Women's Safety: A Detailed Analysis UPSC GS: Prelims + Mains paper:II Social Justice, Women’s Rights

By Manish Singh|Updated : October 14th, 2020

Women's Safety: A Detailed Analysis

UPSC GS: Prelims + Mains paper: II (Social Justice, Inclusive Societal Growth, Women’s Rights), ESSAY Writing.


  • The recent Uprising seen in the country for combating harassment and violence against women in urban and rural spaces with different cultural and social set-ups requires a dynamic approach and no single mechanism can have the same effect across regions that make up a diverse society like India. Challenges, issues, and definitions of women empowerment change as we move from one region to another and hence introducing certain specific elements into the larger framework of these schemes, that work to address the specifics of that region, would make them much more effective and handy for women. 
  • Above all, it is extremely important that the agency is put back into the woman about the decisions that affect her life due to harassment, and rigorous outreach is undertaken so as to connect to rural as well as remote areas as a support mechanism.


The issue: 

  • Violence against women (VAW) has been a worldwide phenomenon, inviting concerns and debates nationally and internationally. Millions of women are subjected to overt and latent violence as they are trafficked for sex tourism, fall prey to ‘kitchen accidents’, face sexual war crimes like rape, succumb to hostility at the workplace, face intimate partner violence, lack the agency to determine sexual and reproductive choices, honour killings, among others. 
  • The World Health Organization (WHO), in its research on VAW, categorized it as occurring through five stages of the life cycle: “1) pre-birth, 2) infancy, 3) girlhood, 4) adolescence and adulthood and 5) elderly”.
  • The WHO Global Campaign for Violence Prevention, notes, “The number of the ‘missing’ women, killed for gender-related reasons, is of the same order of magnitude as the estimated 191 million human beings who have lost their lives directly or indirectly as a result of all the conflicts and wars of the 20th century–which was, with two world wars and numerous other murderous conflicts, the most violent period in human history so far.”
  • Not only does this estimate bring to the surface the stark realities of ‘domestic terrorism’, but it also raises concerns about the responses and sense of urgency which different modes of violence have generated in terms of global debate, but the emergency response, policy action, and implementation around the world as feminist movements around the world also continue to fight and strive for legislations, better-policing systems, equality and maternity benefits at workplace, safe abortions and contraception, forced sex trade, just to list a few, in the face of a patriarchal socio-political setup. The growing body of literature has often argued how gender violence is not just a legal crime but a violation of human rights directed against the female human population.

Violence against women in India:

  • VAW has been an issue of the women’s liberation movement in India since the beginning of the movement during 1974–75. The Patna Conference of February 1988 further identified the various social and economic forms of VAW, which take various forms and shape like ‘purdah’, sati, dowry deaths, female infanticide, selective abortions, and rapes.
  • In India, VAW has acquired a central place in the debates of the functioning democracy and become a matter of great political-legal-administrative action and deliberation as consciousness among the masses about gender has heightened, especially post the Nirbhaya case of December 2012 and the recent Hathras case was followed by a huge public outcry against the general apathy and inaction towards addressing gender violence. 
  • Analysis of data from the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), Ministry of Home Affairs, GOI, shows that out of the total IPC crimes committed in India during 2013, 11.7 percent were crimes committed against women and the rate of crime against women stood at 52.2. The Commission on the Status of Women, in its Recent session, held at United Nations Headquarters in New York, had called for “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”, as its priority theme1 and aims at putting an end to all kinds of violence against women and girls.
  • The issue gets compounded in areas where exposure and literacy rates among women are low, they are not financially independent to break out of the dependence barrier to speak out against violence, or have internalized oppressive and violent structures as a part of their existence due to social and cultural conditioning. Further, limited penetration of ideas that see women as agencies in themselves and not an appendage alone, presence of a relatively more conservative atmosphere about social and familial prestige attached to crimes against women, lack of awareness etc. add to the hostility.


Tools for Women’s Help: 

Universalisation of Women Helpline

  • Universalisation of Women Helpline was approved on 19th February 2015 with a total project cost of Rs. 69.49 crore under the Nirbhaya Fund for implementation through States/UTs from 1st April 2015. The Helpline number 181, as allocated by the Department of Telecommunication (Government of India) provides 24 hours response, both for emergency and non-emergency situations, where women may be affected by violence including sexual offences and harassment both in public and private sphere, including in the family, community, workplace, etc. The helpline can be reached using various modes of telecommunication like landlines, mobile phone through calls or SMS, fax, emails, web-posts, social networking, etc.
  • The complaints that are registered/reported on the helpline are referred to the appropriate authority such as police, counsellor, hospital, protection officer etc. as per the requirement explained by the caller. In case the woman is in need of a rescue from a violent situation or in need of urgent medical help then a PCR van from the nearest police station or an ambulance from the nearest hospital or via the 108 services is dispatched for instant help. Additionally, the helpline number also provides information about other relevant support services and schemes offered by the government, available to the woman affected by violence, within the local area in which she resides or is employed.
  • The model of the helpline is sensitive towards the needs of women who might be disabled, are sick, are unable to specify their location, or are interrupted during the call for any reason. It can then trace the number from which the call has been received and initiate an emergency response via the nearest police station or hospital as the case may be.


