaign Against Gender-based Violence. PGurus. Retrieved from: https://www.pgurus.com/nai-chetna-centre-to-launch-month-long-nationwide-campaign-against-gender-based-violence/.
United Nations. UNiTE! Activism to End Violence against Women & Girls!. United Nations. Retrieved from: https://www.un.org/en/observances/ending-violence-against-women-day.