Violence against women can be broadly classified into violence within marriage and violence outside marriage. Violence within marriage can be divided into two categories, violence related to dowry and domestic violence. Violence outside marriage can be divided into two categories, namely violence by known perpetrators and violence by unknown perpetrators. Let us try to examine each category and understand its nuances.
Violence within Marriage: Dowry related Violence
Dowry-related violence can be there in love and arranged marriages. The seeds of dowry-related violence are sown at the time of marriage negotiations.
Demands for dowry may be overt or covert. At times, the groom's party creates problems at the time of marriage. It may also surface after marriage and the bride is pressurized to bring more dowries. Inability to get daughters married is a stigma in many sections of our society. In their anxiety to get daughters married, many parents make promises regarding dowry that they are unable to keep. There are also greedy families who start their pressure tactics once the marriage is solemnized. Dowry-related violence usually starts immediately after marriage.
It is not possible to stop dowry related violence within marriage. The only safe escape for the woman is to leave the in law's house at the first hint of trouble. Here, support from the girl's family is important. Unless the girl has support from some quarter; parents, friends, relatives or NGOs till she can find employment in a safe environment, she is doomed.
Domestic Violence: Wife beating is common in many walks of life in India and abroad. It can be due to marital discord, jealousy and suspicion of marital infidelity, taking out frustration at the workplace or simply drunken brawls. Here again a woman without economic independence and support from family, friends or society is helpless. Counseling does help in some cases. Lodging a complaint with the police may result in conviction of the man but will not save the marriage.
Violence outside Marriage Violence by known Perpetrators
A large percentage of girls are subjected to sexual abuse by family friends, relatives, school teachers, school bus drivers, private tutors, religious gurus and even fathers from an early age into adulthood. The girl is often intimidated and suffers in silence. This suffering can only be prevented or stopped by supportive parents, warning their children of such behavior and encouraging the children to be frank in reporting any unwanted stripping, touching, ogling, stalking, and teasing, etc.
A second category of known perpetrators are neighbours, local landlords, politicians and their children and henchmen who are particularly vicious on young poor, tribal and Dalit women. Women have a sixth sense in identifying licentious men. They must listen to their inner warnings, share their fears with their parents and take preventive action discussed later.
A third category of known perpetrators are cases of unrequited love. Such men can stalk, send emails and letters and can even stoop to acid attacks, rape and even murder. Since they are known, parents and police should be informed of the fears and all efforts need to be taken to avoid them.
A fourth category of known perpetrators are boy friends. A broken relationship is seen by many men as an insult and can lead to acid attacks and even murder. Human traffickers also befriend unsuspecting girls and encourage them to elope. Once the girl leaves her house, she is a pawn in the clutches of these animals. A fifth category of known perpetrators are bosses at the workplace and possible employers.
Violence by unknown Perpetrators
These are chance encounters where men, usually under influence of liquor or aroused after exposure to pornography attack women in trains, busses, on the road side or at lonely spots. Having a male escort is sometimes of little help as he can be over powered.
Dealing With Violence against Women
Whether it is dealing with disease, robbery, or offenses against women, prevention is better than cure. An offender can be punished and even hanged. But that will not cure the pain, mental torture and humiliation or loss of life that is usually associated with violence against women.
Some suggestions in this regard are given below: Action by the Girl/Woman: Keep mother and close friends informed of all instances of touching or stripping in school busses, schools/colleges, at home, etc. and take advise on dealing with the problem. Keep mother informed of love affairs and dating, teasing, stalking, emails etc. Dress according to the situation and occasion. One should not wear the same kind of clothes when traveling in a car or in public transport.
Avoid lonely places, roads, parks, bus stands as far a possible, particularly in the afternoon or after sunset, even if escorted by boyfriend. It is better to meet in crowded places. If you are alone in the house, lock the door and do not open it for any male person even if you know him. If you have to open the door, remain outside in public view. If he asks for water or payment asking to take the water himself. If you have to go inside, keep the man outside and lock the door. Be especially careful if you have rejected a marriage proposal or broken off a relationship. It may be a good idea to go out of circulation for the next few days or weeks.
Relocate if possible. Do not go to see the boss or potential employer outside office, particularly in hotel rooms etc. Such meetings can be in public places. If you have to go, take an escort who can remain out of sight nearby and come to help if needed. Ask him to call on the mobile after some time and tell him where you are in front of you boss or potential employer.Do not get into any kind of serious relationship unless you know all details of the boy and meet his parents.
Do not have relationship with married persons, particularly with children on the assurance that he will divorce his current wife. Be prepared with whistle and pepper spray when you go out. Be on your guard. You can have casual sex if you like. But do not sleep with the person you want to marry. Most men do not marry women they have slept with before marriage. Do not elope unless you have met the boy's parents and they are ready to accept you. You could end up in a brothel. Action by Parents: Parents and particularly mothers of minor girls must be especially careful.
They must debrief their daughters in detail about all that happened during the day and observe unusual behavior. Recently, a father found his three year old little girl kissing like an adult. On asking where she had learnt to kiss like that he was told that the bus conductor uncle had taught her. They must report the matter. Parents must encourage their daughters to be frank about their friends and relationships. They must meet the male friends of their girl and get to know about their backgrounds. They should not be critical of their daughter's friends but discuss them maturely. Parents must try to solve daughter's relationship problems.
Do not act in anger. Keep police and social groups in the loop if violence is apprehended. Do not go to confront the trouble maker without adequate help. Do not marry your daughter to any family that demands a dowry. Do not make promises on dowry that you cannot keep. Unmarried girl is better than a dead one.Love and support your daughter if she is being ill treated by her husband or in-laws. Give her shelter and financial support till she can stand on her feet. Action by Society: Bystanders must help a woman in distress. They must call the police; take photos of the incident and go to assist the woman attacked as a group.
Parents must unite, report to the police and agitate when cases of molestation and harassment by teachers or principal is reported.Local papers must shame the perpetrators of violence against women even if they are politicians, teachers, religious gurus, government employees, and policemen. I am unable to understand why the faces of those arrested are covered while those of the victim and the witnesses who may be pressurized are not covered.
Form NGOs or self help groups in localities to deal with police in filing complaints, interacting with the press, organizing help lines and for counseling couples plagued by domestic violence or breakup of a relationship. Society must learn to treat boys and girls alike. Action by Police: Police must organize counseling cells who will counsel eve teasers, wife beating husbands, dowry hungry families and jilted lovers on the dangerous path they are following and the punishments they could save.
E filing of complaints against women must be organized so that the local "Thanedar" has little say in the matter.Covering of faces of criminals must stop. Action by the Governments: Custodial rape must be made a non bailable offence and must be tried by a fast track court.Any policeman who aids and abets the accused by destroying evidence or delaying recording of report and investigation must be made an accessory to the crime and tried along with the accused.
The same should be applicable to any politician or government servant who tries to delay investigation or influence the police in the case.Legalize prostitution. It will provide an escape route for male libido.
Conclusion: I have learnt not to depend on the governments. They are impersonal and insensitive. Chain snatching, burglary, pick pocketing, traffic accidents, duping of gullible investors cannot be prevented by police or government action. They are reduced by taking all possible precautions like wearing helmets, observing speed limits, not driving after drinks, etc. It is the same in case of offences against women. Women must take reasonable precautions. Even God cannot help those who do not help themselves.