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 Table of Contents    
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 57  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 131-139
Violence against women: Where are the solutions?

Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India

Click here for correspondence address and email

Date of Web Publication4-Jun-2015

How to cite this article:
Sharma I. Violence against women: Where are the solutions?. Indian J Psychiatry 2015;57:131-9

How to cite this URL:
Sharma I. Violence against women: Where are the solutions?. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2015 [cited 2021 Jun 22];57:131-9. Available from:

"If all men are born free, how is it that all women are born slaves?"

Mary Astel 1668-1731: Some Reflections upon Marriage (1706 ed.)

Dear friends, I am deeply honoured by the trust you have reposed in me and elected me to the highest office of the Indian Psychiatric Society. At this point of time, I would like to pay my respects to my revered teachers and seniors who taught me the ABC of psychiatry, mentored and blessed me all along my journey to this point. I salute (Late) Professor BB Sethi who admitted me to psychiatry. Dear Sirs, Prof. A. K. Agarwal, Prof. N. Lal, Prof. S. C. Gupta, Prof. Mata Prasad, Prof. C. K. Rastogi, Prof. A. K. Tandon, Prof. Prabhat Sitholey, and Dr. Ashok Trivedi, I thank you all wholeheartedly for all that you have taught me. I would like to give the credit to you all for this achievement. At this moment, I would like to remember my father (Late) Pandit Harish Chandra Sharma, a practicing lawyer at the Allahabad High court, for the enthusiasm he infused in me and for his lofty ideals, a few of which I have imbibed. I would like to dedicate this address to him.

I have chosen "Violence against Women: Where are the Solutions?" as the theme of my address on the following accounts:

  • Violence against women is a social, economic, developmental, legal, educational, human rights,and health (physical and mental) issue.
  • It is a preventable cause of morbidity and mortality in women
  • The relationship between violence against women and mental illness has not been adequately explored.
  • Application of laws related to violence in the setting of mental illness is difficult
  • Despite the social and religious sanctions against it in all cultures, it has continued.

Responses by communities, religious institutions, government (various commissions), international conventions, stringent legislations and penal measures have failed miserably in containing the menace.

The recent gang rape of a medical student on 16.12.2012, by 6 persons (under the effect of alcohol) in a bus (the safest transport), in the presence of her friend (a male), during busy traffic hours (9.30 pm), for an extended period (>1 h), in the National Capital Region, whose Chief Minister is a lady, and with a lady as the president of the ruling party has rocked the country.

Violence against women is on the national agenda. Government is making frantic efforts to find solutions. The Justice JS Varma Commission has been set up.

The world has entered into a new millennium, but from the dawn of civilization till date, the woman of the patriarchal society of India continues to be oppressed and ill-treated. She is dependent, weak, exploited and faces gender discrimination in every sphere of life. The gender-based violence that threatens the well-being, dignity and rights of women, extends across social, cultural, economic and regional boundaries.

Instances of violence against women in ancient India are mentioned. Mahabharat cites the violence meted out to Dropti. Yudhishtir staked his wife Dropti in gambling and lost her, following which Duryodhana ordered his brother Dushasan to strip her in the royal palace and he attempted to do so, but Lord Krishna came to her rescue. Kans killed seven newborn babies of his sister Devaki. In modern societies also violence against women is a major public health problem affecting women and children.

While deliberating on violence against women and mental illness two cases deserve mention. First, the "Bobbitt" case [1] of an American couple, whose difficult relationship gained worldwide notoriety for an incident in 1993 when the wife severed her husband's penis with a knife. The penis was subsequently surgically re-attached. The wife stated that her husband sexually, physically, and emotionally abused her during their marriage, flaunted his infidelities, and had forced her to have an abortion. Her defense attorneys maintained that she was suffering from clinical depression and a possible bout of posttraumatic stress disorder due to the abuse. The jury found her not guilty due to insanity causing an irresistible impulse to sexually wound her husband. As a result, she could not be held liable for her actions.

