Domestic violence and sexual assault are well-documented phenomena in India. One estimate is that over the course of their lifetimes, 40% of women in India will experience some form of abuse from her partner. This staggering statistic reflects deeply socially entrenched notions that women’s choices, health, and lives are secondary to those of men.
In addition to being problematic in and of itself, domestic violence is also correlated to a wide range of adverse health outcomes, such as increased tobacco use, diminished utilization of health care, poor child outcomes, and increased depression and suicidal ideation. Evidence suggests that domestic violence is an urgent public health concern around the world.
Since 2017, we conducted different awareness programme on Domestic Violence against women with the community and the crèche parents. The team conducted a programme where the programme Inspector Sarbani Das and Gauri Mukherjee shared some helpline numbers in case of emergency. Some women from the programme benefited after getting the help line numbers.
In July 2018, Sara Ledrman a student of University of Minnesota School of Public Health introduced programme “I am living for Justice” at Jan Seva. Using narratives of Domestic abuse survivors in Kolkata, India to inform community based interventions. In collaboration with Pathways to Children, University of Minnesota School of Public Health and Community Health Program (CHP) professionals based at Jan Seva, conducted 12 intensive interviews with women from the community. Using a community-based recruitment model, staff at Jan Seva identified these women who were considered “high risk” for experiencing domestic abuse. Given the sensitive nature of the topic studied, CHP professionals spoke with women in private and avoided identifying women in large groups to avoid triggering any community hazards.
The criteria for determining risk were based off of clinical/classroom observations of children and mothers, inconsistent school attendance, or explicit mentioning of any abusive treatment. These risk factors were managed and flagged by community providers (teachers, physicians, community health workers, school administrators).
In addition to collecting these testimonies and providing a safe, therapeutic space for processing trauma narratives, the CHP team is closely following up with women who expressed interest in intervention. For those who shared experiences of abuse but were tenuous about intervention, CHP professionals will continue to offer support if they ever express a desire for further guidance.
Of the 12 women interviewed, the average age was 26 years. Three of the 12 women shared they were abused regularly as children by their parents and older family members. The most common types of abuse were emotional (12/12 women shared stories indicating verbal abuse), followed by physical abuse (9/12 women), and finally sexual abuse (6/12 women). Two women came with complaints about their husbands’ behaviour and abuse after much interaction we referred them to “SWAYAM”. After following up we came to realize that these women have not visited ‘SWAYAM’ because of the family pressure and change in the husband’s behaviour and attitude. If the problem arises they will definitely seek help from ‘SWAYAM’.
Another Heinous Crime Incident Against Women in Murshidabad
On 23.08.2018, the CHP team received a domestic violence case against a woman. One of the crèche parents came to us with a paper cutting article from Bengali newspaper “ANANDABAJAR PATRIKA”. The parents who came to us were the victim’s paternal uncle and aunt.
A 26 years old Sumitra Kundu and her 9 months old baby girl were burnt to death on 19.08.18. She was a mother of three girls. She was constantly tortured for 4 years for not giving birth to a male child, at last in a fit of anger, her husband and in-laws burnt her and the 9 months child (Abhaya) at their house in Sagardighi village, Murshidabad district. The remaining two children (4 and 2 years) are with the victim’s in laws.
They are looking forward for justice and to save the remaining two children (4 years and 2 years), staying with their paternal grandparents. After 3 days the husband of the victim was caught by the police.
Action taken by CHP:
The team members provided them with a preliminary counselling session.
We made a linkage with the West Bengal Commision for the Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR).
We communicated with the Murshidabad DCPO (District Child Protection Officer) of District Child Protection Society (DCPS), Murshidabad.
We also referred the victim’s paternal uncle and aunt to DCPO for further communication and action.
We also informed to Child Line(1098).