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One in six women in Sikkim has experienced spousal sexual violence till date

 

The recently conducted National Family Health Survey (NFHS) points out that 19 per cent of women have experienced physical violence while four per cent have experienced sexual violence. In all, 21 per cent of women have experienced sexual and physical violence including 22 per cent of married women. The survey conducted among women aged 15 – 49 also shows that the violence is less than the national average. It further points out that 14 per cent of married women have been slapped by their husbands while six to eight per cent report of having their arms twisted or hair pulled; being pushed, shaken, or having something thrown at them; being kicked, dragged, or beaten up or being punched.

 

Five per cent report that their husbands have physically forced them to have sex against their will and two per cent report that they have been forced by their husband to perform sexual acts that they did not want to perform. Only four per cent of women have ever initiated any violence against their husband, revealed the survey. The Chairperson of Sikkim State Women Commission Subadra Rai said in most cases, the domestic violence is never reported to the Commission. The Commission is pro-actively working towards bringing awareness on educating women especially in rural areas, she said. It may also be added here that despite the relatively low prevalence of spousal physical or sexual violence among all married women aged 15-49, the prevalence among some groups of women is still quite high.

 

The latest released report further says that women whose husbands consume alcohol and get drunk often are much more likely to experience violence than women whose husbands do not consume any alcohol or get drunk less frequently. The data also highlight contextual and inter-generational aspects of spousal violence: women whose mothers were beaten by their fathers are much more likely to have experienced violence than women whose mothers were not beaten by their fathers. More than one-fifth (22 per cent) of women who have experienced spousal physical or sexual violence have suffered injuries as a result of the violence. For a majority of women who have ever experienced spousal violence, the violence first occurred within the first three years of their marriage. Only 32 per cent of women who have ever experienced violence have sought help to end the violence.

 

Almost three out of five women have neither sought help nor told anyone about the violence. Abused women most often seek help from their own families and from friends. Very few women seek help from any institutional source, such as the police (five per cent) or a social service organisation (two per cent), the report says. Reacting to the survey, Dr Doma Tshering Bhutia, the Legal Consultant of Human Rights Law Network of Sikkim opined that the laws for protection of women from domestic violence have not been fully exercised in Sikkim. She added that the protection officers deputed under the State Social Welfare department have not been fully operational. Stating that the law on women rights which was framed in the year 2005 is yet to be fully functional in Sikkim, Dr Bhutia also informed that her office has been flooded with the cases related to domestic violence which includes bigamy cases.

 

Jasbir Kaur