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Thursday, 6 December 2018

“BETI BACHAO”- Save our girls.

“BETI BACHAO”- Save our girls.
 In honour of the International Day Against Woman Violence.

UN Women is coloured in orange during these 16 days. From 25th of November to 10th of December, in honour of the International Day Against Violence, UN women is going to give voice to all women and girls that have survived violence, launching the campaign #HearMeToo. Like UN Women there are many movements all over the world which have launched their shout against violence against woman: “#MeToo”, “TimesUp”, “#BalanceTonPorc” “#NiUnaMenos”, “HollaBack!” and “#MetooIndia”. With the purpose of celebrating this recurring event, I have focused my attention on women condition in Indian society, particularly on the different forms of violence that women have to face with in their society.

In Indian society it subsists a dominant patriarchal culture that is deeply entrenched and pervasive. This means that an effective implementation of a legislation based on gender equality, and a participation of women in shaping that, is influenced and restricted by the dominant cultural and social norms. The womensocial status is subjected to continuous gender stereotypes; whether in the media, in the community or in discourses by public officials, people denigrate and marginalize the woman identity and impact their social standing. There are women denied their rights to social goods such as education, health and social benefits, necessary for the fulfilment of the rights necessary for a life of dignity. Not only they are deprived of social goods, but also of their image. Women are led to fear their body. This assertion is related to the supposing protection from sexual abuse against women. People pretend that women don’t have a body especially any sexual part: no body, no harassments, and if they occurs, they are neglected or that woman has to be blamed.
According to a UN Woman report , the forms of violence against women are various: from physical or/and sexual intimate violence received by partner during the lifetime -estimated about 29% of girls and women- to lifetime non-partner sexual violence and in this case there aren’t available official national statistics, and in the case of child marriage the percentage of violence is around 27%.
First of all, most of the violence actions against women occur in the domestic context.Data of National Crimes Record Bureau show, in 2016, the rape of minor girls increased by 82% comparing with the previous year. Usually, the rapists for 95% are relatives, friends and neighbours, not strangers. The education of women social position has its roots in the family context, which is determined by the family’s point of view about woman social role. Mothers and daughters are continuously boomed by a very restricted patriarchal social vision also due to their socioeconomic dependency. The fear of socio exclusion and marginalisation lead to follow the father’s will or that of the family’s main male figure.
The socioeconomic dependency is also expressed by dowry payment: in that moment the bride becomes the groom’s property, and the payment consists in giving her, or her family property to her groom. This means that women and girls delate all that they are, leave their family to acquire that of her husband, no longer have an origin, have no possessions, depend entirely on their husband, become the property of their husband.Often women and girls are forced into a life of servitude experience, repeated act of harassment, intimidation, sexual abuse and violence, probably because the groom’s family demands more dowry. The same fate is submitted to victims of early and forced marriage. Despite the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, the cases of child marriage are around 47% before the age of 10, depriving them of numerous human rights, such as the right to education and the enjoyment of their childhood. Moreover, a widow cannot access to the husband’s property, and the consequences can be: prostitution and hazardous labour for her children.However, if it occurs a refusal of the family choice, the family, with the complicity of community leaders, will feel authorized to assert themselves through what are called “honour crimes”. Furthermore, women and girls could be killed in the name of “honour” also for the family expected dress code. In this background, it is expressed the most devious denial of basic freedom as of movement and expression, because it has occupied the woman mind since her birth, so there’s no other alternative which can be conceived. Indeed, with regard the births, despite of the Prohibition of Sex Selection Act implemented in 1994, the son preference is still strongly-held. According to the 2011 Profile of Sanitation of Children in India (UNICEF), the decline of girl-child sex ratio is about 962 per 1000 males in 1981 while in 2001 is about 927. This declining means that families carry out a prenatal monitoring system which turn into sex-selective abortions.
As expressed above, violence against women has place also in the community context. According to data, in 2012 the estimated rape sexual harassment cases in public and private spaces were about 2.84, every hour.
Many women bear the signs of their dissent at the imposition of their marriage or have challenged the patriarchal norms or partner proposal.These signs include also scars of acid attacks, the most sublime form of possession, that disfigures the women figure, both as symbolic consequence of their dissent, and as incessant stigma. That leads to a widespread general sense of insecurity in public spaces, especially in urban setting, adding a debilitating sense of shame reported bysexual violence victims which involves social exclusion, isolation from community and family, up to suicide as extreme solution. In the community contest, UN have observed cases of violence based on caste-system, minority group, intra-caste hierarchies, they are clear signs of social submission of the weak. In this case, women don’t receive proper education, or are denied also economic opportunities, perform dangerous and un protected work (scavenging, bonded labour for debt). However, also women of religious minorities has to face with educational and employment exclusion, in addition at cases of burned or stripped bodies.
Analysing every social field treated by UN Women study, I could understand that in every single step of woman in the society there are cases of social denigration, sexual violence, psychological and physical abuses. Domestic workers, women with disability, transgender, sex worker, refugees, asylum seeker, low-caste and poorer women and political opponents are other frail categories of women, because they don’t also have protection infrastructures.
As a final consideration, Indian female population lives in a social context in which there are too many cases of violence and sexual abuse. Women reveal signals of psychological disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, severe anxiety and psychosis. That makes their lives brittle and ripped and it is perpetual during lifetime.Family and social pressure binds woman to a permanent sense of fear of making mistakes, of not being pleaser, it means to be forced to fit in, to do what others want, and to never say no.Women are forced and trained to live in silence, to have no opinion about what they feel, no arguments to be discussed and commented, in this condition, it isn’t possible to have a minimal idea of women freedom, also if 42% of girls in the country have declared to be sexually abused (Indian Government Surveys) and many don’t have the strength to say it. Women as human beings have the right to enjoy freedom.We at HEEALS continuously striving towards “Beti Bachao Beti Padaho” campaign .