Second, is AM, [2] a high profile rape case from Orissa. She was driven out of her house by her husband, disowned by her parents and brutally raped in front of her friend in 1999. She accused the former advocate-general of Orissa to have attempted to rape her and to have played a role in the incident of gang rape. Mishra alleged that her husband tried to prove her insane so that he could divorce her. She was admitted to a psychiatric nursing home in Rourkela, where she received six ECTs. Thereafter, she was admitted in Central Institute Psychiatry for over 9 months. However, mental disorder could neither be confirmed, nor refuted.

   Woman's Place in Society Top

Indian Society has always revered women. In Hinduism, man and woman represent the two halves of the divine body. There is no question of superiority or inferiority between them. Hindu history is witness to the super-women, such as Gargi, Maitreyi and Sulabha, whose faculty of reasoning was far superior to that of ordinary mortals. Many female deities Saraswati , Durga, Laxmi, Kali etc., are worshipped across the country. According to the Mahabharat by cherishing the woman one virtually worships the goddess of prosperity.

On the darker side, the patriarchal system has continued since the time of Rig Veda. Customs and values were made by men to favour men. Women suffer this discrimination in silence.

Historically, the Indian woman has been made to adopt contradictory roles. The strength of a woman is evoked to ensure that women effectively play their traditional roles of nurturance as daughters, mothers, wives, and daughters-in-laws. On the other hand, the stereotype of "a weak and helpless woman" is fostered to ensure complete dependence on the male sex. [3]

   Violence Against Women: The Evidence Top

Violence against women occurs throughout the life cycle from prebirth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood to senescence. [4] Most of the data are believed to be unreliable as many cases go unreported.

Cases of violence against women are steadily increasing in the country. According to the National Crime Record Bureau, India, there is one dowry death in the country every 78 h, one act of sexual harassment every 59 min, one rape every 34 min, one act of torture every 12 min and almost one in every three married women experienced domestic violence. [5]

Studies from India reported violence in 19- 76% of women (75% [6] -76% [7] in lower caste women; 42-48% in Uttar Pradesh and 36-38% in Tamil Nadu; [8] and 19% in an urban slum community of childless women. [9] ) In Western India, 15.7% pregnancy-related deaths in the community series and 12.9% in the hospital series were associated with domestic violence. [10] In Uttar Pradesh, 30% men reported beating wives. [11] 22% of woman of childbearing age from a potter community were physically assaulted. 34% of those physically assaulted required medical attention. [12]

The population-based, multicenter based collaborative project of the study of abuse in the family environment (India-survey of abuse in family environment) was established in seven sites in India. [13] It looked at the association with poor mental health. A total of 9938 women participated (from rural, urban slum, urban nonslum areas). 40% reported experiencing any violence during their marriage. 56% had self-report questionnaire scores indicating poor mental health.

   Domestic Violence Top

The home is often equated with a sanctuary, a place where individuals seek love, safety, security and shelter. For some women, the home is a place that imperils lives and breeds some of the most drastic forms of violence perpetrated against girls and women. Violence is usually perpetrated by males who are, or who have been in positions of trust and intimacy and power e.g. husbands, fathers, fathers-in law, stepfathers, brothers, uncles, sons, or other relatives.

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA), 2005 [14] defines domestic violence as any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent, which includes threat or actual abuse.

In the 1996 survey of 6902 men in the state of Uttar Pradesh, up to 45% of married men acknowledged physically abusing their wives. [4] The National Health Survey conducted under the stewardship of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, reported that >1/3 of women (34%) between the ages of 15-49 years have experienced spousal physical violence. [15] The adverse health consequences that women experience due to violence are wide-ranging with physical, reproductive and sexual and mental health outcomes.

In a community-based study involving 450 women in Gujarat, [16] 42% experienced physical beatings and sexual abuse, and 23% experiences abusive language, belittlement and threats. It is interesting to note that 56% women belief that wife beating is justified.

