Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, except spousal rape when the woman is over age 15. Punishment ranges from prison terms of two years to life, a fine of 20,418 rupees ($306), or both. Official statistics pointed to rape as the country’s fastest growing crime, prompted by the increasing willingness of victims to report rapes. The NCRB reported 36,735 cases of rape nationwide in 2014, the latest year for which data were available, an increase of 8.9 percent compared with 2013. Observers believed the number of rapes was underreported. Law enforcement and legal recourse for rape victims was inadequate, overtaxed, and unable to address the problem effectively. Police officers sometimes worked to reconcile rape victims and their attackers, in some cases encouraging female rape victims to marry their attackers. Doctors sometimes further abused rape victims who reported the crimes by using the invasive “two-finger test” to speculate on their sexual history. In addition to outlawing the “two-finger test,” in March the government formulated new guidelines for treating rape victims, which included mandatory forensic and medical examinations within designated areas in all hospitals for rape survivors.
While the trial of six defendants in a high-profile 2012 Delhi rape case took place quickly, authorities sometimes did not investigate other cases swiftly. Many investigations and legal proceedings relating to earlier rape cases during the year remained pending.
On March 13, members of a local gang raped a 71-year-old nun and robbed the Convent of Jesus and Mary school in Ranaghat, West Bengal. In June police arrested a suspect--a Bangladeshi national--in Kolkata.
On June 18, Madras High Court judge Justice P. Devadass ordered a victim and her accused rapist to enter mediation. The victim, now a 22-year-old mother of a 6-year-old child produced by the rape, refused to accept mediation. On July 11, the court reversed the order for mediation. On October 5, the Madras High Court reversed the rape conviction on a technicality. A new case was pending.
Women in conflict areas, such as in Jammu and Kashmir, the northeast, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh, as well as vulnerable Dalit or tribal women, were often victims of rape or threats of rape. National crime statistics indicated that, compared with other caste affiliations, assailants most often perpetrated rape against Dalit women.
The law provides for protection against some forms of abuse against women in the home, including verbal, emotional, and economic abuse, as well as the threat of abuse. The law recognizes the right of a woman to reside in a shared household with her spouse or partner while a dispute continues, although a woman may seek accommodations at the partner’s expense. Although the law also provides women with the right to police assistance, legal aid, shelter, and medical care, domestic abuse remained a serious problem. Lack of law enforcement safeguards and pervasive corruption limited the effectiveness of the law.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development promulgated guidelines for the establishment of social services for women, but due to lack of funding, personnel, and proper training, services were primarily available only in metropolitan areas. Some police officials, especially in smaller towns, were reluctant to register cases of crimes against women, especially against persons of influence.
Domestic violence continued to be a problem, and the National Family Health Survey revealed that more than 50 percent of women reported experiencing some form of violence in their home. The NCRB reported that in 2014 there were 122,877 reported cases of “cruelty by husband and relatives,” an increase of 3.2 percent from the previous year. Advocates reported that many women refrained from reporting domestic abuses due to social pressures.
Crimes against women were common. According to 2014 NCRB statistics, there were 337,922 crimes against women in 2014, a 9.1-percent increase from 2013. These crimes included kidnapping, rape, dowry deaths, and domestic abuse. The NCRB noted that underreporting of such crimes was likely. The NCRB estimated the conviction rate for crimes against women to be 24 percent. Acid attacks against women caused death and permanent disfigurement. On March 21, an acid attack in Pathanamthitta, Kerala, blinded Sreeja Kumar in one eye. Police arrested her husband Sunil Kumar and his friend Prakash, whom he hired to conduct the attack.
On April 18, in Sringeri, Karnataka, a woman suffered facial injuries when two unknown assailants threw acid on her for reportedly rejecting a marriage proposal. Police arrested four men in connection with the attack.
Although the government maintained statistics on gender-based violence and general assaults, it did not disaggregate acid attacks. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the number of acid attack victims increased from 147 in 2013 to 225 in 2014.
Citizens use acid as a household cleaner, and it is available at local markets. Despite a 2013 Supreme Court order regulating the sale of acid across the country, media reports indicated that acid was easily available. In June pursuant to the Supreme Court directive, the Karnataka State Commission for Women increased compensation for acid and kerosene attack victims from 200,000 rupees ($3,000) to 300,000 ($4,500). The sum awarded is irrespective of the degree of harm sustained. In April the Supreme Court directed all private hospitals to provide medical assistance to victims of acid attacks.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No national law addresses the practice of FGM/C. According to human rights groups and media reports, between 70 and 90 percent of Dawoodi Bohra Muslims practiced various forms of FGM/C. A population of approximately one million Dawoodi Bohra Muslims lived in pockets throughout the western states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. On December 4, media reported that a group of 17 Dawood Bohra women started a petition on social networking sites calling for a government ban on the practice.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law forbids the provision or acceptance of a dowry, but families continued to offer and accept dowries, and dowry disputes remained a serious problem. The law also bans harassment in the form of dowry demands and empowers magistrates to issue protection orders. The NCRB reported that authorities arrested 23,587 persons for dowry death in 2014.
