Sexual Violence describes the deliberate use of sex as a weapon to demonstrate power over and to inflict pain and humiliation upon, another human being. Each society has mechanisms that legitimize, obscure, deny and thereby perpetuate violence against women. Powerful social institutions – the family, the community and the state perpetuate all the different categories of sexual violence and maintain status quo as far as women’s rights are concerned. The family has been traditionally considered as a retreat, where individuals are able to find security and shelter, a private heaven where peace and harmony prevail but throughout the world there are practices in the family that are violent towards women and harmful to their health. This essay tends to highlight the family violence which is generally hidden under the notions of intimacy of private sphere as the belief that family integrity should be protected at all costs preventing many women from seeking outside help. Focusing on these issues the essay has been divided into three parts. In Part I of the essay the authors will analyze the concept and determinants of sexual violence. Part II will throw lights on few illustrations of sexual violence occurring in the family like Female Genital Mutilations, Incest, and Marital Rape, Forced Marriages, Prostitution etc… Finally Part III will conclude with some suggesting remedies which will reveal that how these offences are crimes of power, the conceptualization of which are highly gendered and the mechanisms of law are inadequate and require massive overhauling.
Keywords: Sexual Violence, Family Violence, Criminal Law, Massive-Overhauling.
Sexual Violence – Concept and Determinants
“Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so degrading, so shocking or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of humanity; the female sex.”
Violence against women in India is an issue rooted in societal norms and economic dependence. Discriminatory practices are underlined by laws favoring men. Inadequate policing and judicial practices deny female victims proper protection and justice. Although female participation in public life is increasing and laws have been amended, India still has a long way to go to make Indian women equal citizens in their own country. Over the last several decades, measuring the scope and nature of violence against women has evolved into a global issue. Violence against women has captured the interest of researchers, advocates, clinicians and service providers in a variety of disciplines including anthropology, criminology, epidemiology, medicine, psychology, sociology, and women’s studies. Violence is generally conceptualized in terms of physical force and destructive conduct. The simplest definition of violence is ‘behavior designed to inflict injury on a person or to cause damage to property’. In a narrower connotation, violence implies an act carried out with the intention or perceived intention of physically hurting another person. It is the use of force or constraints to cause harm by commanding obedience to a required set of social or moral values.
Sexual Violence is all pervasive and manifests itself in a number of forms, which exists in all institutions of life. It is possible to classify sexual violence in four main categories. First is direct violence, which is most commonly emphasized, examples of which are rape, molestation, forced prostitution, female genital mutilations, etc. Second is indirect violence, which covers harmful, sometimes deadly situations or actions which, though due to human intervention, do not necessarily involve a direct relationship between the victims and the institutions or the persons responsible for their plight, for e.g., child marriage and arranged marriages, where the women is not allowed to make a choice regarding the marriage partner. Third is repressive violence- which relates to three groups of fundamental right- civil rights, political rights and social rights. Repressive violence is used to suppress political or class movements, for e.g., rape or sexual abuse targeting towards dalit (low caste) women, mass rapes during international or internal armed conflicts. Fourth is alienating violence, which deprives the woman of her higher rights, such as right to emotional, cultural or intellectual growth. Examples are marital rape, prescribing dress code to regulate female sexuality, etc.
The concept of gender violence
The addition of ‘gender’ dimension to violence implies that violence, which is perpetrated on women because of their womanhood. The General Recommendation 19 adopted in 11th session of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women ( CEDAW), in 1992, describes gender violence as follow:
“Violence which is directed against a women because she is a women or which effects women disproportionately. It includes acts, which inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion, and other deprivation of liberty”.
In a landmark resolution 48/104, adopted by the UN General Assembly at its 48th session, in December 1993 – Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women- violence against women is defined as:
“Any act of gender based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.” 
Gender Violence permeates through the past into the future creating a timelessness afloat into the realities of women’s existence. Century’s old brutal expressions of gender violence are meagerly changed with time, thus, creating a belief that we are still living past in present. Gender Violence transcends through all phases of a woman’s life and acquires innumerable forms on the broad spectrum, including feticide, infanticide, sexual violence, domestic violence, etc. Nairobi Forward looking Strategies states that ‘violence against women exists in various forms in all societies- women are beaten, mutilated, and burned, sexually abused and raped. Such violence is a major obstacle to the achievement of peace and should be given special attention’.
Due to the immense vastness of the issue, the present study confines itself to one of the crucial and sentimental aspect of gender violence – sexual violence occurring in the family.