The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) in multiple centers in India reported that 85% of men admit they had indulged in violent behavior against their wives at least once in last 12 months. 57% of men admitted to have sexual abuse with their wives. 32% of men admitted to committing violence on their pregnant wives. The men indulged in violence to establish their power over the weaker sex. Subtle and insidious forms of violence include repeated humiliation, insults, forced isolation, limitations on social mobility, the constant threat of violence and injury, and denial of economic resources. [17]

   Sexual Harassment at Work Place Top

A social worker (BD) was gang-raped by a group of the upper class, influential men, because she had tried to stop the practice of child marriage. The accused was acquitted by the trial court. This inspired several women's groups and NGOs to file a petition in the Supreme Court under the collective platform of Vishaka (Vishaka and others vs. State of Rajasthan and others). [18] It is a landmark case as it was the basis for Supreme Court guidelines on sexual harassment at workplace.

   Dowry Related Violence Top

The age-old practice of dowry has persisted and driven many women to suicide. [19] In 50 district court judgments, 1987-1989, Maharashtra, West India, there was dowry related violence. 120 cases of dowry deaths and 20 cases of intentional injury related to dowry were identified. There were intentional injuries, including physical violence (59%), mental torture 28%, molestation by family members and perversity (10%), and starving 3%. [20] The causes of death in the women who died were: Burns 46% and drowning 34%. It is worth noting that the women were very young-88% below 25 years; 58% of them were childless, and 22% had only female children. [20] Harassment by in-laws on issues related to dowry emerged as a risk factor for poor mental health. It is characteristic of the Indian setting. [13] Dowry related violence is on the rise in India. More than 5000 women are killed annually by their husbands and in-laws, who burn them in "accidental" kitchen fires if their ongoing demands for dowry before and after marriage are not met. On an average five women a day are burned, and many more cases go unreported. [4]

   Causes of Violence Against Women: Risk Factors Top

Psychiatric morbidity

Regular consumption of alcohol by the husband has been strongly associated with poor mental health of women. [13],[21] Alcohol has consistently emerged as a risk marker for partner violence that is specially consistent across a range of settings [22] for all types of violence. [23] Alcohol operates as a situational factor, increasing the likelihood of violence by reducing inhibitions, clouding judgment and impairing an individual's ability to interpret cues. [24] Others morbidities such as bipolar disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, delusional and antisocial personality disorder make the man more vulnerable to commit sexual crimes. There is evidence from many forensic cases (Bobbit, Manu Sharma, Nirbhaya etc.,) that alcohol was the common denominator in violence against women.

Sociodemographic factors

Patriarchy has been cited as the main cause of violence against women. Early (15-19 years; [25] 10-19 years), [26] and young age (31-39 years), [26] illiteracy, [26] coupled with low level of education, poor socioeconomic status, [13],[16] women with no income of their own, [16] and urban domicile [23] have been cited as risk factors for domestic violence. Women engaged in small business and farming were more likely to be abused than women who were housewives or who had occupational status equal to that of husbands. [23] Where women have a higher economic status than their husbands and are seen as having sufficient power to change traditional gender roles, risk for violence is high. [23],[27] Unmarried, [26] separated or divorced status or being in a live-in relationship [23],[25] have been reported to be associated with violence against women.

Family factors

Exposure to harsh physical discipline during childhood and witnessing the father beating the mother during childhood is a predictor of victimization and perpetration of violence against his wife in adulthood. [13],[16],[21] Childlessness, [28] longer marital duration, having more children, extended family and large family size have been associated with victimization and perpetration of domestic violence. [13] In addition, the age-old custom of dowry and gifts for husband and in-laws has been found to be strongly related to violence against women in India. [13],[21],[23]

Married women with mental illness: The triple tragedy[29]

Women with severe mental illness are ostracized on three accounts, the female status, psychosis and separated/divorced status, which together constitute the triple tragedy. [29] For many women, it is a no-win situation. They are neither wanted at parents' homes nor at their husbands' homes. These women are helpless and suffer from a multitude of stresses that are unique to Indian culture [30] such as partial desertions, forced to live with the husband she hates, not being granted permission to enter her own home, being sent back to her parents every time her symptoms increase, parents being forced to pay for her medical expenses, not allowed to take her medication etc.