“Sumangali schemes” affected an estimated 120,000 young women. These plans, named after the Tamil word for “happily married woman,” are a form of bonded labor in which young women or girls work to earn money for a dowry to be able to marry. The promised lump-sum compensation, often ranging from 50,000 to 70,000 rupees ($750 to $1,050), is withheld until the end of three to five years of employment. Compensation, however, sometimes went partially or entirely unpaid. While in bonded labor, employers reportedly subjected women to serious workplace abuses, severe restrictions on freedom of movement and communication, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, and death. The majority of sumangali-bonded laborers came from the SCs, and of those, employers subjected Dalits--the lowest-ranking Arunthathiyars--to additional abuse. Authorities did not allow trade unions in sumangali factories, and some sumangali workers reportedly did not report abuses due to fear of retribution. A 2014 case study by NGO Vaan Muhil described health problems among workers and working conditions reportedly involving physical and sexual exploitation.
Most states employed dowry prohibition officers, with the exception of Mizoram and Nagaland because they do not have a tradition of dowry. The Dowry Prohibition Act does not apply to Jammu and Kashmir. A 2010 Supreme Court ruling makes it mandatory for all trial courts to charge defendants in dowry-death cases with murder.
So-called honor killings remained a problem, especially in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana. These states also had low female birth ratios due to gender-selective abortions. Some killings resulted from extrajudicial decisions by traditional community elders, such as “khap panchayats,” unelected caste-based village assemblies that have no legal standing. Statistics for honor killings were difficult to verify, since many killings were unreported or reported as suicide or natural deaths by family members. In 2013 NGOs estimated that at least 900 such killings occurred annually in Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh alone. The most common justification for the killings cited by the accused or by their relatives was that the victim married against her family’s wishes. On April 16, a father and cousin in Mansa district in Punjab reportedly shot a pregnant female relative for marrying a man from lower social class against the wishes of her family. Police arrested the accused.
On June 24, attackers beheaded V. Gokulraj, a Dalit engineer, in Pallipallayam, Tamil Nadu, reportedly due to a romantic relationship with an upper caste Hindu classmate. Police arrested 12 suspects, but the primary suspect, a local caste leader, remained at large. The case was pending.
There were reports that women and girls in the “devadasi” system of symbolic marriages to Hindu deities were victims of rape or sexual abuse at the hands of priests and temple patrons--a form of sex trafficking. NGOs suggested that families forced some SC girls into sex work in temples to mitigate household financial burdens and the prospect of marriage dowries. Some states have laws to curb prostitution or sexual abuse of women and girls in temple service. Enforcement of these laws remained lax, and the problem was widespread. Some observers estimated that more than 450,000 women and girls engaged in temple-related sex work.
There was no federal law addressing accusations of witchcraft; however, authorities can use provisions under the penal code as an alternative for a victim accused of witchcraft. Bihar, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Assam, and Jharkhand have passed laws criminalizing those who accuse others of witchcraft. On August 13, the Assam state legislature unanimously passed a law making “witch-hunting” a criminal offense. There was an increase in reports of attacks on women accused of practicing witchcraft. According to the NCRB from 2000-12, attackers killed an estimated 2,100 individuals, mostly women, on suspicion of practicing witchcraft. Independent researchers reported between 80 and 100 incidents involving witchcraft allegations take place in the state of Assam each year. According to Odisha state police, attackers killed 274 persons for practicing witchcraft from 2010-14, largely in tribal dominated districts. Most reports stated villagers and local council usually banned the accused from the village. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry think tank reported many accusations and related violence have roots in property disputes and local politics.
Discrimination against widows occurred throughout the country. According to some cultural traditions, a widow is a bad omen and is often outcast by her own family. Many widows end destitute and forced to resort to begging for survival.
In September the NHRC ordered the Maharashtra state government to take effective measures to eradicate the practice of “gaokor.” Prevalent amongst the tribal populations and other rural communities, gaokor forces women to live in an isolated place outside the house during menstruation.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment, sometimes euphemistically called “Eve teasing,” remained prevalent. According to the NCRB, authorities reported 21,938 cases of sexual harassment in 2014, a 42.6-percent increase from 12,589 cases in 2013. There were 82,235 cases of molestation in 2014, a 14-percent increase from 70,739 cases in 2013. Cases of rape and molestation reportedly remained largely unreported due to social pressure.