Elisa Stucchi
WASH & Intern coordinator 

Tuesday, 4 December 2018


According to the UNICEF Report of 2012, in India 47% of girls use to get married before the age of 10 and the average age of maternity is from 15 to 19 years old. As a matter of fact, pregnancy is consistently among the leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide.
Moreover, girls who become pregnant under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women who give birth in their 20s.For istance, around 2 million women worldwide suffer from obstetric fistula, a debilitating complication of childbirth especially common among physically immature girls.
At this point the fundamental question is: why must I be a good wife and mother, if I am still a baby?

Broadly speaking,child marriage leads to other social problems that require specific solutions. The most remarkable are:
1. An insufficient level of education, for both girls and boys. That because younger spouses are frequently forced to drop out after marriage.
2. The impossibility of having a good job (considering the lack of education), that cause a significant increase of the rate of poverty. Generally, child brides are more likely to come from a poor family and once married, are more likely to continue living in poverty.
3. A deeply marginalization and social exclusion of the lower people, that emphasize the cast system, nowadays still present in India.
4.  A higher incidence of domestic violence, marital abuse (including physical, sexual or psychological abuse) and abandonment.The International Center for Research on Women conducted a study in India and found that girls who were married before 18 were twice as likely to report being beaten, slapped or threatened by their husbands than girls who married later.

Having said that, it results evident that it is almost impossible to save the present generation of children from child marriage practice, mostly because this phenomenon is considered normal and necessary, especially in rural area. There is not awareness about the negative impact that it has on children. Also for this reason, parents tend to not only promote it but also to defend it from every attempt of change.
The “values” strictly linked to child marriage refer to the cultural and economic issues underlying that practice. Young girls are married off according to dominant beliefs about preserving women’s “honour”, as well as the costs of raising girls. Child marriage could be relate to people trafficking in extreme situations. In the majority of the cases, it maintains the status quo in poor and underdeveloped areas, where economic deprivation is used to justify men’s dominance over women.

Biswajit Ghosh, a famous Indian sociologist, conducted fieldwork in Malda district of North Bengal (India). Then he pointed out that in rural areas, communities tend to have limited access to quality education and to basic infrastructure. Specificly, in Malda, it is problematic to send children to school, even though younger people show a strong interest in their education. Furthermore, poverty and lack of infrastructure serve to maintain the belief that education is worthless because young’s education delays marriage and so it is construed as negatively impacting society’s welfare.
Ghosh surveyed around 380 fathers, mothers, elders and girls in Malda. He discovered that 90% of parents and elders believe that marriage is “essential for girls,” primarily because they fear girls might elope without proper permission, as well as their concern about girls’ economic and social protection. So, it appears clear that preserving a young girl’s honour before marriage is central to the ideal which priorities marriage over education.
Even in “our modern area”, caste system is the main factor that complicates education interventions to defeat child marriage. According to Ghosh, girls from upper families are able to delay marriage as they focus on education, but the girls, who come from poorer families, have less bargaining power with their parents. Often it happens that a girls would like to reach high level of education but this has a negative effect of excluding her from most marriage prospects because young men, who are less learned, required a poor dowry that reflected negatively on the girl’s family. On the other hand, young men who could match the girl’s level of education required too high a dowry. Once again, it seems that, at social level, the lack of employment opportunities for women, and the material reality faced by poor communities convert early marriage is a source of protection.
The sociology identifies that many community members had been in contact with international aid workers who had explained the main issues associated with child marriage. Besides in several cases, locals knew it was illegal to organise the marriage of a young girl. Althoug that, child marriage is still spread in the area. This is one of the reason why Ghosh personally believe that legal sanctions and international campaigns to end up the  child marriage practice are dismissed, above all at the local level, since they do not connect directly to people’s material experiences. He claims that: “such campaigns are not taken seriously and knowledge about the negative consequences of early marriage is underplayed as ‘aberrations’ as many of the existing mothers were married much early. Experience of these mothers seems to create a moral basis for marrying their daughters early. Hence, the logic of late marriage propagated by health workers and others do not produce any visible results”.

In order to eliminate child marriage, communities need to be shown practical demonstrations that delaying marriage increases everyone’s welfare.
The United Nations purpose to totally defeat child marriage by 2030,international agencies often focus on raising community awareness on the legalities and health benefits of education, but this approach has a limited impact, as information campaigns about education, do not match the material and cultural reality of local communities. For example, in the Indian district of West Bengal, problems in organising effective delivery of education and tangible employment outcomes only provides more credence to religious and community elders, who argue that marriage undermines society.
A concert a change can occur, if and only if,  international agencies, national governments and local grassroots groups start to work together, adopting practical strategies.
It is a sort of duty understanding that the tensions between girls’ right to education versus their obligation to marry is not simply about “gender question”.Sure enough, the lack of access to quality education makes it difficult to invest in resources that are already lacking into sending girls away to attend school in other regions. In this setting, economic necessity and cultural habits about family honour and protection overtake the civil law, which establishes that child marriage is illegal.

To sum up, ending child marriage clearly requires stronger efforts from all the world. Moreover, addressing poverty is critical. Poorer communities need to see concrete examples that developments projects lead to benefits, like for example a “normal job”, that increase everyone’s quality of life.For better clarifying this conclusion, I would like to say that through improved education system, schools can become a vehicle for delaying child marriage. Likewise, providing regular training sessions for parents and community leaders would help generate further support. But schools must be supported in the development of tangible skills, linked to the social – economic contest of each child.

WASH & Intern coordinator