Open main menu

Violence against women in India

Violence against women has become a prominent topic of discussion in India in recent years. Politicians and media have placed great focus in the issue due to continuously increasing trends during 2008–2012.[1]



Year Reported violence[1]
2008 195,856
2009 203,804
2010 213,585
2011 213,585
2012 244,270

According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, reported incidents of crime against women increased 6.4% during 2012, and a crime against a woman is committed every three minutes.[1][2] In 2011, there were greater than 228,650 reported incidents of crime against women, while in 2015, there were over 300,000 reported incidents, a 44% increase.[1] [3] Of the women living in India, 7.5% live in West Bengal where 12.7% of the total reported crime against women occurs.[1] Andhra Pradesh is home to 7.3% of India's female population and accounts for 11.5% of the total reported crimes against women.[1]

65% of Indian men believe women should tolerate violence in order to keep the family together, and women sometimes deserve to be beaten.[4] In January 2011, the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) Questionnaire reported that 24% of Indian men had committed sexual violence at some point during their lives.[4]


Dowry deathsEdit

A map of the reported dowry deaths in India, per 100,000 people (2012)

A dowry deaths is a murder or suicide of a married woman caused by a dispute over her dowry.[5] In some cases, husbands and in-laws will attempt to extort a greater dowry through continuous harassment and torture which sometimes results in the wife committing suicide.[6]

The majority of these suicides are done through hanging, poisoning or self-immolation. When a dowry death is done by setting the woman on fire, it is called bride burning. Bride burning murder is often set up to appear to be a suicide or accident. Dowry is illegal in India, but it is still common practice to give expensive gifts to the groom and his relatives at weddings which are hosted by the family of the bride.[7]

Women are not always the only primary victims of dowry deaths. In some cases children are also killed alongside their mothers. In eastern India, on January 30, 2014, for example, a women and her one-year-old child were burned alive for dowry.[7] 77 minutes.[2] Incidents of dowry deaths have decreased 4.5% from 2011 to 2012.[1]

Year Reported dowry deaths[1]
2008 8,172
2009 8,383
2010 8,391
2011 8,618
2012 8,233

In Uttar Pradesh, 2,244 cases were reported, accounting for 27.3% of the dowry deaths nationwide.[1] In, Bihar, 1,275 cases were reported, accounting for 15.5% of cases nationwide.[1]

Honour killingsEdit

An honour killing is a murder of a family member who has been considered to have brought dishonour and shame upon the family[8] Examples of reasons for honour killings include the refusal to enter an arranged marriage, committing adultery, choosing a partner that the family disapproves of, and becoming a victim of rape.[9] Honour killings are rooted to tradition and cannot be justified by any major world religion, because none of the major world religions condone honour-related crimes.[9]

The most prominent areas where honour killings occur in India are northern regions. Honour killings are especially seen in Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh.[10][11] Honour killings have notably increased in some Indian states which has led to the Supreme Court of India, in June 2010, issuing notices to both the Indian central government and six states to take preventative measures against honour killings.[12]

Honour killings can be very violent. For example, in June 2012, a father chopped off his 20-year-old daughter's head with a sword in pure rage upon hearing that she was dating a man who he did not approve of.[13][14][15] Honour killings can also be openly supported by both local villagers and neighbouring villagers. This was the case in September 2013, when a young couple who married after having a love affair were brutally murdered.[16]

Witchcraft-related murdersEdit

Murders of women accused of witchcraft still occur in India.[17][18][19] Poor women, widows, and women from lower castes are most at risk of such killings.[20]

Female infanticideEdit

Female infanticide is the elected killing of a newborn female child or the termination of a female fetus through sex-selective abortion. In India, there is incentive to have a son, because they offer security to the family in old age and are able to conduct rituals for deceased parents and ancestors.[21] In contrast, daughters are considered to be a social and economic burden.[21] An example of this is dowry. The fear of not being able to pay an acceptable dowry and becoming socially ostracised can lead to female infanticide for poorer.[22]