Authorities required all state departments and institutions with more than 50 employees to operate committees to prevent and address sexual harassment. By law sexual harassment includes one or more unwelcome acts or behavior, such as physical contact, a request for sexual favors, making sexually suggestive remarks, or showing pornography. Employers that fail to establish complaint committees faced fines of up to 50,000 rupees ($750). The law also includes penalties for false or malicious charges.
An internal complaints committee accused the Director of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in an alleged sexual harassment case. After a six-month probe into a complaint lodged by a female FSSAI officer, the committee accused the Director of FSSAI of posing a “threat to any female subordinate.” The committee asked the FSSAI to lodge a First Incident Report (FIR) or complaint filed with police under sections relating to assault and “criminal force with the intent to outrage the modesty of a woman.”
Reproductive Rights: The government permitted health clinics and local NGOs to operate freely in disseminating information about family planning. The country continued nevertheless to have unmet needs for contraception, deaths related to unsafe abortion, maternal mortality, and coercive family planning practices, including coerced or unethical sterilization and policies restricting access to entitlements for women with more than two children. Policies and guideline initiatives penalizing families with more than two children remained in place in seven states, but some authorities did not enforce them. Certain states maintained government reservations for government jobs and subsidies for adults with no more than two children and reduced subsidies and access to health care for those who have more than two.
Government efforts to reduce the fertility rate were occasionally coercive. Authorities in some areas paid health workers and facilities in some areas a fixed amount for each procedure performed and reviewed them against quotas for female sterilizations. In some states authorities threatened health workers with pay cuts or dismissal for failing to meet quotas. Health workers received a payment of approximately 250 rupees ($3.75) for each patient they delivered to a sterilization facility and 1,000 rupees if they brought parents for sterilization before they had more than two children. Women in high-fertility states received 600 rupees ($9) as compensation for undergoing sterilization. Women in low-fertility states received 250 rupees ($3.75), unless they were from the SCs and STs or were below the poverty line, in which case they received 600 rupees ($9) to be sterilized. In high-focus states, authorities paid women 1,400 rupees ($21) for sterilization. Some reports described a “sterilization season,” in which health-care workers pressed to reach quotas for sterilizations before the end of the fiscal year on March 31.
Some doctors reportedly withheld health services unless a woman agreed to sterilization.
Women reportedly were more likely to be sterilized after they had given birth to at least one son.
Although national health officials noted the central government did not have the authority to regulate state decisions on population issues, the central government creates guidelines and funds state level reproductive health programs. A 2005 Supreme Court decision deemed the national government responsible for providing quality care for sterilization services at the state level. Almost all states also introduced “girl child promotion” schemes, intended to counter sex selection, some of which required a certificate of sterilization for the parents in order to collect benefits. Administrative hurdles and high demands for documentation reportedly made these schemes inaccessible to many marginalized families.
In some areas health workers conducted sterilizations in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. The number of reported failed sterilization operations for women increased from 456 in 2012 to 15,460 in 2013. Health facilities conducted “sterilization camps” in which a single doctor operated on dozens of women, often without adequate hygiene, counseling, presurgical lab tests, and postoperative recovery. According to statistics from the Directorate of Family Welfare, in Tamil Nadu the mortality rate for sterilizations was one for every 1,000. State health department sources attributed sterilization-related deaths to poor pre- and postoperative care and complications due to anesthesia.
There were no formal restrictions on the right to access contraceptives, but the government sometimes promoted permanent female sterilization to the exclusion of alternate forms of contraception. Repeated studies by the government and NGOs suggested most women had had little familiarity with nonpermanent forms of contraceptives offered through the public health system, such as birth control pills, intrauterine devices, and condoms. The highest unmet need for contraceptives reportedly was among women with one child who wanted to delay a second pregnancy. Reports from NGOs claimed that pharmacists across the country, especially in Maharashtra, limited women’s access to legal over-the-counter emergency contraceptive pills and to legal medical termination prescription drugs.
According to a 2013 National Health Survey, health workers had sterilized more than one in three women between the ages of 15 and 45. One in two women over the age of 35 was sterilized. Most sterilizations are performed on women when they are between the ages of 20 and 35, but one out of every hundred teenage girls have also been sterilized. According to the same survey, on average three women died every week from botched sterilizations. The government has aggressively promoted female sterilization as a form of family planning for decades and, as a result, female sterilization comprises 63 percent of all contraceptive use in the country. HRLN filed more than a dozen cases on the government’s failure to provide counseling and information on the Family Planning Indemnity Scheme on behalf of women who received failed sterilization or died in the government health camps.
