India: New Report Examines Four Types of Gender Violence
Wednesday, May 25, 2011 2:20 PM

The Prajnya Trust’s Gender Violence Research and Information Taskforce recently published a report entitled “Gender Violence in India” (2010).  The report examines four types of public violence against women: street sexual harassment, sexual harassment in the workplace, information and communication technology-related gender violence, and gendered political violence.  The report also includes four expert commentaries: “Violence is as Violence Does” by Ammu Joseph, which considers the relationship between violence against women and a global culture of violence, “Politics, Economy, and Gender Violence” by Vibhuti Patel, which links economic growth with violence against women, “The Violence of Urban Poverty” by Kalpana Sharma, which discusses violence against women as a result of poverty, and “A Matter of Honour” by Geeta Ramashan, which examines the state response to "honor" killings. 


The report describes street sexual harassment as “a particularly persistent form of violence against women.”  Street sexual harassment takes place in a variety of public places and includes a range of behaviors from staring and gesturing to stalking.  There is no law in the Indian penal code addressing sexual harassment, but a few laws are tangentially related to street sexual harassment as they address insults or outrages to “a woman’s modesty.”  Recent studies have found that young women (between the ages of 15 and 19) are most vulnerable and that poor infrastructure maintenance contributes to safety issues for women in public. 


Workplace sexual harassment was addressed by the Indian Supreme Court in a 1997 decision in which the court found it to be a violation of a woman’s fundamental rights and set out 12 guidelines for dealing with reports of sexual harassment in the workplace.  A proposed law, The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, is India’s first effort to regulate the crime of workplace sexual harassment and is based upon the Supreme Court’s guidelines.  Accurate statistics for workplace sexual harassment in India are difficult to obtain since it is an underreported and, for now, unlegislated occurrence.  One 2010 study by the Centre for Transforming India found that 80% of female workers in the information technology, business process outsourcing, and knowledge process outsourcing fields had experienced workplace sexual harassment in some form.


Information and communication technology (ICT)-based harassment and violence is widely considered to be a growing global problem, but there are few studies addressing the issue.  ICT-based harassment can sometimes spill over into the offline world leading to physical violence.  India’s Information Technology (Amendment) Act (ITAA) includes a few provisions regarding confidentiality and privacy but deals primarily with e-commerce.  Overall, women utilizing ICT must balance the freedom it provides with the danger it sometimes entails.


Finally, political gender violence is “violence undertaken by states, groups, or individuals" to make a political statement or achieve a political end.  The report specifies four types of political gender violence: sexual violence as a conflict weapon, gender violence during riots, sexual violence by state agents, and sexual violence aimed at moral or cultural policing.  Several United Nations Security Council resolutions in recent years have addressed and condemned sexual violence in war (for example, 2008 Resolution 1820), but it remains a pervasive problem throughout the world including in India as evidenced by the accusations of Kashmiri residents of rape and murder by Indian military officers in 2009. 



Compiled from: Gender Violence in India: A Prajnya Report (2010), WUNRN (24 May 2011).