Female foeticideEdit

Female foeticide is the elected abortion of a fetus, because it is female. Female foeticide occurs when a family has a strong preference for sons over daughters, which is a common cultural theme in India. Modern medical technology has allowed for the gender of a child to be determined while the child is still a fetus.[23][24] Once these modern prenatal diagnostic techniques determine the gender of the fetus, families then are able to decide if they would like to abort based on gender. If they decide to abort the fetus after discovering it is female, they are committing female foeticide. The foetal sex determination and sex-selective abortion by medical professionals is now a R.s 1,000 crore (US$244 million) industry.[25]

The Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques Act of 1994 (PCPNDT Act 1994) was modified in 2003 in order to target medical professionals.[25] The Act has proven ineffective due to the lack of implementation. Sex-selective abortions have totaled approximately 4.2-12.1 million from 1980-2010.[26] There was a greater increase in the number of sex-selective abortions in the 1990s than the 2000s.[26] Poorer families are responsible for a higher proportion of abortions than wealthier families.[27] Significantly more abortions occur in rural areas versus urban areas when the first child is female.[27]

Sexual crimesEdit


The map shows the comparative rate of violence against women in Indian states and union territories in 2012, based on crimes reported to the police. Crime rate data per 100,000 women in this map is the broadest definition of crime against women under Indian law. It includes rape, sexual assault, insult to modesty, kidnapping, abduction, cruelty by intimate partner or relatives, trafficking, persecution for dowry, dowry deaths, indecency, and all other crimes listed in Indian Penal Code.[28][29]

Rape is one of the most common crimes against women in India. Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 defines rape as penile and non-penile penetration in bodily orifices of a woman by a man, without the consent of the woman.[30] In India, a woman is raped every 29 minutes.[2] Incidents of reported rape increased 3% from 2011 to 2012.[1] Incidents of reported incest rape increased 46.8% from 268 cases in 2011 to 392 cases in 2012.[1]

Year Reported rapes[1]
2008 21,467
2009 21,397
2010 22,172
2011 24,206
2012 24,923

Victims of rape are increasingly reporting their rapes and confronting the perpetrators. Women are becoming more independent and educated, which is increasing their likelihood to report their rape.[31]

Although rapes are becoming more frequently reported, many go unreported or have the complaint files withdrawn due to the perception of family honour being compromised.[31] Women frequently do not receive justice for their rapes, because police often do not give a fair hearing, and/or medical evidence is often unrecorded which makes it easy for offenders to get away with their crimes under the current laws.[31]

Increased attention in the media and awareness among both Indians and the outside world is both bringing attention to the issue of rape in India and helping empower women to report the crime. After international news reported the gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a moving bus that occurred in Delhi, in December 2012, Delhi experienced a significant increase in reported rapes. The number of reported rapes nearly doubled from 143 reported in January–March 2012 to 359 during the three months after the rape. After the Delhi rape case, Indian media has committed to report each and every rape case.[32]

Marital rapeEdit

In India, marital rape is not a criminal offense.[33] 20% of Indian men admit to forcing their wives or partners to have sex.[4]

Marital rape can be classified into one of three types:[34]

  • Battering rape: This includes both physical and sexual violence. The majority of marital rape victims experience battering rape.
  • Force-only rape: Husbands use the minimum amount of force necessary to coerce his wife.
  • Compulsive or obsessive rape: Torture and/or "perverse" sexual acts occur and are often physically violent.

Gang rapeEdit

Gang rape is defined as the rape of an individual by two or more perpetrators.[35] The 2012 Delhi gang rape brought a lot of international attention to the issue of gang rape in India. On 16 December 2012, in Munirka, New Delhi, a 23-year-old was beaten and gang raped on a private bus. She died 13 days later.[36] Following the rape, there was widespread national and international coverage of the incident as well as public protests against the government of India and the government of Delhi.