The panic button on mobile phones

  • This initiative was launched keeping in view the need for women to reach out for help urgently in a situation of violence/sexual attack. The Department of Telecommunications notified the “Panic Button and Global Positioning System in Mobile Phone Handsets Rules 2016” issued under section 10 of the Indian Wireless Telegraph Act 1933. Further, from 1 January 2018, all mobile phones will be required to have the facility of identifying the location through satellite-based GPS. 
  • On 23 November 2017, the Ministry of Communication amended the “Panic Button and Global Positioning System in Mobile Phone Handsets Rules 2016” whereby from 1 January 2018, no smartphone handset manufacturing company shall sell the new smart mobile phone handset in India without the facility of identifying the location through Satellite-based GPS.


Mahila Police Volunteer: (MPV)

  • The Mahila police volunteer initiative is based on the principle of community volunteerism. It was envisaged in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs in order to facilitate a positive link between police and community and to help women in distress. 
  • Every Gram Panchayat across the county would have one Mahila Police Volunteer who would act as a link between rural women and the police with a view to balancing preventive and curative aspects, proper implementation of various laws and provisions available for safety of women and act as an enabler for victims of harassment/violence who may not find it comfortable to directly approach the police or the authorities to seek help due to various socio-cultural impediments in the society which inhibit women from speaking up or further victimize women. 
  • These volunteers act as a two-way channel between the police and the civil society and act as a bridge for both ends—the police and the society—to usher in a positive partnership between the two by undertaking community outreach, reporting matters related to domestic violence, child marriage, dowry, etc. and acting as a support or point of contact especially for women in the rural milieu who do not have easy access to state machinery given their social set up.


According to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, The MPV is entrusted with the following duties:

  1. Create awareness of the existing services available for women and children like One-Stop Centers (OSC), Short Stay Homes, Police Helpline 100, Women’s Helpline 181, Childline 1098, Mobile Application for Emergency (Himmat App).
  2. Inform the police about any unpleasant behaviour or untoward incidents against women.
  3. Act as an additional intelligence collection unit of the area for gender issues.
  4. Report incidences of missing children (to 1098 or police), VAW such as domestic violence, child-marriage, dowry-harassment, trafficking, etc.
  5. Mobilize and facilitate Mahila our ShishuRakshak Dal (MASRD) preferably of 10–12 members.
  6. Mandatory visit of the local Anganwadi Centre once in a week and facilitate building partnerships.
  7. Familiarize herself with the existing awareness generating websites/portals.
  8. Conduct one-to-one-meetings, home-visits, community-meetings, etc. to build confidence among women, peers, and families to approach the police, Women Helpline, and One-Stop Center in times of need.
  9. Establish linkages with Protection Officers under “The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005” at district/ block level for convergence and coordination.
  10. Tie-up and be in constant touch with the other stakeholders.
  11. Participate in meetings on Village Health Nutrition Day (VHND), Village Health Sanitation Nutrition Committee (VHSNC), Gram Sabhas, Special Gram Sabha, Mahila Gram Sabha on a regular basis.
  12. Engage and provide suggestions and feedback.


33 per cent reservation for women in police

  • With a view to increasing the representation of women in police forces of all UTs and Delhi Police, the Union Cabinet in 2015, approved a 33 per cent reservation for women in direct recruitment for non-gazetted posts—from constables to sub-inspector— in police forces of all Union Territories, including Delhi Police, for all categories i.e. SC/ST/OBC/others. According to the data records from 2016, available with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), women comprise only 2.04 per cent of the paramilitary forces like the CRPF, BSF, ITBP, CISF, SSB, and AssamRifles. 
  • As part of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, it has been mandated that reports of crimes against women and their statements in this regard would be collected by women police officers or women officers only. This reservation policy to enable greater recruitment and presence of women in the police force would thus work towards effective implementation of Section 154 and 161 of the Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, and the Indian Evidence Act for crimes against women.


Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013

  • In 1997, the Supreme Court of India recognized sexual harassment at workplace as a violation of human rights and a personal injury to the affected woman and laid down Vishakha Guidelines as part of the landmark case of Vishakha and others vs. the State of Rajasthan. Until these guidelines, derived from the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) came into force, there was no law in India which governed this matter directly and women had to take recourse to lodge a complaint under Sections 354 and 509 of the IPC. Even after the guidelines came into force, implementation was not carried out as deftly.


