Call for greater investment in prevention of VAW


An editorial in the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation, calling for greater recognition of violence against women as a urgent public health issue, on par with several other more ‘accepted’ health care concerns. The editorial also calls for more investment in prevention strategies, as well as services that respond to women who’ve experienced violence.

Working with the health sector is an important aspect of Prajnya’s work, and this year, we hope to expand our outreach to work with both public and private sector hospitals as well as educational institutions.

Violence against women: an urgent public health priority

Claudia Garcia-Moreno a & Charlotte Watts b

a. Department of Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization, 20 avenue Appia, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland.
b. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, England.

Correspondence to Claudia Garcia-Moreno (e-mail:

Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2011;89:2-2. doi: 10.2471/BLT.10.085217

Violence against women has been described as “perhaps the most shameful human rights violation, and the most pervasive.”1 Addressing violence against women is central to the achievement of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 3 on women’s empowerment and gender equality, as well as MDGs 4, 5 and 6.2 It is also a peace and security issue. In spite of this recognition, investment in prevention and in services for survivors remains woefully inadequate.

Research on violence against women – especially male partner violence – has increased. Since 2005, when the first results of the World Health Organization (WHO) Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence3 were launched, the number of intimate partner violence prevalence studies increased fourfold, from 80 to more than 300, in 2008. We now have population-based prevalence data on intimate partner violence from more than 90 countries, although there are still some regions – such as the Middle East and west Africa – where there is relatively limited data. Similarly, there is also a growing body of evidence about the range of negative health and development consequences of this violence.

Women suffer violent deaths either directly – through homicide – or indirectly, through suicide, maternal causes and AIDS. Violence is also an important cause of morbidity from multiple mental, physical, sexual and reproductive health outcomes, and it is also linked with known risk factors for poor health, such as alcohol and drug use, smoking and unsafe sex.4,5 Violence during pregnancy has also been associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, premature delivery and low birth weight.6,7

When the cumulative impacts on mortality and morbidity are assessed, the health burden is often higher than for other, more commonly accepted, public health priorities. In Mexico City, for example, rape and intimate partner violence against women was estimated to be the third most important cause of morbidity and mortality, accounting for 5.6% of all disability-adjusted life years lost.8 In Victoria, Australia, partner violence accounted for 7.9% of the overall disease burden among women of reproductive age and was a larger risk to health than factors such as raised blood pressure, tobacco use and increased body weight.9

In addition to the human costs, research also shows that violence has huge economic costs, including the direct costs to health, legal, police and other services. In 2002, Health Canada estimated that the direct medical costs of all forms of violence against women was 1.1 billion Canadian dollars.10 In low-resource settings, relatively few women may seek help from formal services, but because of the high prevalence of violence, the overall costs are substantial. In Uganda, for example, the cost of domestic violence was estimated at 2.5 million United States dollars in 2007.11

The broader social costs are profound but difficult to quantify.12 Violence against women is likely to constrain poverty reduction efforts by reducing women’s participation in productive employment. Violence also undermines efforts to improve women’s access to education, with violence and the fear of violence contributing to lower school enrolment for girls. Domestic violence has also been shown to affect the welfare and education of children in the family.

This growing understanding of the impact of violence needs to be translated into investment in primary, secondary and tertiary level prevention: including both services that respond to the needs of women living with or who have experienced violence and interventions to prevent violence. WHO has recently published Preventing intimate partner and sexual violence against women: taking action and generating evidence.13 This publication summarizes the existing evidence on strategies for primary prevention, identifying those that have been shown to be effective and those that seem promising or theoretically feasible. The review highlights the urgent need for more evidence on effective prevention interventions and for integrating sound evaluation into new initiatives, both to monitor and improve their impact and to expand the global evidence base in this area. It recognizes how infant and early childhood experiences influence the likelihood of people later becoming perpetrators or victims of intimate partner and sexual violence, as well as the need for early childhood interventions, especially for children growing up in families where there is abuse. It also recognizes the importance of strategies to empower women, financially and personally, and of challenging social norms that perpetuate this violence. Laws and policies that promote and protect the human rights of women are also necessary, if not sufficient, to address violence against women. In addition, health and other services need to be available and responsive to the needs of women suffering abuse. Concerted action is needed in all of these areas, but there is limited research on the most effective approaches.

