Primary Prevention of Violence Against Women and Girls And the Role of Civil Society Organisations

Primary Prevention of Violence Against Women and Girls And the Role of Civil Society Organisations

The issue of violence against women and girls has become a pandemic in the current situation, especially in South Asian countries where strict patriarchal norms and structural inequality exist. Although several programmes and strategies are present, many women still suffer from intimate partner violence (more than 30 per cent as per the recent NFHS survey, 5th round, 2021). The NCRB report also shows that the rate of crime against women (the number of incidents per 1 lakh population) increased from 56.5 per cent in 2020 to 64.5 per cent in 2021. 

Causal relation and connecting dots:

The violence against women and girls (VAWG) is likely to have profound and far-reaching effects at national and global levels in the form of lost earnings and intergenerational transmission of poverty. However, multi-pronged initiatives are ongoing to eliminate VAWG. It includes focusing on domestic and family violence, sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices. However, the progress is inequitably spread within countries and across the globe. Due to the continued existence of many causal cultural, economic and social factors, the decline is not high enough to effectively end this harmful practice. Increased awareness of the consequences of VAWG among the international community has led to the understanding to act urgently –thus.  

“Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” by 2030 is now a target under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 5).

Internalised patriarchy, misogyny, and violence continue to affect the daily lives of Indian women (Kamakshi, S. 2022). Recent data from NFHS (National Family Health Survey, round-5, 2021) and NCRB (2021) reflect the sad reality that domestic violence remains a serious issue in India, even though we have strict laws for the protection of women. Not only domestic or intimate partner violence and the overall incidence of violence against women and girls in India is increasing in the name of sexual harassment in public spaces and early and forced marriages (CEFM) due to stringent patriarchal norms and power imbalances in society. Such heinous criminal activities affect survivors physically and mentally, where the blame and onus are on the women survivors. 

Shifting the narratives

The reason behind the situation is based on socio-economic factors and structural inequality caused by patriarchy. Regressive social norms and cultural practices justify violence against women and girls to use the power of men and boys.

In such a context, changing the narratives that justify violence against women and girls is becoming more beneficial. The positive shift towards challenging masculine hegemony and justification of violence as a tool to control women and girls’ lives is the key to fully attaining the SDG goal and the holistic development of women and girls. 

 What needs to be done?

Many societal norms and poor infrastructure make every place unsafe for women and girls. The other factors of this can be loopholes in our legal system. In cases of sexual or any act of violence, the survivor is the one who faces the utmost humiliation. We need to shift this onus to society, the community, the judicial system and other stakeholders. And most crucial is to prevent such atrocities even before it happens. 

Therefore, it is of immense importance to work towards preventing such violence against women and girls along with strengthening legal and community systems to support the survivors. In such efforts, the role of CSOs and NGOs is essential regarding primary prevention strategy. The primary prevention strategy focuses on community-based approaches (which work with the community through community mobilisation and activism, dialogues, and awareness raising). Recently, UN Women India conducted three days workshop from 2nd to 4th November in Delhi. It provided a platform for key stakeholders and civil society organisations working on VAWG to learn, reflect, and exchange ideas on what strategies, approaches and programmes work or could work to prevent VAWG in India. Oxfam India also works on issues to address violence against women and girls. The organisation presented on ‘MEANS’ (Mobilising and Engaging All for Normative Shifts) reflects changing the societal narrative and positively leveraging existing institutional systems and mechanisms that could significantly prevent VAWG. It has substantially provided an opportunity to initiate primary prevention efforts, such as those that engage SHGs, local authorities and influential leaders in critical reflection on norms that legitimate gender inequality and influence actions at individual, family and community levels.

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