The situation with respect to marriage of women with mental illness in India is intriguing. It has been aptly described as the "Indian paradox" by Sharma and Tripathi. [31] All women must marry irrespective of the presence of mental illness. It is possible to marry women with mental illness, sometimes even when there is active psycho-pathology, because most marriages are arranged, and it is often possible to lure the other party with a handsome dowry. Despite violence being meted out to these women, they make frantic attempts for restitution of conjugal rights rather than for separation or divorce. [31]

Traditional and cultural practices perpetuating violence against women[4]

Female genital mutilation

Two million/year undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) in the world. It takes place in 28 countries in Africa, in some regions of Asia and the Middle East and in certain immigrant communities in North America, Europe, and Australia. FGM can lead to death, infertility, and long-term psychological trauma combined with increased physical suffering.

Acid attacks

In Bangladesh, it estimated that there are over 200 acid attacks each year. Sulfuric acid attacks have emerged as a cheap and readily accessible weapon to disfigure and sometimes kill women and girls for reasons as varied as family feuds, inability to meet dowry demands, and rejection of marriage proposals.

Killing in the name of family honour

In several countries of the world including Bangladesh, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Turkey, and India, women are killed to uphold the honour of the family due to varied reasons such as-alleged adultery, premarital relationship (with or without sexual relations), rape, falling in love with a person the family disapproves, which justify a male member of the family to kill the woman concerned. It is rather disturbing that in certain countries (Jordan) the penal laws governing such crimes are lenient if the person committing the crime is below the age of 18 years. In India honour killings appear to be on the rise.

Early marriages

Early marriage with or without the consent of the girl, constitutes a form of violence as it undermines the health and autonomy of millions of girls. Nearly 12% were married by age 12, 26% by age 15, and 24% married by age 18. [16] The legal minimum age for marriage is usually lower for females as compared to males. In many countries, the minimum legal age for marriage with parental consent is considerably lower, than without it. More than 50 countries allow marriage at 16 and below with parental consent. [4]

Sociocultural factors disfavouring women

Stereotypes of gender roles have continued over the ages. The primary roles for women have been marriage and motherhood. Women must marry because an unmarried, separated or divorced status is a stigma. The custom of dowry is still prevalent in Indian marriages. Marriage cannot be dissolved. In the settlement of marriage, it is generally ensured that the woman is younger, nonworking, and less educated than her husband. Thus, the "brother-sister" or "father-daughter" model continues into marriage with the husband having the right to dominate and discipline his wife. After marriage the girl has to go to her husband's home, never to return to her parent's place. At her husband's place, she has to accept the prevailing norm of an inferior status of the "Bahu"(daughter-in-law), which means she should adjust and be tolerant and respectful toward all members of the family, including those much younger to her. She should not disclose her problems to anyone outside the home, nor take help from outside (not even parents). Husband is given a divine status. Relatives bless the husband "Suhagvati raho " (may your husband live long), or "Phalo puto " (may you bear fruits [children]); not the wife. She should bring money and gifts from parents on various festivals. She has nothing of her own. Without husband life has no meaning for her. Although the practice of Sati has declined, enforced widowhood is still prevalent. These sociocultural factors have continued over the years and have put women at risk for various forms of abuse.


Modern styles of living and rapid technological advances have also been blamed. Mobiles, ipads, television, computers, internet have become the order of the day. Women are moving out of the houses more freely and there is free mixing of the two genders. "Fashion, Drink, Dine and Make Merry" or "You live only once" culture is being promoted amongst the youth. Television and cinemas are portraying sexual material for making fast money. Pornographic material is easily available to many on the internet and through other ways.

Late marriages

Marriages are being delayed for various reasons with a trend toward getting married around 30, or even later.