Inclusion of acid attack victims in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act: 

  • A spate of incidents has been recorded where acid attacks have been used as a tool to derogate the identity of a woman in the society by deforming her, used as a mode of vengeance in cases of unwanted sexual advances. 
  • Acid attacks have also come to light in the context of disputes other than sexual offences and are being used increasingly as a tool to inflict physical and mental trauma on women as well as lifelong scars, disability in some cases, and social stigma. 
  • In 2013, the Supreme Court banned the sale of acid to the public in order to curb these attacks however during the year 2016 number of victims subjected to acid attacks went up by 23.3 per cent from 249(in 2015) to 307.8 Recognizing the horror of these kinds of crimes and the related injuries that they inflict on women, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act was passed by both Houses of the Parliament in December 2016. It would replace the PwD Act from 1995 that originally had 7 disabilities listed under its ambit and expand it to recognizing 21 disabilities, of which acid attack is one. 
  • The recognition of acid attack victims under this Act would help them with education and occupational provisions and allow them to avail of 3 per cent reservation for jobs earmarked for the disabled. With the coming of this Act, India would also fulfil its obligations towards the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory.


UJJAWALA: A comprehensive scheme for prevention of trafficking and rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of victims of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation

  • India faces trafficking, both within the country and as a cross-border phenomenon. With a view to curb trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation, the government launched a multi-pronged approach that comprises social mobilization and participation of local communities, awareness generation through public discourse so as to enable rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of the trafficked victims. 
  • Making use of the local community resource groups along with the government agencies, it encourages Social welfare/women and child welfare department of state governments, Women’s Development Corporations, Women’s Development Centres, Urban-Local bodies, credible Public and Private Trusts, and Voluntary organizations to aid the government in effective implementation. The scheme is made up of 5 components which aim at making the victims financially independent and improve their health, social status, and living conditions. 
  • It works on the principles of: Prevention; Rescue; Rehabilitation; Reintegration; and Repatriation.


Women Power Line 1090

    • Women Power Line 1090 was introduced in the state of Uttar Pradesh in November 2012 by the then state government. As the name suggests, this initiative sought to empower women and not just help them. It caters to complaints related to harassment on social media, lewd telephone calls and SMS-es/MMS-s, stalking, and harassment in public places. 1090 can be reached by dialing 1-0-9-0 from any phone within the state, via the website, and through emails. 


  • 1090 works on the following 4 guiding principles:


  1. The identity of the victim is never disclosed.
  2. The victim is never called to a police station.
  3. The calls of the victims are necessarily taken by women police officers only;One number across the state.
  4. The officers keep in touch with the victim until the resolution of the complaint and until 3 months after the resolution as well so as to instil a sense of confidence further.


The conclusion: 

  • All of the above schemes and initiatives are aimed at empowering women and have been innovative steps in their own ways. However, it is important to note that combating harassment and violence in urban and rural spaces with different cultural and social set-ups requires a dynamic approach and no one mechanism can have the same effect across regions that make up a diverse society as India. 
  • Challenges, issues, and definitions of women empowerment change as we move from one region to another and hence introducing certain specific elements into the larger framework of these schemes, that work to address the specifics of that region, would make them much more effective and handy for women. 
  • Above all, it is extremely important that the agency is put back into the woman about the decisions that affect her life due to harassment, and rigorous outreach is undertaken so as to connect to rural as well as remote areas as a support mechanism. 
  • Unless women start looking at these initiatives as peers, it would be a half achieved aim—if their perceptions of self and voices challenging violence continue to be controlled by other members of the society, oppressive practices, and lack of confidence in the state machinery. 
  • One way of achieving this is to supplement multiple avenues of seeking help with a time bound redress mechanism and swift decision in the court of law. Secondary victimization on account of prolonged court cases, costs involved in fighting the case for years, and the associated trauma of prolonged time periods of stress due to slow pace/rate of conviction act become a part of their various life stages—at the time of the incident and then during the wait for investigations and case proceedings—and thus the closure is slow and stress related disorders prevail. 
  • Therefore, the approach to addressing VAW needs to come in a holistic multi-pronged way, designed by putting various arms of the governance mechanism into a structural whole so as to address these associated concerns that inhibit women from speaking up.

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write a comment
Zakir Hossain
Plz provide pdf format.
Neha Pathak

Neha PathakOct 14, 2020

Really very important....and you did it very well....it would be very helpful for students like me...
Thank you..!!!@Manish Singh

MariamOct 17, 2020

Hindi me upload kijiye

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