Ending Violence Against Women: Awareness of Laws and Policies in India

Event Report
Aasthaba Jadeja

A Four-Week Online Certificate Training Course on Ending Violence Against Women: Awareness of Laws and Policies in India by #IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC)IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi on April (8, 15, 22, 29) 2023

The session was inaugurated by the host, who welcomed and introduced the speakers and eminent panelists. The course, spread over two months, involved detailed discussion on various topics. The Conveners for the course were Dr Simi MehtaCEO & Editorial Director, IMPRI and Dr Arjun Kumar, Director at IMPRI.

The participant for the program was from all parts of the country and came from various fields like academics, research, corporates, civil bodies, practitioners and many more. For the complete list, visit our participants list and details page.

Day 1 | Ensuring Women’s Safety in Situation of Increasing Violence| April 8, 2023 

Ms. Anju Dubey Pandey delivered the special remarks, highlighting the alarming surge in violence against women during the pandemic across various settings and its connection to deeply rooted gender-based inequality. She emphasized that while legal frameworks exist, they often perpetuate gender bias, requiring a comprehensive approach that considers socio-cultural, political, and economic dimensions.

The need to view women as stakeholders in shaping laws and addressing the intersectionality of their experiences was stressed. Proposed changes included shifting from a response-based legal framework to a preventive one through research, strengthening stakeholders’ competencies, gender-budgeted laws, and improved data systems. In conclusion, a dual focus on immediate response and systemic change is essential to effectively tackle this pervasive issue of violence against women and promote a more equitable future.

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Advocate Shalu Nigam‘s discussion on “Legal Perspectives on Violence Against Women in India” highlighted the origin of violence in patriarchy and gender biases. The session covered various forms of violence, including domestic, sexual, and online, and their far-reaching consequences, including economic impacts.

She advocated for government actions like implementing provisions, offering support services, and establishing shelters. The importance of challenging gender stereotypes and holding abusers accountable was underscored. She also emphasized on the shared responsibility to combat violence through education, advocacy, and government efforts, while also focusing on empowering women and reshaping societal norms to create a more equitable future. 

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Professor Vibhuti Patel, the second speaker, discussed “Violence Against Women and Response of Women’s Movements in India.” She traced the historical roots of the women’s rights movement back to the 19th-century Social Reform Movements and its continuation through the Freedom movement and beyond.

Professor Patel highlighted the shift from equality to equity in addressing women’s rights as human rights. She discussed the role of the Constitution and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 in safeguarding women against violence. Addressing new challenges post-pandemic, she pointed out the rise in child marriages and innovative forms of violence against women. 

The session covered workplace sexual harassment, the #MeToo movement, the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 2002, and the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019. Professor Patel underscored the intersectionality of factors like caste and class in the context of the transgender community.

Listing numerous legal provisions addressing violence against women, she advocated for legal reforms, financial autonomy for women, and “One-Stop Crisis Centers.” She stressed the need for gender-based violence visibility in data systems, leveraging modern communication platforms for awareness, and holding the government accountable for addressing violence against women.

To read a more elaborate session report: Click here

Day 2 | Theme: VAW and Legal Safeguards and Other Measures| April 15, 2023

In the special remarks delivered by Dr. Ranjana Kumari, the gravity of addressing violence against women (VAW) was underscored. It was emphasized that the responsibility to combat VAW extends to both men and women. Strategies to prevent VAW encompass education, empowerment, legal safeguards, and the transformation of societal attitudes. Notable initiatives highlighted include the Domestic Violence Act of 2005, which provides remedies like protection orders and monetary redress for domestic violence victims.

The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013, prompted by the Nirbhaya case, improved women’s safety and ensured safeguards for victims’ rights during legal proceedings. Additionally, the One Stop Crisis Centre was praised for its comprehensive support to gender-based violence survivors. Dr. Kumari also noted that reasons for VAW persisting include gender inequality, lack of education, weak law enforcement, and limited opportunities for women’s empowerment. 

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Advocate Shalu Nigam’s session covered “Critical aspects of violence against women (VAW) and the legal safeguards” in place to address this issue. She began by highlighting the Chilean feminist performance piece, “The Rapist Is You,” which protests violence against women and victim-blaming. Next, Advocate Nigam delved into Legal Safeguards and Constitutional Rights against VAW. She emphasized the vulnerability of marginalized women due to their marginalized identities and stressed the need for a comprehensive strategy involving judicial changes, public education campaigns, and targeted assistance programs. 

Advocate Nigam discussed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and acknowledged prominent women like Eleanor Roosevelt in drafting the declaration. She also highlighted the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as an international human rights treaty promoting gender equality. She also discussed how Indian courts have interpreted laws related to VAW, broadening definitions to include various forms of abuse.

Advocate Nigam cited examples of cases where the courts upheld women’s rights and provided legal assistance. In conclusion, she emphasized that combating VAW requires continuous efforts in education, policy, and social change. While progress has been made, challenges like underreporting and lack of priority still persist, making ongoing action crucial for a safer and more just world.

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Advocate Dr. Albertina Almeida‘s presentation centered on “Substantive Equality: A Constitutional Safeguard for Women.” She highlighted the Indian Constitution’s vital role in championing women’s rights and promoting gender equality by establishing a framework against discrimination and violence. Dr. Almeida discussed tailored legislation provisions, the evolution of judicial interpretation, and the significance of Articles 14 and 15, ensuring equal treatment and prohibiting gender-based discrimination. She introduced “substantive equality,” extending beyond legal measures to address historical disadvantages, exemplified through targeted laws.