Life stress

Poor quality of education, high competition in education and employment, corruption and inflation are the common stresses of the youth. The high-risk individual could be a young person, who lives away from his home, anxious and depressed, frequently views pornography and resorts to alcohol for recreation and relaxation.

Judiciary and law enforcement machinery

An insensitive, inefficient, corrupt and unaccountable judicial system and law enforcement machinery fails to deter against various forms of crimes.

Decline in moral and religious values

Population explosion

Unplanned increase in population leads to many types of stresses, which indirectly contribute to the risk of violence against women.

   Violence Against Women: What has been Done Top

Communities' response to violence

A few women-initiated community-level responses to domestic violence are praise worthy. The Nari Adalat and Sahara Sangh initiatives have been organized by the Department of Education's Mahila Samakya Program in two districts of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. Salishe, a traditional method, is being utilized by the Nongovernment Organisation Shramajibee Mahila Samiti in West Bengal. The ICRW conducted a television program in four channels entitled "Bol". It created awareness among women.

Legislative response

International: There are a number of international Instruments to curb violence against women. The United Nations General Assembly resolution endorsed the urgent need for the universal application of women's rights of equality, security, liberty integrity and dignity. Article 55 and 56 of United Nations charter cast a legal obligation on United Nations organization to promote respect for equality and human rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 5, states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. [32] There have been three United Nations world conferences on women. One in Mexico in 1975, the second in Copenhagen in 1980, and the third one in Nairobi, wherein strategies were framed to promote gender equality and opportunities for women. These were based on three objectives: Equality, development and peace.

The Vienna Declaration, 1993 [33] calls for action to integrate the equal status human rights of women. It stresses toward elimination of violence against women in public and private life. The Beijing conference, 1995 [34] provided a platform for concentration on some of the key issues identified as fundamental obstacles to the advancement of majority of women in the world. It focused on issues such as discrimination against women, violence against women, etc.

The Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), 1981, [35] to which 166 countries are members, is a landmark document because it framed violence against women within the framework of human rights. It identified female as the primary risk factor for violence and broadened the definition of gender violence (to include all aspects of women's life).

Domestic legal remedies in India

The Constitution of India: [36] Article 14 is on equality.

Difference in treatment between men and women by the state is totally prohibited on grounds of religion race, caste, sex or place of birth. Article 21 is on right to live; right to live with human dignity.

The National Commission for Women: It was set up as a statutory body in January 1992 under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990 [37] to review the constitutional and legal safeguards for women; recommend remedial legislative measures, facilitate redress of grievances and advise the Government on all policy matters affecting women.

The Supreme Court guidelines on sexual harassment at work place: For the first time, the Court drew upon an international human rights law instrument, the CEDAW to pass a set of guidelines. The Court defined sexual harassment at work place as any unwelcome gesture, behavior, words or advances that are sexual in nature. "It shall be the duty of the employer or other responsible persons in work places or other institutions to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts, of sexual harassment by taking all steps required."

The legislation relating to violence against women comprises the Indian Penal Code (IPC), [38] civil law and special laws.

Dowry and dowry death: The Dowry Prohibition Act (DPA), 1961 [39] applies to all people, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews. Giving, taking or abetting the giving or taking of dowry is an offence, which is punishable. Several states (Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Punjab) amended the DPA to give it more teeth. The law was found to fail to stall the evil.

Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances, within 7 years of marriage, and if shown that soon before her death, she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for or in connection with any demand of dowry, such death shall be called "dowry death" and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death (IPC 304-B). [38] 113-B Indian Evidence Act, 1872, was inserted for the presumption as to dowry death.

Abetment of suicide of child or insane person: If any person under 18 years of age, any insane person, any delirious person, any idiot, or any person in a state of intoxication, commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years and shall also be liable for fine (305 IPC). [38] However, the difficulty is that if it is shown the victim has major mental illness, the benefit of doubt is given to the accused and he is acquitted.