On January 8, doctors at an illegal health camp sterilized 44 women in Jharkhand state after which seven women became ill. According to a report by HRLN, camp officials left the women on the floor without medical follow up after the surgery. According to the report, the facility had no running water, heat, beds, stretchers, or electricity after a generator failed. HRLN also reported a memorandum of understanding between the operating agency, Surya Clinic, and the state government health department had expired. The Jharkhand government took no action following the media reports. A case was pending in the Ranchi High Court.
Lack of access to quality reproductive and maternal health care services, skilled attendants at birth, contraception to space pregnancies, and unsafe abortion contributed to high rates of maternal mortality. According to UN estimates, 50,000 women died during pregnancy and childbirth in 2013. Although abortion is legal and regulated to provide for safety, according to UN estimates at least 8 percent of all maternal deaths were attributable to unsafe abortions. According to the law, contraceptive information and services must be available, accessible, acceptable, and of reliable quality. Official policy promotes the right of a woman to access contraceptive information and services, however, the unmet need for contraception remained high. Family Health International reported that 13 percent of married women between the ages of 15 and 49 did not wish to have additional children or wished to space births but could not access contraception.
Some women reportedly were pressured to have hysterectomies or other forms of sterilization because of the payment structures for health workers and insurance payments for private facilities. This pressure reportedly disproportionately affected poor and lower-caste women. In one village, news reports in 2014 claimed that 90 percent of women had undergone hysterectomies, including many of those well below the age of likely medical necessity.
Although the government achieved a significant increase in institutional births, there were reports that health facilities continued to be overburdened, underequipped, and undersupplied, in addition to demonstrating substandard regard for hygiene and patient dignity.
In community health centers, 69.7 percent of gynecologist positions remained unfilled, according to a 2012 report by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on rural health statistics. Only 13 percent of the centers had the requisite number of specialists. Poor health infrastructure disproportionately affected marginalized women, including homeless women, tribal women, women working on tea estates or in the informal labor sector, Dalit women, and women with disabilities.
The 2010-12 Sample Registration Report of the Registrar-General, released in 2013, showed that during three years, the maternal mortality rate declined from 212 to 178 per 100,000 live births. Assam’s maternal mortality rate was the highest in the country at 300, followed by Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand at 285. Kerala at 66, Maharashtra at 68, and Tamil Nadu at 79 had the lowest rates and met the Millennium Development Goal of 103 deaths per 100,000 live births. Maternal mortality rates were difficult to calculate in many northeast states, which suffered from inadequate infrastructure and insufficiently trained medical staff.
HIV/AIDS infection rates for women were highest in urban communities, while care was least available in rural areas. Traditional gender norms, such as early marriage, limited access to information and education, and poor access to health services, continued to leave women especially vulnerable to infection. The National AIDS Control Organization worked actively with NGOs to train women’s HIV/AIDS self-help groups.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination in the workplace and requires equal pay for equal work, but employers sometimes paid women less than men for the same job, discriminated against women in employment and credit applications, and promoted women less frequently than men.
Many tribal land systems, including in Bihar, deny tribal women the right to own land. Muslim personal law traditionally governs land inheritance for Muslim women, allotting them less than allotted to men. Other laws relating to the ownership of assets and land accord women little control over land use, retention, or sale. Several exceptions existed, such as in Kerala, Ladakh District, Meghalaya, and Himachal Pradesh, where women control family property and have inheritance rights.
Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the latest census (2011), the national average male-female sex ratio at birth was 1,000 to 943. The state of Kerala had the highest male-female sex ratio at birth at 1,000 to 1,084 and the state of Haryana the lowest, at 1,000 to 877. In 2011 the national child sex ratio, covering children between ages zero and six, was 918 girls to 1,000 boys. A 2002 law prohibits prenatal sex selection, but authorities rarely enforced it. When state governments obtained convictions, doctors did not always lose their professional license, although the Medical Council canceled the license to practice medicine of six doctors from Maharashtra convicted under the law.
In October the Delhi government issued “show-cause” notices to 89 hospitals and diagnostic centers with sex ratios at birth significantly lower than the state average. The average sex ratio in Delhi is 896 females for every 1,000 males. Based on the results of a survey conducted by the Delhi Health Ministry, these 89 institutions exposed sex ratios that ranged from 285 to 788 live female births for every 1,000 male births.
Numerous NGOs throughout the country and some states attempted to increase awareness of the problem of prenatal sex selection, promote female births, and prevent female infanticide and abandonment.
On January 22, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save the Girl-Child, Educate the Girl-Child) movement in Haryana state. This one billion rupees ($15,000,000) program aimed to prevent gender-biased sex selection, provide for the survival and protection of girls, and promote female education.