Population Foundation of India strongly condemns the despicable and cowardly act of sexual violence against two women in Manipur. This heinous crime took place in the backdrop of ongoing clashes between Meitei and Kuki communities. However, sexual violence against women has been used as a “war tactic” for a long time throughout the world, including India. In Manipur, several women have been killed while participating in protests and public meetings in the state. The recent acts of sexual violence demonstrate their vulnerability as women, and are among a series of incidents in India in which women have been the targets of violence.
According to data from the fifth round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), around 6% of women aged 18-49 years report having ever experienced sexual violence in their lifetimes. Widowed, divorced, separated, or deserted women are far more likely (14%) to report having experienced sexual violence than women with any other marital status. Data also shows that the prevalence of sexual violence is the highest among SC women (7.2%) in comparison to ST (6.5%), OBC and other (5.6% each) women. The experience of sexual violence decreases sharply with schooling, from 9% among women with no schooling to 3% among women with 12 or more years of schooling. Violence against women and girls is a serious violation of their rights to dignity and to a life without discrimination.
The Supreme Court of India, political parties, ministers and eminent persons have expressed their dismay at the incident, and pledged to take action against the guilty. To prevent such incidents from recurring, sufficient and stringent measures need to be taken to protect women. Violence against women and girls must be treated as a public health concern and there is a need to develop a health systems response for it. This would include creating an enabling environment for survivors of violence to seek adequate health and support without the fear of being stigmatized. There is also a need to address the regressive cultural and social norms which continue to compromise the status of women in society.
Population Foundation of India’s Executive Director, Poonam Muttreja, said: “It is heart-breaking to learn about this incident of sexual violence against two women in Manipur. As a society, we have tolerated gender-based violence for too long. We need to build not only social safeguards for women, but also ensure the law and order machinery is committed to preventing such crimes in the future.”
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