Insult to modestyEdit

Year Assaults with intent to outrage modesty Insults to the modesty of women[1]
2008 40,413 12,214
2009 38,711 11,009
2010 40,613 9,961
2011 42,968 8,570
2012 45,351 9,173

Modesty-related violence against women includes assaults on women with intent to outrage her modesty and insults to the modesty of women. From 2011 to 2012, there was a 5.5% increase in reported assaults on women with intent to outrage her modesty.[1] Madhya Pradesh had 6,655 cases, accounting for 14.7% of the national incidents.[1] From 2011 to 2012, there was a 7.0% increase in reported insults to the modesty of women.[1] Andhra Pradesh had 3,714 cases, accounting for 40.5% of the national accounts, and Maharashtra had 3,714 cases, accounting for 14.1% of the national accounts.[1]

Human trafficking and forced prostitutionEdit

This desperate mother traveled from her village in Nepal to Mumbai, India, hoping to find and rescue her teenage daughter who was trafficked into an Indian brothel. "I will stay in Mumbai," said the mother, "Until I find my daughter or die. I am not leaving here without her."
Year Imported girls from foreign countries Violations of the Immoral Traffic Act[1]
2008 67 2,659
2009 48 2,474
2010 36 2,499
2011 80 2,435
2012 59 2,563

From 2011 to 2012, there was a 26.3% decrease in girls imported to India from another country.[1] Karnataka had 32 cases, and West Bengal had 12 cases, together accounting for 93.2% of the total cases nationwide.[1]

From 2011 to 2012, there was a 5.3% increase in violations of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act of 1956.[1] Tamil Nadu had 500 incidents, accounting for 19.5% of the total nationwide, and Andhra Pradesh had 472 incidents, accounting for 18.4% of the total nationwide.[1]

Domestic violenceEdit

Domestic violence is abuse by one partner against another in an intimate relationship such as dating, marriage, cohabitation or a familial relationship. Domestic violence is also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, dating abuse and intimate partner violence (IPV). Domestic violence can be physical, emotional, verbal, economic and sexual abuse. Domestic violence can be subtle, coercive or violent. In India, 70% of women are victims of domestic violence.[37]

38% of Indian men admit they have physically abused their partners.[4] The Indian government has taken measures to try to reduce domestic violence through legislation such as the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005.[37]

Year Reported cruelty by a husband or relative[1]
2008 81,344
2009 89,546
2010 94,041
2011 99,135
2012 106,527

Every 9 minutes, a case of cruelty is committed by either of husband or a relative of the husband.[2] Cruelty by a husband or his relatives is the greatest occurring crime against women. From 2011 to 2012, there was a 7.5% increase in cruelty by husbands and relatives.[1] In West Bengal, there were 19,865 cases, accounting for 18.7% of the national total, and in Andhra Pradesh, there were 13,389 cases, accounting for 12.6% of the national total. However the point to be noted here is that the Section 498a, which is called the anty dowry law is the most misused law in India.{{Citation needed|reason=Most misused according to whom and using what metrics?|date=April 2017}}Many of these cases filed against men using 498a are false and no actions are usually taken against women even if they are proven wrong.{{Citation needed|reason=This claim requires reliable evidence|date=April 2017}}This is one of the major factors for married Men's suicide in India which comes to 1 in every 9 minutes.[1]{{Citation needed|reason=Links to a source that is no longer accessible at that URL|date=April 2017}}

Forced and child marriageEdit

Girls are vulnerable to being forced into marriage at young ages, suffering from a double vulnerability: both for being a child and for being female. Child brides often do not understand the meaning and responsibilities of marriage. Causes of such marriages include the view that girls are a burden for their parents, and the fear of girls losing their chastity before marriage.[38]

