Intended for healthcare professionals


Preventing and managing violence against women in India

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 11 January 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f229
  1. Anita Jain, India editor, BMJ
  1. 1BMJ, India
  1. ajain{at}

Requires a systems approach to reforming the culture of the health system

In 2011, 24 206 cases of rape were reported in India, and an Indian nationwide survey showed that more than a third of all women aged 15-49 years had experienced physical or sexual violence at some point.1 Most women (85%) who experienced sexual violence told nobody, and only 8% ever sought help. Sources of help typically included family and friends. Institutional sources such as the police, medical professionals, and social organisations seemed to be the last resort, approached by less than 5% of women facing violence.2 The real picture may be even worse because of under-reporting and a social structure that normalises violence in women’s lives. These statistics beg questions about the systems in place to prevent violence against Indian women and to offer appropriate support. The recent violent gang rape of a paramedical student in a moving bus in New Delhi and her subsequent death have resulted in widespread outrage throughout India.3 However, it is crucial that this should propel change beyond punitive measures against the perpetrators in this particular case and in the direction of ensuring that systems are in place to offer appropriate and accessible care and support to women who face violence.

In 1996, the World Health Assembly recognised prevention of violence as …

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