'Law reforms needed to combat growing violence against women'

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New Delhi, Nov 27 (UNI) South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional network of human rights defenders, has called for law reforms to combat the increasing violence against women, saying that this was the fastest-growing crime in India.

In a message on the occasion of International Day for the elimination of violence against women, the organisation said "violence against women devastates the lives of millions of women and girls, in peacetime and in conflict and knows no national or cultural barriers." The violence could take the form of "abortion, rape, incest, physical torture, child marriages, forced prostitution, trafficking, sexual harassment in workplaces, abuses and murder over dowry disputes, honour killings, and domestic violence." Quoting from a recent study, the organisation said statistics from the Home Ministry's National Crime Records Bureau showed that every 26 minutes, a woman is molested, every 34 minutes a rape takes place, and every 43 minutes, a woman is kidnapped.

Madhya Pradesh, it said, had perhaps the highest number of gang rapes in India, while New Delhi, the capital city, had emerged as the "rape capital" of South Asia.

Unfortunately, the violence was especially high among minorities and the lower castes, with the caste difference contributing greatly to violence against Dalit women, it said in a statement signed by former Prime Minister I K Gujral, SAHR chairperson, and Dr Hameeda Hossain, co-chairperson, which was released here.

It said in the history of law reform relating to women and violence in India, legislation had failed to uphold the values which gave true equality: freedom, respect, and dignity. "Law reforms must reflect values of equality and justice to prevent violence against women and to protect the survivors of violence." Noting that women in different communities in all countries of the South Asian region were challenging the discriminatory practices and resisting violence within their families, the community and by the state, it said the state of women's rights in South Asia presented a challenge for governments, civil society and the international community.

SAHR urged for strong action to prevent the violation of women's rights and creation of a culture that recognises women's rights and respects her dignity so that the foundation for lasting stability could be laid where women were not victims of violence, but agents of peace.

It blamed the existence of a patriarchal social system, lack of awareness, men's control over financial matters, lack of employment and training, and absence of women at the policy making level as some of the factors responsible for the increase in cases of violence against women.

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