To help address this gap, the Bulletin would like to invite submissions of papers describing research that addresses violence against women. We are particularly interested in research with a strong intervention focus, including ways to get violence against women onto different policy agendas and lessons about how to address some of the challenges policy-makers face; innovative approaches to prevention or to service provision, including community-based programmes in both conflict- and crises-affected and more stable settings; research to address more neglected forms of violence against women, and evidence on the costs and cost-effectiveness of intervention responses. Descriptive research that contributes to a better understanding of the global prevalence and costs of violence, or that provides evidence about the root causes of such violence will also be considered. Submissions can be made throughout 2011 at:


Marital rape and the law


A rare editorial on gender violence, from today’s Indian Express.

An offence, of course

It is a cry that is often muffled within the walls of a home, and one that cannot find justice easily even when it reaches the hallowed halls of our courts. For marital rape is still not spelt out as an offence in India. Which is why, when the government conveyed to the Supreme Court the necessity to treat forced sex between husband and wife as rape and amend laws accordingly — the proposal was made a couple of years ago by the Law Commission — the sense of urgency with which we have to respond to violence against women calls for reiteration.

Section 375 of the IPC archaically qualifies sexual intercourse between husband and wife as rape only if the wife is less than 15 years old.

Women have to take recourse to 498-A of the IPC to protect themselves against “perverse sexual conduct by the husband”, or to the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. A serious debate on marital rape, combined with a willingness to change laws, began again last year, when the department of legal affairs drafted the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, based on recommendations of the women and child development ministry and the National Commission for Women. The intention was to amend various sections of the IPC, the Criminal Procedure Code, and the Indian Evidence Act to recognise new categories of sexual assault. We can no longer afford to dither on this. We need to debate this as well, without treating marital rape as taboo or resorting to euphemisms, but looking at it as a social, criminal problem.


In the news: Honour killings in South India


In keeping with the spate of news stories and comment pieces on honour killings, The New Indian Express carried a series  on honour killings in the South.

Gokul Vannan, Caste shadows on love and The Story of Madurai Veeran

P Hareesh, Honour in murders motivated by greed exists

In the news: stricter laws against honour killings?


Stricter law against honour killings coming: Moily

Union Minister for Law and Justice M Veerappa Moily says the Centre is coming up with a stricter provision in the law to stop honour killings

Alarmed by the steep rise in suspected honour killings, the central government has decided to bring in a Bill providing for prosecution of the entire khap panchayat for ordering violent punishment for young couples marrying against their diktats.

The central government will soon come out with a law against honour killings, and a draft has already been prepared, Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily said on June 27, 2010.

“Several incidents of honour killing have been reported recently, which stunned the people. And I am also concerned and worried about the rise in such incidents,” said Moily after attending a regional meeting with chief justices of the Calcutta, Patna, Orissa and Jharkhand high courts and the law ministers of the four states.

According to Moily, under the new law members of khap panchayats who order the killing of couples who dare to go against the dictates of these panchayats will be treated as accomplices in the crime. Such cases will be tried by fast-track courts to provide speedy justice to the victims.

The Supreme Court too has taken serious note of the so-called honour killings and has sought the response of the central government and eight states including Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. It has directed the authorities to explain measures being taken to prevent such terrible crimes.

Source: The Hindustan Times, June 28, 2010
The Indian Express, June 28, 2010

In the news: 8 wedding pheras, not 7, to end gender discrimination


From InfoChange India, originally posted from Central Chronicle and Asian Age

8 wedding pheras, not 7, to end gender discrimination

Saat pheras (seven rounds of the holy fire) at Hindu weddings are passé. It is now time for eight pheras; the extra one is for not indulging in gender discrimination and female foeticide

Priests belonging to Gayatri Parivar, a spiritual movement centred in Jaipur and spread across the world, will now make couples take an additional eighth phera at the time of marriage, promising not to indulge in gender discrimination and female foeticide.