India’s commitment to international standards, exemplified by ratifying CEDAW, was acknowledged. The presentation also covered affirmative action, laws protecting women against violence, like the 2005 Domestic Violence Act and the 2013 Workplace Harassment Act. Dr. Almeida concluded by underscoring women’s reservations in legislative bodies, enhancing gender equality and grassroots participation.

To read a more elaborate session report: Click here

Day 3| Theme: Ensuring Safety of Women in Public Spaces| April 22, 2023 

In a session led by Ms. Nandini Sarkar, the focus was on “Legal safeguards against violence towards women”. It began by defining “safe spaces.” The Nirbhaya incident in Delhi prompted legal changes for women’s safety, but addressing the patriarchal mindset was highlighted as essential alongside architectural measures. The post-Nirbhaya era saw a shift with public outcry leading to legal amendments.

Mandating POSH Committees in company reports and increased reporting of harassment were noted as positive outcomes. Media coverage, especially the #MeToo movement, was credited for exposing powerful abusers and empowering victims. However, the discussion also acknowledged misuse of the law and emphasized balanced deployment of resources and workshops for better understanding. The session ended by stressing the economic and societal importance of safe work environments for women. Empowerment and dismantling patriarchal norms were seen as keys to reclaiming safe spaces. 

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The session commenced with Breakthrough India’s “Nazare” video, spotlighting the male gaze and subtle harassment women face outdoors. The video highlighted how confronting harassment can challenge these forms of abuse. Dr. Shalu Nigam explored the legal progression against sexual harassment, citing impactful cases like Bhanwari Devi’s in Rajasthan. Historical cases like Phulmoni Das and the Mathura Rape Case transformed laws, including the age of consent and custodial rape regulations.

The Nirbhaya Rape case and the Justice Verma Committee received significant attention. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, emerged as a vital child protection law. Dr. Nigam concluded by emphasizing that rape is an assertion of power, not just a crime of passion. While recognizing progress, she stressed the ongoing necessity to bolster women’s safety. Rights for rape survivors, including a zero FIR, compensation, and dignified fast-track trials, were highlighted as key measures to combat violence. 

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In her session on “Legal Safeguards Against Violence in Public Spaces and Workplaces,” Adv. Celin Thomas emphasized the responsibility of employers in ensuring safe workplaces based on Supreme Court guidelines. She discussed the Vishakha Guidelines as a means to address complaints within organizations, emphasizing the need for training and sensitization to combat victim-blaming and ensure women’s safety at work, contributing to both workforce productivity and the national GDP.

The comprehensive nature of the law was acknowledged, preventing various forms of sexual misconduct under the guise of culture, though a limitation was noted as it only recognizes women as victims, unlike the more inclusive UGC Guidelines that protect victims of all genders. The complaint resolution process, including informal solutions and committee intervention, was explained, concluding with the importance of establishing boundaries and a robust mechanism for obtaining justice against harassment, respecting each individual’s self-worth.

To read a more elaborate session report: Click here

Day 4| Theme: Ensuring Safety of Women in Homes| April 29, 2023

The session titled “Domestic Violence: An Overview, Issues and Challenges,” led by Dr. Keerthi Bollineni, President of Vasavya Mahila Mandali in Vijayawada, covered key aspects of domestic violence and its challenges. Dr. Bollineni highlighted the lack of support systems for victims at various levels, including family, community, and institutions, often leading to unreported cases due to low self-esteem, fear of revictimization, and societal pressures. She proposed measures to improve the Maintenance Law, suggesting a separate law, a Quasi Judicial Body for quick resolutions, and the consolidation of divorce, conjugal rights, and child guardianship.

Dr. Bollineni emphasized the significance of the Nirbhava Fund established post the Nirbhaya case and highlighted the One Stop Center scheme that provides integrated assistance for women affected by violence. Her session underscored the need for survivor-centric approaches, streamlined legal processes, and holistic support for victims, aiming to foster a safer and more equitable society. 

To read a more elaborate session report: Click here

Advocate Shalu Nigam‘s session focused on “Domestic Violence Laws and Other Measures.” The presentation delved into the multifaceted nature of domestic abuse, encompassing physical, emotional, and economic aspects that perpetuate control. The historical link between dowry abuse and domestic violence was discussed, along with the legal reforms introduced, including Section 498A IPC and the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961.

The presentation also highlighted legal procedures for addressing dowry offenses, the role of Dowry Prohibition Officers, and the importance of legal reforms such as Section 498A, 304B, and Section 306 IPC. The right to reside in a shared household, a vital provision of the Domestic Violence Act, was explained as a safeguard against forced eviction. The session provided a comprehensive overview of domestic violence laws and mechanisms.

To read a more elaborate session report: Click here

Prof. Bijayalaxmi Nanda‘s session on “Ensuring Safety of Women in Homes: Special Remarks” addressed critical issues related to reproductive rights and gender-biased sex selection. The discussion highlighted challenges faced in activism, including unconventional methods that sometimes compromised women’s rights. The scheme aimed at countering gender-biased sex selection was explored, noting its limitations in addressing core gender discrimination issues.

The impact of consumerist market trends on marriage and beauty perceptions was discussed, emphasizing the importance of broader changes beyond cash transfers for women’s empowerment and decision-making. The session concluded with Prof. Vibhuti Patel stressing the need for a sensitive criminal justice system, comprehensive training, gender sensitization, speedy justice, and improved communication to ensure effective legal safeguards and women’s safety.

To read a more elaborate session report: Click here

The course ended with active participation from the audience who raised pertinent questions throughout the sessions and contributed towards making this program a success.

Acknowledgment: This event report is written by Aasthaba.

Ending Violence Against Women: Awareness of Laws and Policies in India| #WebPolicyLearning



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