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Nearly Third of Crimes Against Women are by Husband or his Relatives

Shibra Siddiqui |
Violence against women rise amid almost imperceptible improvement in attitude towards abuse.
Crime against women

It reported that 45% of women and 44% of men aged between 15 and 49 years believed it is okay for a husband to beat his wife based on any of the seven reasons listed in the NFHS survey.

It has only been a month since a video of two women being paraded by a violent mob of men in violence-torn Manipur surfaced on social media. The cruelty against women was mind-numbing and shook India’s conscience.

But on 31 August, another video of a woman being paraded went viral. It was from Pratapgarh in Rajasthan, of a pregnant tribal woman disrobed by her husband.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in 2021 there were 89,200 incidents of “women being assaulted with intent to outrage their modesty” across States and Union Territories. Rajasthan was placed fourth with 9,079 such incidents. [who placed first, second and third?].

An analysis of NCRB data reveals that crimes against women have increased by 13% in the last five years, from 3.15 lakh in 2017 to 3.57 lakh in 2021.

In a total of 3,57,671 crimes against women in 2021, a significant portion were attributed to specific crimes like rape, domestic violence, kidnapping and abduction, and ‘assault with intent to outrage modesty’. This last category of offence has increased by 4% in the last five years.

Nationally, there were 86,001 incidents of assault with intent to outrage modesty in 2017, which rose to 89,200 in 2021. However, the share of such assaults in total crimes against women has contracted by 2%. What this means is that crimes against women under other categories increased over this period.

Nevertheless, among crimes against women, ‘assault with intent to outrage modesty’ has a significant share in total crimes. It was 27% in 2017 which contracted to 25% in 2021.

assault on women

Crimes by Husband and his Relatives

As the horrific crime in Rajasthan by a husband and in-laws demonstrates, a weighty share of crimes against women is committed by the husbands or their relatives. NCRB data recorded 1,36,234 incidents of cruelty against women by the husband or his relatives in 2021, up from 1,04,551 in 2017. It made up nearly one-third of the total crimes against women in 2021.

West Bengal recorded the highest number, with 19,952 such crimes. Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan were placed second and third respectively in terms of the total number of cases of crimes against women by husband or his relatives.

The particular crime category of ‘cruelty against a woman by a husband or his relative’ has seen an increase of a whopping 30%. Accordingly, its share in the total crimes has also increased—by 5%—from 33% in 2017 to 38% in 2021.

Crime Against women

Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are two states that often feature prominently in crime statistics. Uttar Pradesh ranks third in terms of assaults on women with intent to outrage modesty and fourth in cruelty against women by husbands or their relatives.

Rajasthan, as mentioned above, is fourth in terms of assault with intent to outrage modesty and third in the list of cruelty by husbands and their relatives.

However, Odisha tops the list of assaults on women with intent to outrage modesty, with more than 14,000 incidents, followed by Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan. West Bengal holds the unfortunate first place with 19,952 incidents of cruelty by husbands and their relatives.

To be sure, ‘assault on women with intent to outrage modesty’ and ‘insult to modesty’ are distinct categories of crimes in the NCRB data. The former falls under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), while the latter comes under Section 509.

Nearly half the population justifies wife-beating

According to the Fifth Round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), a notable portion of the Indian public justifies a husband beating his wife for reasons such as going out without informing, showing disrespect to in-laws, and suspecting the husband’s loyalty, among others.

It reported that 45% of women and 44% of men aged between 15 and 49 years believed it is okay for a husband to beat his wife based on any of the seven reasons listed in the NFHS survey.

assault on women

Attitudes toward wife-beating changed since the preceding NFHS-4 survey. For women, agreement with any of the seven reasons justifying wife beating declined in NFHS-5 by 7 percentage points from 52% in NFHS-4. However, for men, it increased by 2 percentage points, from 42% in NFHS-4.

According to the findings from NFHS-5, 29.3% of women aged 18-49, who have been married at some point in their lives, encountered spousal violence, while 3.1% of pregnant women with a history of marriage faced physical violence.

The author is an independent journalist. The views expressed are personal.

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