Acid throwingEdit

Acid throwing, also called an acid attack, a vitriol attack or vitriolage, is a form of violent assault used against women in India.[39] Acid throwing is the act of throwing acid or an alternative corrosive substance onto a person's body "with the intention to disfigure, maim, torture, or kill."[40] Acid attacks are usually directed at a victim's face which burns the skin causing damage and often exposing or dissolving bone.[41] Sulfuric acid and nitric acid are most commonly used for acid attacks. Hydrochloric acid is also used, but is less damaging.[42] Acid attacks can lead to permanent scarring,[43] blindness, as well as social, psychological and economic difficulties.[40]

The Indian legislature has regulated the sale of acid.[44] Compared to women throughout the world, women in India are at a higher risk of being victims of acid attacks.[45] At least 72% of reported acid attacks in India have involved women.[45] India has been experiencing an increasing trend of acid attacks over the past decade.[45]

In 2010, there was a high of 27 reported cases of chemical assaults.[45] Scholars believe that acid attacks in India are being under-reported.[45] 34% of acid attacks in India have been determined to be related to rejection of marriage or refusal by a women of sexual advances.[45] 20% of acid attacks have been determined to be related to land, property, and/or business disputes.[45] Acid attacks related to marriage are often spurred by dowry disagreements.[45]


Year Reported abductions[1]
2008 22,939
2009 25,741
2010 29,795
2011 35,565
2012 38,262