Abetment of suicide: If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable for fine (306 IPC). [38] 113-A of Indian Evidence Act, 1872, relates to the presumption as to abetment of suicide. The offences of dowry and abetment of suicide are cognizable, nonbailable and noncompoundable.

Sexual offences: A man is said to have committed rape if he has sexual intercourse with a woman against her will and consent; or with her consent when the man knows that he is not her husband or when she thinks that he is her lawful husband; or with her consent when she is of unsound mind or is intoxicated by herself or the man. However, sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years, is not rape (375 IPC). [38] The latter provision seems deficient as it does not include marital rape.

Voluntarily having carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal is an offence for which the person shall be imprisoned for life and shall also be liable for fine. This provision is hardly used (377 IPC). [38]

Of cruelty by husband and relatives of husband: The willful conduct of the husband or his relative that is likely to drive the women to commit suicide or cause physical or mental trauma to her or harassment of a woman with a view to coercing her or any of her relative to meet any unlawful demand for property would be punishable by imprisonment for 3 years and fine (498A IPC). [38] This is the most widely used provision against domestic violence.

  • Other offences in mentioned in IPC [38] are: Causing miscarriage (312 IPC), causing miscarriage without woman's consent (313 IPC), death caused by an act done with intent to cause miscarriage; if act was done without woman's consent (314 IPC), act done with intent to prevent child being born alive or to cause it to die after birth (315 IPC) and causing death of quick unborn child by act not amounting to culpable homicide (316 IPC).
  • The Family Courts Act, 1984: [40] The Act was established with a view to promote conciliation in, and secure speedy settlement of disputes relating to marriage and family affairs.
  • The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986. [41] : This Act prohibits the indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner is prohibited.

The Commission of Sati (prevention) Act, 1987: [42] This Act is for the prevention and glorification of sati.

Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005: [14] The Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA), 2005 was enacted to provide for more effective protection of the rights of women guaranteed under the constitution who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family and for matters connected thereto. It recognizes 4 types of domestic violence: Physical, verbal, and emotional (including not having a child or a male child, marrying without consent), and economic (including violence related to stridhan, dowry, property) and sexual (includes sexual abuse and marital rape).

The aggrieved person (AP) is a woman who has been in a domestic relationship with the respondent. The respondent is any adult male person who is, or has been in a domestic relationship with the AP and against whom the AP has sought relief. The AP or any person can complain directly (verbal), telephonically or via E-mail. There is provision for various orders (protection, residence, maintenance (monetary relief), custody orders and emergency help. There is also provision for assistance (counselor, police, and assistance for initiating criminal proceedings, shelter home, medical facilities, and legal aid).

The PWDVA is good in many ways. It is friendly to even to poor and illiterate women; it educates the woman regarding the rights and available assistance; provides many reliefs (which facilitate psychosocial rehabilitation), free legal advice and help to initiate legal proceedings against respondent; it attempts to restore the family; and last, but not the least, it empowers the woman. The main criticism against PWDVA is that mental illness in AP or respondent is ignored. Apart from this, there are mixed reactions toward few legislations, especially PWDVA, DPA and IPC 498A, because they have been frequently abused and are considered as "anti-men."

   Do we have Solutions? Top

Once rape has been committed, it confirms that all measures to stall violence have failed. Reaction in the form of declaration of enhanced punishment is largely an expression of helplessness and frustration. The emphasis should be on prevention and rehabilitation.

Legislation by itself would not suffice because violence against women is a deep rooted social problem. It is worth quoting late Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who remarked: "Legislation cannot by itself normally solve deep rooted social problems. One has to approach them in other ways too, but legislation is necessary and essential and hence that it may give that push and have educative factors, as well as the legal sanctions behind it, which help public opinion to be given a certain shape." [43]

Women cannot solve the problems by themselves. Women should understand men and men should understand women. Both should work together to eradicate the menace.

   Recommendations For Combating Violence Against Women Top

Mental illness

Psychiatric illness should be identified and treated promptly. Patients with active symptoms should be kept in a protected environment till substantial improvement takes place. Many patients may need life-long protection e.g. those suffering from mental retardation or chronic schizophrenia.

