Sustainable Development Goal 16: India’s failure to reduce all forms of violence and related deaths

GBV1Excerpts from the Wada Na Todo Abhiyan report* on Sustainable Development Goal 16, which aims at promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels:

Number of victims of intention homicide per 100,000 population, by sex and age

According to the latest available report from the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) 2015, there were 32,127 cases of homicide, which represents a 0.1 percent decline from 33,981 cases from the previous year. The state with the greatest incidence was Uttar Pradesh with 4,732 cases of homicide (14.7%) and the highest rate of crime was in Meghalaya (5.4 per 100,000).

However, these numbers only tell part of the story, since they do not include the significant number of deaths perpetrated by India’s armed forces and security personnel, including extrajudicial and encounter killings. Its omission from official datasets not only highlights the under-reporting of intentional homicide figures, but also the impunity of wanton security force violence. Likewise, deaths caused by armed forces are recorded by civil society groups in other parts of the country, such as Kashmir, Chhattisgarh and the north-eastern states of India. The impunity accorded to the country’s security personnel is indeed a blatant denial of access to justice for all.

Conflict-related deaths per 100,000 population, by sex, age, and cause

At domestic and international fora, the Government of India has consistently denied the existence of any armed conflict in the country. Acknowledging armed conflict would bring the conduct of the government and its armed forces within the purview of international humanitarian laws and other international human rights obligations. Yet, according to the Global Peace Index, India is the 7th most militarized country in the world.

Kashmir, the central Indian states of Maharashtra, Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, and India’s north-east states are the most militarised areas in the country. In 2016 alone, 79 people died as a result of the use of weaponry by security forces during large-scale public demonstration across the Kashmir valley. In Chhattisgarh, 207 people were killed as a result of the conflict between security forces and alleged Maoists in 2016.

The injustice is further exacerbated by the immunity laws for the armed forces and paramilitary troops. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which is applicable in Jammu and Kashmir and in 6 out of the 7 north-east states of India, as well as provisions in the Border Security Force Act, provides immunity for acts committed in active duty, and must be reformed.

Proportion of population subjected to physical, psychological or sexual violence in the previous 12 months

According to Global Peace Index 2015, India was ranked at 143 out of the 162 countries assessed. The largest group that is subjected to the most of all three types of violence are women. In 2015, NCRB recorded 130,195 cases of sexual related violence against women. According to a 2014 survey conducted in Delhi and Mumbai, only 7.5 percent and 11 percent women, respectively, reported sexual violence.

Religious minorities also face abuse and violence in India. Although 2016 did not witness any big communal riots, there have been widespread incidents of low intensity violence throughout the year. According to data released by the Union Home Ministry, 278 communal clashes were reported during the first five months of 2016. It included 38 deaths and 903 injured.

Proportion of population that feel safe walking alone around the area they live

Although there is no national data collection aimed at analysing perceived safety, there have been independent efforts by civil society groups to monitor and understand how safe people feel.

A 2014 survey which studied how safe people felt in their neighbourhoods in Delhi and Mumbai, and what the biggest threats to safety were, found that most people felt safe walking alone in their neighbourhood during the day, regardless of gender. In Delhi, an average of 84.9 percent felt safe, and in Mumbai, an average of 82.3 percent felt safe. However, when it comes to walking alone at night, there is a distinct difference between the cities and genders.

“Whereas only 7 percent of respondents would be worried for a lone male member staying away from home beyond 8PM in Delhi, 52 percent would worry for a lone female member of the household at the same hour of the night.” (Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, “Crime Victimisation and Safety Perception”, p.36)

Other research shows that better lighting, more robust and clean public spaces, and community policing that has oversight are essential measures in increasing the safety of the country’s population.

Proportion of children aged 1-17 years who experienced any physical punishment and/or psychological aggression by caregivers in the past month

Despite being a pressing issue, there is a lack of comprehensive information provided by the government on corporal or psychological punishment of children in India. The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) did a comprehensive study in 2007, which found that two-thirds of all children were beaten, with 62 percent of the abuse occurring in schools. According to UNICEF, between 27.1 and 69 million children are abused at home every year in India. Studies conducted by previous governments and independent organisations have found that over all, most children are subject to physical abuse. A 2015 study by Young Lives and UNICEF found that younger students (of both sexes) were more likely to be beaten than older students, but by the time they are 14-15, boys are more likely to be beaten.

The majority of abuse at home is verbal, as approximately 50 percent of all children are repeatedly insulted. It is most prevalent between 13-14 years of age, and can have long lasting negative impacts on the overall mental health and behaviour of the children as they grow up.

Number of victims of human trafficking per 100,000 population, by sex, age and form of exploitation

Due to the shadowy nature of human trafficking, it is extremely difficult to get accurate statistics. The NCRB section on human trafficking records 6,877 cases in 2015, but this ignores how missing persons and kidnapping cases often relate to human trafficking. This link is evident in MWCD 2008 report, which stated that there were approximately 1.2 million child prostitutes in India, out of a total 3 million prostitutes. Child sex work constitutes trafficking and shows a very different picture of the scope of the problem than the NCRB numbers.

One of the main barriers to understanding the problem is the legal grey area of employment. In most economies, significant number of people work in informal and unregulated job markets, which makes people more susceptible to being promised work and then being held as indentured workers, or being forcefully taken to do work in an isolated place. India is ranked number 4 in the world in having the most slaves, which translates into an estimated 18 million people. This takes the form of bonded labour to pay off debts, domestic service, forced begging, forced marriage, or forced armed service, and is exacerbated the informal labour market.

Proportion of young women and men aged 18-29 years who experienced sexual violence by age 18

In 2015, 10,854 rapes of children, 8,390 cases of assault on female children with intent to outrage their modesty, and 14,913 cases registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. However, by 30 May 2016, out of the 5,217 child abuse cases that have been lodged in New Delhi since POCSO took effect in 2012, 3,191 of them remain pending. According to a civil society organisation’s survey of 18,716 children across 6 cities in India, there were approximately 1000 cases, or 5.3 percent of children, who reported inappropriate behaviour or sexual abuse.

However, the crime is due to the innocent state of children, and sensitive nature of the offence, this is most likely one of the most underreported crimes. This is supported by the MWCD 2007 report, which stated that of the children surveyed, “20.9 percent were subjected to severe forms of sexual abuse that included sexual assault, making the child fondle private parts, making the child exhibit private body parts and being photographed in the nude.” If this is true nationwide, this would mean 98.6 million of the total 472 million children aged 0-18 have been seriously sexually abused.

*Download full WNTA report HERE

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