Domestic abuse can be mental, physical, economic or sexual in nature. Incidents are rarely isolated, and usually escalate in frequency and severity. Violence against women can result in significant costs to the state, to victims , and communities. Costs are both direct and indirect, and tangible and intangible. It does not happen in a vacuum. It is most often hidden from even one’s closest confidantes, and on many occasions the physical violence is far less damaging than the emotional and verbal violence. Domestic violence is a global issue reaching across national boundaries as well as socio-economic, cultural, racial and class distinctions. This problem is not only widely dispersed geographically, but its incidence is also extensive, making it a typical and accepted behavior.
Domestic violence is widespread, deeply ingrained and has serious impacts on women’s health and well-being. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 says that any act, conduct, omission or commission that harms or injures or has the potential to harm or injure will be considered domestic violence by the law. The World Health Organization reports that the proportion of women who had ever experienced physical or sexual violence or both by an intimate partner ranged from 15% to 71%, with the majority between 29% and 62%.India’s National Family Health Survey-III, carried out in 29 states during 2005-06, has found that a substantial proportion of married women have been physically or sexually abused by their husbands at some time in their lives.
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The survey indicated that, nationwide, 37.2% of women experienced violence after marriage. Violence against women has a far deeper impact than the immediate harm caused. It has devastating consequences for the women who experience it and a traumatic effect on those who witness it, particularly children.
The rates of depression, anxiety disorders, unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and HIV are higher in women who have experienced violence compared to women who have not, as well as many other health problems that can last even after the violence has ended. An effective response to violence must be multi-sectoral; the health sector has unique potential to deal with violence against women. An integrated media campaign that portrays domestic violence as unacceptable is the need of the hour. The role of increasing male responsibility to end domestic violence needs to be emphasized.