Incidents of reported kidnappings and abductions of women increased 7.6% from 2011 to 2012.[1] Uttar Pradesh had 7,910 cases, accounting for 22.2% of the total of cases nationwide.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab "Crimes Against Women" (PDF). National Crime Records Bureau. 2013. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
  2. ^ a b c d "India tackles domestic violence". BBC News. 2006-10-27. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  3. ^ Menon, Suvarna V.; Allen, Nicole E. (2018-04-25). "The Formal Systems Response to Violence Against Women in India: A Cultural Lens". American Journal of Community Psychology. 62 (1–2): 51–61. doi:10.1002/ajcp.12249. ISSN 0091-0562.
  4. ^ a b c d "International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES)". Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  5. ^ "dowry death: definition of dowry death in Oxford dictionary (American English) (US)". Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  6. ^ Oldenburg, V. T. (2002). Dowry murder: The imperial origins of a cultural crime. Oxford University Press.
  7. ^ a b Shah, Harmeet (2014-02-03). "Indian woman and baby burned alive for dowry, police say". Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  8. ^ "honour killing - definition of honour killing in English from the Oxford dictionary". Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  9. ^ a b "Ethics: Honour Crimes". BBC. 1 January 1970. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  10. ^ "India court seeks 'honour killing' response". BBC News. 2010-06-21. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  11. ^ "BBC World Service | World Agenda - Who Runs Your World?". Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  12. ^ "Honour killing: SC notice to Centre, Haryana and 6 other states". Times of India.
  13. ^ "Indian Man Beheads Daughter in Rage Over Lifestyle". ABC. 18 June 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  14. ^ Ogad Singh, India Man, Reportedly Beheads Daughter in Rage Over Lifestyle". Retrieved 1 October 2012.
  15. ^ "Man beheads daughter in gory Rajasthan". 17 June 2012. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
  16. ^ "India 'honour killings': Paying the price for falling in love". 20 September 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  17. ^ "India woman killed in 'witch hunt'". BBC News. 2014-10-27. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  18. ^ "Indian villagers arrested over 'heinous' witchcraft murder - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". 2013-06-09. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  19. ^ McCoy, Terrence (2014-07-21). "Thousands of women, accused of sorcery, tortured and executed in Indian witch hunts". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  20. ^ "Witch Hunting in India: Poor, Low Caste and Widows Main Targets". 2014-07-22. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  21. ^ a b Ahmad, N (2010). "Female feticide in India". Issues in Law & Medicine. 26 (1): 13–29. PMID 20879612.
  22. ^ Oberman, Michelle (2005). "A Brief History of Infanticide and the Law". In Margaret G. Spinelli. Infanticide Psychosocial and Legal Perspectives on Mothers Who Kill (1st ed.). American Psychiatric Publishing. ISBN 1-58562-097-1.
  23. ^ George, Sabu M.; Dahiya, Ranbir S. (1998). "Female Foeticide in Rural Haryana". Economic and Political Weekly. 33 (32): 2191–8. JSTOR 4407077.
  24. ^ Luthra, Rashmi (1994). "A Case of Problematic Diffusion: The Use of Sex Determination Techniques in India". Science Communication. 15 (3): 259–72. doi:10.1177/107554709401500301.
  25. ^ a b "Female foeticide in India". UNICEF. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  26. ^ a b Banthia, J. K.; Jha, P.; Kesler, M. A.; Kumar, R.; Ram, F.; Ram, U.; Aleksandrowicz, L.; Bassani, D. G.; Chandra, S. (2011). "Trends in selective abortions of girls in india: analysis of nationally representative birth histories from 1990 to 2005 and census data from 1991 to 2011" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  27. ^ a b Aithal, U. B. (2012). A statistical analysis of female foeticide with reference to kolhapur district. International Journal of Scientific Research Publications, 2(12), doi: ISSN 2250-3153
  28. ^ Crime in India 2012 Statistics Archived 2014-06-20 at the Wayback Machine., National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt of India, Table 5.1, page 385.
  29. ^ Intimate Partner Violence, 1993–2010, Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice, table on page 10.
  30. ^ "India: Criminal Law Amendment Bill on Rape Adopted | Global Legal Monitor". 2013-04-09. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  31. ^ a b c Sudha G Tilak (2013-03-11). "Crimes against women increase in India". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  32. ^ Bhowmick, Nilanjana (2013-11-08). "Rape In India: Why It Seems Worse |". Time. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  33. ^ Kinnear, Karen L. (2011). Women in Developing Countries: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. pp. 26–27. ISBN 1598844261.
  34. ^ Pandey, Pradeep Kumar, Marital Rape in India - Needs Legal Recognition (July 4, 2013).
  35. ^ Neumann, Stephani. Gang Rape: Examining Peer Support and Alcohol in Fraternities. Sex Crimes and Paraphilia. Hickey, Eric W., 397-407
  36. ^ Mandhana, Nikarika; Trivedi, Anjani (18 December 2012). "Indians Outraged by Account of Gang Rape on a Bus". The New York Times
  37. ^ a b Chowdhury, Renuka (26 October 2006). "India tackles domestic violence". BBC.
  38. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 7, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  39. ^ Karmakar, R.N. (2003). Forensic Medicine and Toxicology. Academic Publishers. ISBN 81-87504-69-2.
  40. ^ a b "Breaking the Silence: Addressing Acid Attacks in Cambodia". Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity. May 2010. pp. 1–51. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  41. ^ Swanson, Jordan (2002). "Acid attacks: Bangladesh’s efforts to stop the violence.". Harvard Health Policy Review 3 (1). pp. 1–4. Retrieved 2008-06-18
  42. ^ Welsh, Jane (2009). ""It was like a burning hell": A Comparative Exploration of Acid Attack Violence". Center for Global Initiatives. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  43. ^ Bandyopadhyay, Mridula and Mahmuda Rahman Khan, 'Loss of face: violence against women in South Asia' in Lenore Manderson, Linda Rae Bennett (eds) Violence Against Women in Asian Societies (Routledge, 2003), ISBN 978-0-7007-1741-5
  44. ^ "India's top court moves to curb acid attacks". Al Jazeera English. 2013-07-18. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  45. ^ a b c d e f g h Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School; Committee on International Human Rights of the New York City bar Association, Cornell Law School international Human Rights Clinic,; the Virtue Foundation (2011). "Combating Acid Violence In Bangladesh, India, and Cambodia". Avon Foundation for Women. pp. 1–64. Retrieved 20 March 2014