VIOLENT TOUCH – A MATTER OF DISCRIMINATION

Abstract

In this article, the concepts of violence and discrimination are discussed in detail. Violence is of various types including physical and sexual which are the two broadest forms of violence. The article goes on to discuss the international perspective on the issue of violence based on gender and the various conventions and declarations are discussed briefly. The national perspective with respect to gender-based violence is also discussed in some detail along with landmark cases. Some suggestions are also made to help improve the situation and the system.

INTRODUCTION

Everybody has faced some or the other kind of discrimination at some point in their lives. To put it simply, discrimination is the unjust or prejudicial treatment that a person receives because of a difference in categories of people such as on grounds of race, age or sex. Violence has been associated with discrimination. Usually, violence is committed against these discriminated groups of people. Now, Violence can be of various types and forms. Generally speaking, violence or other such atrocities are faced by women and children more than any other groups and these groups are thus considered vulnerable.

Violence is “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.”[1]

Different Types of Violence

  • Physical Violence: Any intentional act which causes physical harm as a result of unlawful and uncalled for physical force is physical violence. This can take up various forms like assault, battery, serious injuries or burns.
  • Sexual Violence: It has been defined as “Any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work”[2] There are various forms from indecent behaviour, molestation to rape.
  • Verbal Violence: This is the type of violence where indecent or filthy language is used and a person is abused with the invisible weapons of words and phrases.
  • Emotional Violence: Deprivation of basic needs such as love and affection, sympathy and care are what is known as emotional violence.

Violence can also be divided into three subtypes according to the victim-perpetrator relationship.

  • Self-directed Violence: This refers to violence in which the victim and perpetrator are the same person. Examples are various forms of self-harm.
  • Interpersonal Violence: This refers to violence between individuals. Examples are violence in the family or between husband and wife.
  • Collective Violence: It refers to violence committed by larger groups of individuals. Social, economic and political violence are examples of this.

To combat these violent atrocities committed against women and children, the evolution of various laws took place, internationally as well as nationally.

The International Perspective:

Various conventions and declarations were brought into place to combat these issues of violence. A need for legislations as well as action has been felt globally.

  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1976: Prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), 1979: Landmark legislation. Considered to be “a major step forward in establishing key rights for women, and has to date been ratified by 188 states. It obliges States to take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices, which constitute discrimination against women.”[3]
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 1948: Considered foundation to combating violence against women.
  • UN Declaration of the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW): Defines violence as “Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women. Including threats of such accts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”[4]

The International stand is quite clear. Violence against women is a violation of human rights and this is taken up and fought against tirelessly by the international community.

The Indian Perspective:

In India too, there have been various developments over the years regarding the issue of violence against women and children. A lot of legislations were enforced and special courts were also established. India is a signatory to all the above-mentioned conventions and declarations. There is no dearth of laws and policies around gender-based violence. However, the laws in India have been divided categorically on the basis of victimology. The two main categories are violence against women and violence against children.

Violence against Women: Violence against women in India is a common norm. However, the rate of reporting cases is dismal due to various factors from the ‘log kya kahenge’ mentality to the honour of the family. Various Acts and Legislation deals with offences and violence against women and the titles of the Acts make it clear as to what type of violence they are combatting. A few of the legislations are:

  • Dowry Prohibition Act (1961)
  • Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005)
  • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act (2013) [Also known as POSH Act]
  • Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013
  • Various sections of the Indian Penal Code which deal with acid attacks, grievous hurt, rape, stalking, voyeurism, sexual harassment, cruelty by husband or relatives, outraging modesty of women, assault with intent to disrobe, etc.

A few important case laws which deal with this are:

  • Vishakha v State of Rajasthan[5]: This is one on the most important cases in the history of the Indian Judiciary and the history of women empowerment. In this case a social worker Bhanwari Devi was brutally gang-raped for trying to prevent a child marriage. The trial court acquitted the accused. A petition was filed in the Supreme Court of India by a group of activists. The supreme Court of India in this case gave guidelines which were later called the Vishaka guidelines which defined sexual harassment. It also gave guidelines on how the employers should deal with sexual harassment at the work place and further the SC stated that it was the duty of the employers to provide a safe working environment for women.
  • Nirbhaya Case: The Nirbhaya Rape case is a very important case as this led to a lot of changes in the Criminal Law. This is one of the cases which led to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013. According to this Amendment, changes were made in the Indian Penal Code sections relating to rape and acid attacks.

Violence against Children: Violence against children is another major issue that is faced by India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, cases of child abuse in the form of sexual abuse, rape and murder increase every year. To combat this menace, specialised courts empowered with specific legislations have also been set up. The two major legislations are:

  • Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (2012) [Also known as POCSO]
  • Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act (2015) [Popularly known as the JJ Act]

The JJ Act deals with a variety of offences committed against children ranging from begging to sexual abuse.

Violence against others: A note needs to be made that there are no specialised laws to protect men against violence. This is also a form of discrimination because men face violence too and the rate of reporting cases for violence against men is virtually non-existent as compared to the dismal rates of reporting for violence against women. Further, violence against the marginalised sections such as disabled persons, transgenders and the LGBTQ community is to a great extent not checked due to lack of proper legislation and open mindedness. However, legislations such as the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (2016) and the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act (2019) exist but are insufficient to deal with the problem at hand.

CONCLUSION

To conclude, violence is something that is discriminative in nature. Atrocities are committed against the perceived weaker sections of the society which include women and children. The government has taken action and has developed legislations and policies to help protect women and children. It needs to be kept in mind that men too are victims of violence just like anybody else and they have the same rights as well.

It is important to raise awareness and change mindsets of the general public. Because till the people don’t believe that they have rights and that they can raise their voices against injustices that happen, no amount of legislations or laws can change the situation permanently. However, such actions need to be applauded and they do bring about change. Further, technology should be used to the benefit of the abused and the victims to help them contact help and report cases. Re-organisation of the public health sectors could also help in this fight against violence if certain rules and regulations were put into place so as to help the reporting of cases and such cases could be dealt with relative ease. An attempt should also be made to make laws gender neutral so as to provide recourse for all and to help break the traditional gender stereotype which in turn would help society overcome the evil of the violent touch.


[1] UN World Health Organisation, World Report on Violence and Health, 2002.

[2] Id

[3] Jeni Klugman, Gender based violence and the law, Background paper for World Development Report 2017, last accessed on May 3, 2020 at 16:40 and available at https://gbvaor.net/sites/default/files/2019-07/GBV%20and%20the%20LAw%20World%20Development%20Report%202017.pdf.

[4] G.A. Res 48/104, art. 1, U.N. Doc. A/RES/48/104 (Dec. 20, 1993).

[5] Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan, (1997) 6 SCC 241.