Ten facts about domestic violence that should chill you

Caption: Representational image Image Credit: Unsplash

1. Gender-based violence begins before birth with pre-natal sex selection and abortion and continues through child and forced marriage, honour killing, sexual violence, sexual harassment at work, cyber crimes, and domestic violence.

2. Worldwide, 45,000 women and girls – five an hour – were killed by an intimate partner or family member in 2021.

3. Over half, or 56% of all female homicides globally are committed by their own family members. For men, it’s 11%.

4. Karnataka records the highest incidence of spousal violence in India with 44% of married women reporting physical and sexual violence, according to the National Family Health Survey-5 for 2019-20. This marks a steep increase from 20.6% over five years.

5. Only seven states and union territories report less than 10% incidence of spousal violence with Lakshadweep the least at 1.3%, Nagaland at 6.4% and Himachal Pradesh at 8.3%.

6. India is among 36 nations that still does not recognise marital rape as a criminal offence.

7. Over three in four women in three states—84% in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and 77% in Karnataka–believe a husband is justified in beating his wife for a variety of transgressions including neglecting the children or an improperly cooked meal.

8. Just 14% of women who are subjected to physical or sexual violence seek help.

9. Spousal violence cuts across class, caste and community, though rural women are more vulnerable (34.3%) than urban women (25.9%). Dalit and Adivasi women are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence within and outside their communities.

10. Domestic violence is not just a human rights issue, but a public health and economic issue with studies reporting links between violence and low birth weight in new-born babies. The World Bank suggests that the cost of violence against women could be as high as 3.7% of a country’s GDP.

Also read: The signs of relationship abuse and how to help

If you are the victim of domestic violence, please reach out for help. You can call:
Women’s Helpline 181
Jagori (Delhi) 011-26692700, 8800996640
Shakti Shalini (Delhi) 011-24373737 (Monday to Friday, 11 am-6 pm)
Sneha (Mumbai) 9833052684


Only 38, or 4.75% of 799 candidates contesting the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly polls are women. The BJP has fielded 17 women, the Congress 14 and AAP only seven.

Source: Election Commission

Rest in power

Image Source: Twitter

If you grew up in India during the glory days of Doordarshan, as I did, then Tabussum of the single name and Phool Khile Hain Gulshan Gulshan, India’s first talk show, would have been a weekly highlight.

Long before the era of celebrities being interviewed by other celebrities and, needless to say, long before inter-faith marriages were politicised and criminalised, there was Tabassum Govil (yes, that was her full name), always chatty, always smiling, a rose tucked behind her hair, lighting up grainy TV screens for close to two decades.

The daughter of freedom fighters, Ayodhyanath Sachdev and Asghari Begum, Baby Tabassum career coincided with India’s independence when in 1947, aged just three, she acted in Nargis. She would, through her life, continue to fox attempts to define her as she played various roles as actor, director, editor of Grihalaxmi and even the author of 10 joke books in Urdu.

Tabassum died of a cardiac arrest in hospital on November 18.


The artist known as Smish Designs has created a series of three illustrations that celebrate the sacrifices made by mothers and grandmothers for their daughters to progress. “By being fiercely resilient women of their times, they harnessed the glory of their era into raising capable young girls and women of today,” she tweeted.

Credit: @SmishDesigns

In gratitude

On National Constitution Day on November 26, remembering the 15 women members of the 299-member of the Constituent Assembly.

Credit: Centre for Civil Society


Marriage equality: the next frontier

Four years after it decriminalised same-sex relationships between consenting adults, the Supreme Court has admitted a new petition seeking recognition of same-sex marriage. The apex court has sought the Centre’s response on a clutch of petitions demanding legal recognition to same-sex marriages under the Special Marriage Act.