Women with severe mental illness need special attention. Public awareness needs to be created with respect to the following:

  • Women need protection but those with mental illness need more care and protection.
  • The real problem is not mental illness, but the negative attitude toward it.
  • Many medical illnesses create more problems in marriage, than mental illnesses.
  • There should no double standard? If a woman can continue the marriage after her husband develops a mental illness, so can the husband. Similarly, people should be made to understand that if it is right to marry a son or daughter with mental illness, then the reverse is also true. A daughter in-law with mental illness should also be accepted.
  • Good family support greatly improves the prognosis.
  • Many women with mental illness prove to be better marriage partners and daughter-in-laws than those without mental illness.
  • If the husband's family accepts the woman with mental illness, the society will also follow
  • Woman with mental illness should be accepted with her illness.
  • Violence is not the solution. Mental illness in the victim (e.g. depression) or perpetrator (e.g. alcoholism or schizophrenia) should be promptly treated.

Restriction on use of alcohol

There should be prohibition of alcohol use in mass gatherings in institutions, public places like trains and buses. The number of alcohol outlets should be decreased. The age for purchasing alcohol may be raised to 30 years. Special checks on festive occasions are recommended with the help of breath analyzers. Involuntary treatment of persons with alcohol dependence should be carried out.

Control on media

Sexual material should be censored. Good themes, which condemn violence and glorify rehabilitation of the victim, should be projected. Ban on pornography should be strictly implemented. The sites may be blocked.


Marriage of boys and girls should preferably be in early 20s, as soon as feasible, so that sexual needs could be satisfied in a socially appropriate manner.

Strengthening the institution of marriage

Strong marital bond would act as a deterrent. The "Shiv-Parvati" model should be promoted for Hindus.

Law enforcement

Efficient and accountable law enforcement machinery at all levels (administration, government, police and judiciary) is needed.


Change in mind set of the judiciary

This is the need of the day. Indira Jaising, Additional Solicitor General of India, aptly stated "It's time for India's courts to gaze inward and throw out deeply embedded patriarchal notions that stop judgments from being fair to women. Sexism within the system has to go before it does more damage in the country." [44] A High Court judge in Orissa in his judgment once famously held "It was not possible for a man, acting alone, to rape a woman in good health." [44]

Amendments in existing legislations

The Hindu Marriage Act (1955): [45] Mental illness may be removed from conditions of Hindu marriage. Not informing about past illness of mental illness should not be a ground for nullity of marriage.

PWDVA, 2005 and DPA, 1961: Assessment for mental illness may be incorporated in the code civil procedure so that the mental illness is identified in the victim (woman) and/or perpetrator (male relative) and promptly treated. This way violence can be prevented.

New legislations

New legislation is needed to provide for granting "Interim Relief" (A big sum of money that is paid by the perpetrator) to a victim of severe sexual assault. The money may be utilized for rehabilitation of the victim. Rehabilitation of the victims of brutal sexual assaults should be the State's responsibility. The legislation should provide for enhanced punishment for violence perpetrated against women with mental illness.

Appropriate application of laws in the setting of mental illness

This is often very difficult, nevertheless very important. Judiciary handling such cases should desirably have both legal (LLB) as well as medical (MD Psychiatry/DPM) qualifications.

Code of conduct

Code of conduct at work place, school and home, with respect to interaction with persons of opposite sex should be outlined and implemented.

Gender sensitization

Gender sensitization by parents and teachers is needed regarding the sensitivities and boundaries of man-woman relationships.

Education and employment

Improvement in quality of education and employment opportunities for youth.

Recreation and talent

Recreational avenues and opportunities for talent development in young people.

Moral and religious values

Parents and teachers should strive to infuse good moral and religious values in children and serve as role models.

Population control

Last, but not the least, If we are sincere we will get the results. Let us all say "No" to violence against women.

   References Top

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DOI: 10.4103/0019-5545.158133

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