Domestic Violence against Women: Statistical Analysis of Crimes across India

By Hackett, Michelle | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Domestic Violence against Women: Statistical Analysis of Crimes across India


Hackett, Michelle, Journal of Comparative Family Studies


INTRODUCTION

"Charanpreet Kaur, 19, had been married less than nine months when her husband and his family decided it was time for her to go.

  According to a police document, her husband and his father trapped
  her in the bathroom. While her husband clamped his hand over her
  mouth, his father drenched her with kerosene and lit a match,
  setting his daughter-in-law on fire. Charanpreet lost consciousness
  and was taken to the hospital by her husband and father-in-law, who
  apparently believed she was close to death and would not be able to
  incriminate them, the young woman's relatives said. But Charanpreet
  regained consciousness a few hours later and gave her statement to a
  magistrate; her in-laws were arrested the same day. Charanpreet died
  five days later." ("India," 2005)

After generations of silence, domestic violence is slowly becoming a topic of popular media and academic scrutiny in developing countries. Even in India, where gender discrimination is still legally condoned, (1) the press coverage and public outcry against "dowry death" murders of young wives is rising (Borah, 2008). The more private nature of less fatal forms of domestic violence, however, means that familial abuse still remains, more often than not, hidden behind closed doors.

The statistical literature on domestic violence in India to date has focused on the sub-national scale, such as studies over a few villages in a subdistrict or slum areas in a metropolitan city. With the exception of Atal and Kosambi (1993), who attempted to use media reports to construct India-wide statistics on domestic violence, no other national analysis could be found by the author. Indeed, many researchers have noted that domestic violence has not been systematically studied with both small-scale and large-scale surveys in India and other developing countries (Jejeebhoy, 1998: 300; Koenig et al., 2006: 132; Krishnan, 2005: 88; Rao, 1997: 1169; Verma & Collumbien, 2003: 73). In order to supplement the existing research, then, this paper will attempt a large-scale statistical analysis of domestic violence against women in India, using nation-wide, aggregate "Crimes against Women" data from the National Crime Records Bureau of India (Government of India, 2000).

As this paper will show, multivariate linear regressions of the crime records yield some interesting and statistically significant results. By situating these results within an ecological framework of domestic violence, we can attempt to construct some hypotheses about domestic violence in India. This paper will propose that, in India, Dowry Death (wife murder) and Cruelty (wife abuse) crime rates depend on a state's level of development. Firstly, we find that the higher the levels of gender equality, urbanisation, health and education in a state, the lower the rates of Dowry Death crimes (and vice versa). Secondly, whilst the Cruelty crime regression analyses will also reveal a connection with development, it appears as a more complex relationship between and within the Indian states. This paper will use a gendered resource theory to support the hypothesis: Social development change (e.g., changing gender roles) can exacerbate domestic violence, as observed in the discrepancies between rural and urban Cruelty crime rates across India.

In summary, this study concurs with the view that domestic violence, in its various forms, has a multifaceted relationship with the "stages of development" in developing countries such as India (Bates et al., 2004: 197; Naved & Persson, 2005: 299). The specific hypotheses presented here, however, must continue to be treated as provisional until they are supported by further large-scale studies and the confounding influences of under-reporting are better understood. Regardless, the strong statistical results in this study will hopefully lead to further analysis at local and national levels, and present an informative line of enquiry in the campaign against domestic violence.

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