According to the National Family Health Survey-5, more than 30 percent of women in five out of 22 surveyed states and Union territories in the country suffered physical and sexual violence from their spouses, with activists and NGOs fearing their further rise in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Karnataka, Assam, Mizoram, Telangana, and Bihar are the five states.
The survey was conducted to gather information on population, health, family planning, and nutrition-related indicators in a 6.1 lakh household sample, including household-level interviews.
The National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) said that about 44.4 percent of women aged 18-49 years suffered domestic violence from their spouses in Karnataka. Under NFHS-4 (2015-16), 20.6% of women in the state said they had been subjected to spousal violence.
The data showed that approximately 40 percent of women in Bihar, 39 percent in Manipur, 36.9 percent in Telangana, 32 percent in Assam, and 30 percent in Andhra Pradesh experienced physical and sexual spousal violence.
The increase in domestic violence faced by women aged 18-49 years in NFHS-5 compared to NFHS-4 was reported by a total of seven states and UTs out of 22 surveyed.
Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh are among the seven states/UTs.
There was an increase in the percentage of women aged 18-29 years who said they faced sexual violence by the age of 18 in nine states/UTs, the data said.
Assam, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa, Meghalaya, Sikkim, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh are these places.
The high number of women suffering from domestic abuse has been linked by feminists and NGOs to a poor rate of literacy and high alcohol intake, among others.
The rise in spousal abuse that has come to light in the major states is rather worrying, Poonam Muttreja, Public Health Specialist and Executive Director of the Population Foundation of India said as it indicates a culture of violence widespread across regions.
As a society, India has been entrenched in patriarchy practiced over decades that promotes domestic violence. “India as a society has been rooted in patriarchy practiced over decades which encourages domestic violence. “According to NFHS-4, 31 percent of ever-married women have witnessed physical, sexual, or emotional spousal violence. As is evident from the recently released NFHS-5 results, the situation has got further escalated since the last study. The fact that this data is from the pre-Covid-19 period indicates that a pandemic of violence was prevalent much before Covid-19 and its ramifications unfolded,” she mentioned.
“The spread of coronavirus this year has increased incidents of domestic violence. India’s public health system must view domestic violence as a public health concern and respond to it on an urgent basis. We must act now and not merely react each time the evidence stares at us,” Muttreja said.
Shamina Shafiq, a female rights activist, said that the government has to speak strongly against domestic violence.
“Unfortunately, a man feels it is his right to beat a woman and he enjoys the fact that he is the one in control of the life of another person. Even today the government is unable to talk about how bad it is to subject any person to violence. There should be writing on the wall that spousal violence is wrong,” she added.
Yogita Bhayana, who leads the Indian People Against Rapes (PARI), said the high prevalence of domestic violence could also be attributed to women’s high knowledge of communicating about and disclosing harassment.
There has been an increase (in such incidents) because women’s awareness is also increasing… they are reporting it and talking about it more proactively. They used to suppress their grievances earlier and the government is also spreading awareness and women are motivated by other women reporting it.
“The reporting of domestic abuse has risen because of social media. Women are more articulate and have less tolerance, which is really positive for them. “In addition, the domestic violence Act is still very strong despite several dilutions,” she said.