Once women were worshipped as goddesses in India. Gradually their status deteriorated. Historical, religious and social compulsions made them virtual slaves to men folk. Centuries of maltreatment and oppression resulted in the total loss of their separate identity and individuality. Today the greatest numbers of crimes are committed against them. They are harassed, tortured and ill-treated. The lure of making easy money has led to outrageous demands for dowry. Brides are harassed and burnt alive if they do not bring sufficient dowry. Many girls commit suicide to save their parents from humiliation. Some choose to remain unmarried. Some become call-girls and prostitutes. The prejudice against the girl child is the result of all these factors. Today it is possible to determine the sex of the unborn child. This has led to the abhorrent practice of female feticide. Eve-teasing is common, for women are considered objects of sex. Abduction and rape are everyday occurrences. Even minor girls are not spared. Working women are exploited everywhere. Women are criminally assaulted in police lock-ups and even so-called protective homes are not safe for them. Ironically, they bear the brunt of hostility between their men folk. The remedy lies in women's education and economic independence. Stringent laws with no loopholes must be made to protect the interests of women. Above all, the moral atmosphere of the society must undergo a complete transformation.
Although, women may be victims of all kinds of crime, be it cheating, murder, robbery, etc., yet the crimes in which only women are victims and which are directed specifically against them are characterised as "crime against women". Broadly, crimes against women are classified under two categories: (1) Crimes under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which include seven crimes: (i) rape, (ii) kidnapping and abduction, (iii) dowry deaths, (iv) torture physical and mental (including wife battering), (v) molestation, and (vi) sexual harassment, and (vii) importation of girls. (2) Crimes under Special and Local Laws (SLL), which include seventeen crimes, of which the important ones are: (i) immoral traffic (1956 and 1978 Act), (ii) dowry prohibition (1961 Act), (iii) committing Sati (1987 Act), and (iv) indecent representation of women (1986 Act). It is equally important to clarify the concept of 'violence' against women. If we take 'violence' as "conduct which incurs the formal pronouncements of the moral condemnation of the community," or "deviation from conduct norms of the normative groups", the scope of cases of 'violence against women' becomes too broad. Narrowly, the term 'violence' has been applied to "physically striking an individual and causing injury" (Kempe, 1982; Gil, 1970), to "the act of striking a person with the intent of causing harm or injury but not actually causing it" (Gelles and Strauss, 1979), to "acts where there is the high potential of causing injury" (Strauss, 1980), and to "acts which may not involve actual hitting but may involve verbal abuse or psychological stress and suffering". Megargee (1982: 85) has defined violence as the "overtly threatened or overtly accomplished application of force which results in the injury or destruction of persons or their reputation." While understanding the concept of 'violence' and distinguishing it from concepts like 'aggression', 'force', and 'coercion', is both necessary and desirable, there is always the fear of getting bogged down in controversies relating to these concepts raised by various scholars. As a result, one may miss the very purpose of understanding broader aspects of the problem of "crime and violence against women". 'Violence' must be recognised as a human phenomenon inasmuch as it consists of an act of one person which encroaches upon the freedom of another (Domenach, 1981: 30). Here, we consider the operational definition of violence as "force, whether overt or covert, used to wrest from the individual (the...
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