Filed by two men who live in Hyderabad, the petition is the tenth such filed in various courts that demand equality of marriage rights guaranteed by the Constitution

Jama Masjid flip flop

Image Credit: Amal KS/ Hindustan Times

First, their presence in one of India’s largest mosques was banned. Then, Jama Masjid’s Shahi Imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari clarified that women and girls who wanted to pray could enter. Finally, following a social media uproar and intervention by Delhi’s lieutenant governor, the Jama Masjid administration lifted the ban on girls and women unaccompanied by men with a warning that the mosque was not meant for women to “meet their boyfriends, propose or make videos”. Left unanswered was the question: why was the restriction applicable only to one gender?

And the good news…

For years, economists and policy-makers have worried about India’s abysmal female labour force participation rate, attributing it to reasons from social norms to the burden of domestic work. Now, for the first time a newly set up foundation, Udaiti aims to work with employers to find solutions that can work in increasing women’s employment.

Speaking at the launch, economist and professor Ashwini Deshpande said the project will “focus on demand-side issues that thwart women’s entry and growth in paid work.” To do this, it will take a three-pronged approach of inform, investigate and intervene. Udaiti is a collaboration with Centre for Economic Data and Analysis, Ashoka University,


In Colorado, a 22-year-old gunman opened fire inside an LGBTQI nightclub, killing five people and wounding more than 17 others before being subdued by a decorated army veteran, reports Reuters. The shooting brought back horrific memories of the 2016 massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando where a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 others.

The United Nations, passed a resolution asking for an independent fact-finding probe into human rights abuses in Iran with 25 member states voting in favour, 16, including India, abstaining from voting and six against the vote.

In Afghanistan, following at least two incidents of public lashing including of women, a team of UN-appointed experts said the Taliban treatment of women and girls may amount to a crime against humanity and should be investigated and prosecuted under international law, reports AP.

In Buenos Aires, Hebe de Bonafini who, spurred by the disappearance of her sons during Argentina’s brutal military dictatorship of the 1970s rallied women to build the human rights protest movement, Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, died aged 93. Read about her here and here.

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That’s it for this week. Do you have a tip or information on gender-related developments that you’d like to share? Write to me at: namita.bhandare@gmail.com.

The insidious prevalence of domestic violence in India.

For as long as girls are taught that marriage is their only goal, they must compromise and a bad husband is better than no husband, they will continue to remain in abusive relationships.

Until the monstrosity of his alleged crime, Aaftab Poonawala was your average abusive neighbor. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)

When R, then 19, fell in love with a man from another caste, her parents made one thing very clear: She was dead to them.

THE BIG STORY: A horrific murder in Delhi exposes the dark underbelly of domestic violence

Credit: HT Print

Shraddha Walkar had cut ties with her family when she walked out of home to move in with her boyfriend, Aaftab Poonawala in 2020. When a friend, Lakshman Nadar told her father in mid-September this year that he hadn’t heard from her for months, the father got in touch with the police.

It was only then, after interrogation, that Aaftab confessed he had killed Shraddha, cut her body into pieces, stored them in a fridge he purchased for the purpose and then disposed of them bit by bit late at night in the adjoining Mehrauli forest.

Friends of the couple have told the police that Aaftab was violent in the past. In 2020, “Shraddha sent me a WhatsApp message…telling me if I did not get her out of the house, Aaftab would kill her,” Nadar said. He listened but stopped short of reporting him to the police as Shraddha had asked him not to.

Another friend, Rajat Shukla said Shraddha had told him that Aaftab beats her. “She wanted to leave but couldn’t do so.”

In 2020, Shraddha was hospitalised in Vasai, Mumbai with bruises on her body. There are reports that these injuries were caused by Aaftab.

Rush to judgment

Credit: Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times

The haste to unearth a morality tale in the murder of a 26-year-old has muddied the core of the issue: Intimate partner violence.

[See Pavitra Kanagaraj’s chart, Women and the menace of intimate partner violence here]

On social media, many seized on the religion of the accused as evidence of a ‘love jihad’ conspiracy, warning Hindu women to beware of Muslim men.

