An informative and elucidating online panel discussion on “Domestic Violence and Abuse: Challenges and Responses” was an initiative of the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), at the IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi. The program included an insightful and enriching discussion delivered by eminent speakers, Advocate Gayatri Sharma, Prof Vijaylakshmi Brara, Dr Tara Nair, Adv Celin Thomas, Dr Keerthi Bollineni, Anju Dubey Pandey Ji and Anchita Ghatak. Prof Vibhuti Patel chaired the session. The session was opened with introductory and welcoming remarks from Professor Vibhuti Patel and was further moderated by her.
At the outset of the session, Ms. Anju Dubey Pandey Ji drew the participants’ attention to the prevailing global health crisis, the pandemic, which has led to a distressing escalation in violence against women across various settings – public, private, and online. This surge in violence exhibited a global, national, and local dimension, highlighting widespread patterns of such behavior. The restrictive circumstances of lockdowns exacerbated this violence by eroding the traditional support systems available to women. Despite these challenges, inspiring instances of resilience and communal unity also emerged.
Understanding the Underlying Causes of Violence
Ms. Dubey emphasized that the root causes of violence, whether in public spaces, private domains, corporate environments, professional spheres, or online platforms, are deeply entrenched in gender-based inequality. This inequality is deeply ingrained within the systemic, structural, and institutional fabric of society. Consequently, violence against women functions both as a consequence and a catalyst of this gendered inequality.
While legal frameworks are established, defined, and fortified, they persist within an inherently unequal and gender-biased framework. Thus, grasping the causes, laws, and policies demands a perspective that acknowledges the deeply patriarchal and discriminatory nature of the system. This surge in violence encompasses various forms, including cyberbullying, cyberstalking, revenge porn, and hate speech, even within the online realm, which is itself influenced by gender dynamics.
Adopting a Holistic Approach
To effectively address the issue of violence against women, it is imperative to discard the portrayal of women and girls solely as victims or survivors. Instead, they should be regarded as equal stakeholders in the nation, with the authority to participate in shaping the laws that pertain to them.
Acknowledging the intersectionality of being a woman is also crucial. Moreover, identifying seemingly non-violent behaviors as potentially violent is essential. These behaviors were subsequently incorporated into civil and criminal laws after the landmark Nirbhaya Case. Hence, a comprehensive approach is required, one that not only considers legal aspects but also encompasses the socio-cultural, political, and economic dimensions inherent to laws and policies pertaining to violence against women.
The current legal framework primarily concentrates on responding to instances of violence rather than preventing them. To effect a change, substantial emphasis is needed on research grounded in evidence that reflects social realities, which can subsequently inform the formulation of laws. Furthermore, investment should be directed towards enhancing the competencies of all stakeholders within the judicial system and beyond. Adequate resources and funding are necessary for implementing gender-budgeted laws, followed by vigilant oversight of their execution. Moreover, achieving harmony among disparate legislations and policies concerning violence against women is crucial. Strengthening data systems is equally vital, as the resultant statistics shape government policies in the long run.
In summation, Ms. Anju Dubey Pandey’s discussion underscores the urgent need to confront the escalating violence against women during the pandemic. This requires acknowledging gender-based inequality as the root cause and reframing women as active contributors in shaping laws. A comprehensive approach encompassing social, cultural, and economic aspects is vital. By prioritizing research, empowering stakeholders, enacting gender-sensitive laws, and strengthening data systems, we can proactively prevent violence and foster a more equitable future. The path forward demands a dual focus on immediate response and systemic change to effectively address this pervasive issue.
Acknowledgement: Aasthaba Jadeja is a research intern at IMPRI.
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