Manoj Sengar, a Gayatri Parivar priest in Kanpur, says: “We have launched this initiative from June 21. We will inform anyone who comes to us for marriage, and if they agree we will solemnise the wedding. If not, they are free to go elsewhere.”

The Gayatri Parivar, which vows to remove social evils and make the Hindu religion less ritualistic, is catching on with the young generation, with more people opting for Gayatri weddings that cut out vulgar displays of wealth.

“Female foeticide is not only a criminal act but also a social evil. The man-woman ratio is increasingly imbalanced. This will endanger the human species one day,” Sengar explained. Members of the movement feel the “eighth phera” will not irk other Hindu priests. “We are not altering any ritual, we are merely adding something and that does not damage the essence of the ceremony,” Sengar said.

The Parivar believes the declining female sex ratio highlights a grassroots problem. The large number of atrocities and growing violence against women, despite a new-found prosperity across the country, shows that the root causes of discrimination and violence against women and girls are not being addressed.

Social activists say there are 39.7 million fewer women in India than there should be due to the strong son-preference in Indian society.

India’s overall sex ratio has consistently declined over the years. From 972 females per 1,000 males in 1901, it fell to 933 in 2001. The census (2001) also registered a decline in the juvenile sex ratio (0-6 years), from 945 girls per 1,000 boys in 1991 to 927 girls per 1,000 boys — a drop of 18 points.

Though the country’s overall population rose by about 21% between 1991 and 2001, the child sex ratio plummeted rapidly. The fall has been particularly sharp in states like Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Maharasthra, where the ratio has declined to less than 900 girls per 1,000 boys.

Source: Central Chronicle, June 28, 2010
Asian Age, June 27, 2010

Now, online counselling for honour crimes


From, about a new website that will provide counseling for victims of forced marriages or honour crimes.  The launch of this website seems to reflect the growing concerns of the large South Asian community in the UK. Stories of women who migrate with their husbands to the UK and subsequently face violence are not uncommong; equally, second-generation British-Asians are sometimes forced into marriages with strangers from their countries of origin.

Take a look at the site –

The BBC link –

Website to tackle honour violence

Mussurut Zia

Mussurut Zia said the website offered confidential advice

Victims of forced marriage or honour violence can now turn to online counsellors for help.

A website, called Practical Solutions, provides confidential support to victims anywhere in the world – from offices in Blackburn, Lancashire.

Started last week, the community-based initiative has support from Blackburn MP and Justice Secretary Jack Straw.

In the past year, the Home Office’s Forced Marriage Unit took 197 calls for help across north-west England.

‘Acute need’

The Practical Solutions charity has been working with victims of forced marriage and honour violence in Blackburn for 10 years.

It specialises in challenging such incidents through advice, support and training.

Mr Straw has welcomed the new website

Speaking at the launch of the new website, organiser Mussurut Zia said more victims were seeking help, but that they could just be the tip of the iceberg.

“I think there is a very acute need for something like this because we do have 1,600 or so incidents that are reported, calls for help, which are received by the forced marriage unit nationally,” she said.

“In the north west area we’ve had in the last year 197 incidents – proportionately very high to the size [of area] that we are.

You can never stop criminality of any kind altogether, what you can do is to reduce the chance of these so called honour killings
Jack Straw, Blackburn MP

“But I think that’s just the courage of those people who have been able to come forward. I think the number is actually far higher than that.”

The website is targeted at women aged between 16 and 25 and offers victims confidential dialogue with advisers.

Mr Straw told the BBC he hoped the initiative would help combat the problem of honour violence.

“You can never stop criminality of any kind altogether, what you can do is to reduce the chance of these so called honour killings.

“But I think incidents are going down and certainly the tolerance of the courts, the police and our society is plummeting and people will not accept any excuses any longer for this kind of behaviour.”