Others saw it as a consequence of too much freedom. Listen to your parents, they cautioned. They know best.

In a trial court in Delhi where Aaftab was to be produced by police seeking extension of his custody by a magistrate, lawyers shouted slogans demanding the death sentence for him.

Trolls did not spare even Shraddha. Posts on her Instagram blamed her for inviting her terrible fate by going against her parents’ wishes with some saying she deserved her macabre end for dating a Muslim man.

The myth-making ignored the fact that one in three women in India is subject to domestic violence. Cruelty by a husband or his relatives is the single-largest complaint by women, accounting for 31.8% of all crimes against women in 2021, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

There were 7,093 dowry deaths, around 20 a day, in 2021.

Despite the data, even law-makers seemed to miss the point on domestic violence. On Wednesday, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut came dangerously close to advocating a public lynching: “Shraddha’s killer should be hanged publicly and our women should remain cautious. People might call it ‘love jihad’ or whatever but our women are dying. In such cases, the law cannot do anything, it has to be dealt with by society.”

Union minister Kaushal Kishore went on TV, blaming educated girls for leaving parents for live-in relationships.

A crime in open sight

India has had a law to protect women from domestic violence since 2005. The civil law focuses on providing relief to aggrieved women, including compensation, protection and right to residence in a shared household. It defines violence as not just physical but also emotional and financial.

The conviction rate for domestic violence crimes was only 30.4% in 2021.

“There are so many cases every day,” said Sohini Bhattacharya of Breakthrough, a women’s rights organisation. “We only react when there is a particularly heinous crime.”

Far from being a ‘private matter’ between two individuals, intimate partner violence is a social scourge. “Women killed by intimate partners or family members account for 58% of all female homicide victims reported globally,” found a 2018 study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

But instead of creating public outrage, violence at home and in public and official spaces “is met mainly with silence and impunity,” finds a more recent November 2022 paper by Swarna Rajagoplan and Natasha Singh Raghuvanshi.

“Domestic violence can be an extremely isolating experience. Who do you turn to?” said Ritambhara Mehta of Breakthrough India. “There is total public apathy towards overall violence against women.”

Monika Tewari of Shakti Shalini that runs a shelter home in Delhi agreed. “In every second home there is a case of domestic violence. It is so prevalent that it has been normalised.”

Irina’s story

In November 2018, six months after she and her infant daughter had been thrown out of her marital home, Chandigarh-based golfer Irina Brar went to the police station to lodge a complaint of domestic violence. The cops she said had, earlier in the day, witnessed her trying unsuccessfully to get into the house to retrieve a few possessions. They laughed, “Madam, nothing will happen,” she said they told her.

It took a magistrate’s order for the police to finally file an FIR (first information report) only in January 2020. Two years later it took another intervention, this time by the high court, for the police to file a charge-sheet in February 2022. When it was finally filed, crucial documents such as her own statement were missing from the file, she said.

“I am an educated woman and am struggling to get justice in my case, despite knocking on every door,” Irina told me over the phone. “What happens to women who don’t have the advantages that I do?”

Irina said police had called her a ‘greedy’ woman for wanting her own possessions back and a bad example to her daughter for spending so much time at police stations and courts. On other occasions at the police station, they loudly point her out to other women who have come to lodge complaints. “Look at this golfer madam. Nothing happened in her case and nothing will happen to you,” they taunt, she said.

“It seems the police want to further traumatise domestic violence victims so that they retract their complaints entirely,” she said.

She remains shut out of her matrimonial home and is battling 15 separate cases, she said. “But I’m quite resilient and am not going to give up that easily.” To better fight in court, she has now taken up the study of law.

Speaking up against domestic violence means going down a ‘very, very sinister path’ where the legal system is broken. “Half the women leave the cases mid-way,” There is no support system that she is aware of. Families often urge women to compromise and stay in abusive marriages or then walk out without a fight.

Instead, a small group of women in Chandigarh who are also fighting domestic violence cases have made their own WhatsApp group and reach out to support each other, she said.

