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Over 4 in 10 women in India experience harassment before the age of 19: ActionAid

india Updated: Nov 26, 2016 00:11 IST
KumKum Dasgupta
KumKum Dasgupta
Hindustan Times
ActionAid

ActionAid’s four-nation survey revealed that women around the world experience harassment for the first time at a shockingly young age with 6% experiencing harassment before the age of 10 in India.

Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture. It takes a devastating toll on women’s lives, on their families, and on society as a whole. Most societies prohibit such violence — yet the reality is that too often, it is covered up or tacitly condoned --- United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, 2007.

It’s almost 10 years since the UN Secretary General made that comment, but violence against women continues unabated in most parts of the world.

A new research report released by ActionAid, an NGO, on Friday, confirms the sad state of play: The four-nation survey revealed that women around the world experience harassment for the first time at a shockingly young age with 6% experiencing harassment before the age of 10 in India.

More than four in 10 women (41%) in India experience harassment or violence before the age of 19.

The figure for Brazil is 16% while it is 12% in Britain and 8% in Thailand.

Read | India cannot become the third largest economy by bypassing women workers

“Cross country findings suggest immediate actions are needed on part of societies and governments to curb harassment and violence against women. While awareness on rights of women, women’s abilities and potential has seen incremental advances over the last decades, we are still a long way off to realise a promise of a just and equal world for half of our humanity,” said Sandeep Chachra, executive director at ActionAid India.

The research also found that around three fourth (73%) of women in India have experienced some form of violence or harassment in the past month.

Read | Sakshi Malik alone cannot fight Haryana’s gender battles

The figure is even higher in other countries and highlighted an increased risk of women with 67% of women polled in Thailand and 87% in Brazil having been subjected to harassment or violence in the past month. In Britain, 57% women experienced the same.

In September, the National Crime Records Bureau released data showed 33% increase in stalking cases across India and 60% of all the accused were men between 18 and 30. Shockingly, 84% of these stalking cases were pending in the courts in 2015. In 2014, 91% were pending.

IN DETAIL: ACTIONAID REPORT
INDIA
  • 82% surveyed have done something to guard against harassment.
  • 6% first experienced some form of harassment under the age of 10
  • 73% have experienced some form of harassment in the last month
BRITAIN
  • 71% have done something to guard themselves against the threat of harassment, 88% aged 18-24 have done this
  • More than 1 in 10 (12%) first experienced some form of harassment under the age of 10
  • 57% have experienced some form of harassment in the last month
THAILAND
  • 93% surveyed have done something to guard themselves against the threat of harassment!
  • 8% first experienced some form of harassment under the age of 10
  • 76% have experienced some form of harassment in the last month
BRAZIL
  • 86% surveyed have done something to guard against harassment. 93% of 18-24 year olds have done this
  • 16% first experienced some form of harassment under the age of 10
  • 87% have experienced some form of harassment in the last month

According to the ActionAid’s report, more than one in four (26%) women in India said they have been groped in the past month. This compared with one in five women in Brazil (20%), one in four women in Thailand (26%) and one in six in Britain (16%), found the YouGov poll of 2,200 women aged 18 and over commissioned to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which is today (November 25).

The findings by the NGO also shows that how it is now becoming common for women to take steps in their everyday lives to guard against the threat of harassment and violence. More than 8 in 10 women (82%) in India said they have taken steps to protect themselves against harassment.

This figure rises to 91% for women in the age group 25 to 34.

Read | Police and society must realise that stalking is not a petty crime

Steps range from avoiding parks and poorly lit areas (35%) and changing a travel route (36%) to using an everyday object like keys as a weapon (23%) or carrying a protective device such as a rape alarm or pepper spray (18%).

Read | Pinjra Tod: Delhi girls fight back to reclaim public spaces for women

Several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which replaced the Millennium Development Goals this year, are linked to issues related to women.

But there is also a stand-alone goal (Number 5) in SDG on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Underneath this is the target for all governments to “eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation” by 2030.

According to UN Women, deep legal and legislative changes are needed to ensure women’s rights around the world. While a record 143 countries guaranteed equality between men and women in their constitutions by 2014, 52 had not taken this step. In many nations, gender discrimination is still woven through legal and social norms.

@kumkumdasgupta