India’s domestic violence epidemic

Credit: Unsplash

It’s easy to see Aaftab Poonawala as a violent psychopath, an aberration in our structured social order. But domestic violence is deeply prevalent, making headlines only when the victim is killed or grievously injured.

Even that list is alarmingly long.

On November 8, in Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur district, Abhijeet Patidar killed his 22-year-old girlfriend, Shilpa Jharia over ‘infidelity’ by slitting her throat. He then posted a video of her body on social media. A week later, Patidar remains on the run from the police.

In Mumbai, reports are coming in of a 24-year-old BPO employee being brutally assaulted by her boyfriend, Amey Darekar. The woman has been admitted into hospital with multiple fractures to her spine and Darekar has been arrested.

On Tuesday, a 17-year-old girl was pushed to her death by her jilted lover in Lucknow.

On Wednesday, Delhi police arrested a jeweller’s son identified only as Rahul for strangling his 22-year-old partner for suspected infidelity.

On Thursday, the body of a married woman, an Asha worker, was found stuffed inside a sack in a drain in Haryana’s Karnal district. The police have arrested her partner.

This is just a week’s listing. If this doesn’t worry you, what will?

If you are the victim of domestic violence, please reach out for help. You can call:
Women’s Helpline 181
Jagori (Delhi) 011-26692700, 8800996640
Shakti Shalini (Delhi) 011-24373737 (Monday to Friday, 11 am-6 pm)
Sneha (Mumbai) 983305268


Of the 252,594 Pocso cases sent to trial since 2014, only 77,340 have been decided. In other words, 70% of all Pocso cases sent to trial in the last eight years still seek justice.

Source: Protsahan India Foundation report analysing 10 years of the Pocso Act.


“We will go by the tradition of the temple that women in certain age-group will only be allowed. There is no room for any controversy.”

Opening the annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala temple two years after the Covid-19 pandemic shut it down, the Kerala state temple affairs minister K Radhakrishnan seemed blissfully oblivious to the 2018 Supreme Court order allowing all women entry



She’s smiling, one hand placed on a book on her lap and looking out at the riverside at Richmond-upon-Thames where she set up Hogarth Press and lived for 10 years. The first full-size bronze statue of Virginia Woolf was unveiled on Wednesday and it’s beautiful.


Former mutt pontiff raped 13-year-old, sexually assaulted other minors: Police charge-sheet

Credit: ANI

Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanu, the former pontiff of a prominent mutt in Karnataka’s Chitradurga district, sexually assaulted minor girls and raped a 13-year-old multiple times after calling her to his room between 2013 and 2015, according to the 694-page police charge-sheet filed in the case. The 64-year-old was arrested on September 1

Kathua rape-accused to be tried as an adult

Shubham Sangra, one of eight accused in the Kathua gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old tribal girl in January 2018 will face trial as an adult and not a juvenile, the Supreme Court has held. “Leniency towards juveniles is emboldening them to commit heinous crimes,” the court observed.

And the good news…

Caption: Kerala education minister V Sivankutty Credit: Facebook

The Kerala government on Monday announced awareness programmes and lessons against body shaming in school curriculums.

And more good news…

Making a rare exception for 32 retired women short service commission officers of the Indian Air Force, the Supreme Court on Wednesday deemed them to be granted permanent commission and thus made them eligible for pension


In Washington, the US Senate took a crucial step toward passing landmark legislation to provide federal protections for same-sex marriage as 12 Republicans joined Democrats to advance the Respect for Marriage Act. More in the New York Times

In London, the story of Noor Inayat Khan, the British World War II spy whose Indian heritage traces back to Tipu Sultan has been adapted for the stage. Giving it a three-star (out of five) review, The Guardian says this “beguilingly played story reflects on bravery and culpability”.

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That’s it for this week. Do you have a tip or information on gender-related developments that you’d like to share? Write to me at: namita.bhandare@gmail.com.