Sexual Violence Occurring in the Family
The family has been traditionally considered as a retreat, where individuals are able to find security and shelter, a private heaven where peace and harmony prevail. However, the family may be a ‘cradle of violence’ for the women who are subjected to violence at home. Throughout the world there are practices in the family that are violent towards women and harmful to their health. Family Violence is generally hidden under the notions of intimacy of private sphere as the belief that family integrity should be protected at all costs prevent many women from seeking outside help. The law and criminal justice system generally do not recognize sexual violence occurring in the family as a separate crime, hence such cases are rarely prosecuted and the women have no option, but to suffer in silence. Much of the violence against Indian women is in the form of domestic violence, dowry deaths, acid attacks, honor killings, rape, abduction, and cruelty by husbands and in-laws. Due to high preference by husband and in-laws for male children rather than female children every two hours in India, a Woman Dies from an abortion worldwide.In 2012, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), dowry deaths – or murders of women by the groom or in-laws because of unmet high dowry expectations – constituted 3.4% of all crimes against women. Last year in India on average 22 women were killed per day because their families could not meet dowry demands. The NCRB statistics indicate that an Indian woman is most unsafe in her marital home with 43.6% of all crimes against women being “cruelty” inflicted by her husband and relatives. These numbers do not include incidences of marital rape, as India does not recognize marital rape as an offence.
Mentioned below are few illustrations of sexual violence occurring in family:
1. Female Genital Mutilations:
Female Genital mutilation (FGM), a deeply rooted traditional practice believed to have started in Egypt some 2000 years ago, has been reported in some major Asian Countries such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. FGM or Female circumcision as it is sometimes erroneously referred to, involves surgical removal of parts or all of the most sensitive female genital organs. It is an old age practice which is perpetuated in many communities around the world simply because it is customary. FGM forms an important part of the rites of passage ceremony for some communities, marking the coming of age of female child. It is believed that by mutilating the female genital organs her sexuality will be controlled but above all it is to insure the women virginity before marriage and chastity afterwards.
Incest usually refers to the sexual abuse of a child or adolescent within the family by a Parent, authority figure relative, even a more powerful sibling. Generally, incest victims are children because of their vulnerability and powerlessness though the possibility of inter family sexual exploitation and abuse of adult females cannot be ruled out. In many parts of the world incest is culturally tolerated and it is not listed as specific criminal offences in the penal laws of majority of countries. Incest occurs in varied forms ranging from forced masturbation, touching and fondling of genitals to rape. Indulgence of close male relatives including the father’s brothers, uncles and grandfathers is quite common. Incest is practiced by certain cults, like the Hindu Sakti sect in India, in the belief that it is a higher grade of sexual intercourse and an advance step towards religion. In an endogamous Indian Group called Baiga, incestuous marriage is practiced.  In a study conducted by RAHI, an NGO in India, it was found that out of 457 respondents, 40 percent had been abused by at least one family member.  According to the WHO one in every 10 Children is sexually abused, often by a family member.
Victims of Incest suffer from extreme physical and psychological disorders. Often the Psychological problem that crop up due to incestuous abuse, have long term effect and decapicitate the victim from indulging in other relationships normally. Incest is always accompanied by a deep sense of betrayal of trust and helplessness, which disables the sufferer from forming normal sexual and emotional bonds in the relationships.
3. Marital Rape
In a majority of the countries in the world; husbands enjoy ‘criminal law immunity’ for raping their wives. Marital Rape has existed as long as the institution of marriage. According to a US Sexual Assault Information Sheet, one in seven women reported that they had been raped by their husbands. Rape in marriage is vastly unrecognized by the legal systems all over the world. This legal reluctance is the product of the social notion that the wives are the properties of their husbands. To be more precise, viewing of wife as the sexual property of the husband is the inevitable heritage of a patriarchal society. The Verma Committee suggested that marital rape should be recognized as a criminal offence but the suggestion was opposed by all major Indian political parties.
4. Child Marriages
In developing countries, girls are often wed even before attaining the age of puberty. The low age of marriage is one of the factors which contribute to the severe violations of human rights of women. According to WHO report, over 50 percent of first births in many developing countries are to women aged less than 19 years. In India, in a few states, like Rajasthan, MP and Gujarat, thousands of children are married off on auspicious days, like Akshaya Tritiya and in few cases marriages are reportedly solemnized when the prospective bride was still in womb.
Considering the vast rampant practice of child marriages, the UN Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriage 1962, was opened for signature on 10 November 1962. The Convention contemplates full and free consent of the parties to the marriage, which shall not be less than 15 years and emphasizes the compulsory registration of the marriages. It is pathetic that a lot of countries, including India, have not signed this Convention. However, there are recommendary laws regarding age of marriages, but in most countries, formal legal systems based in courts operate alongside customary and traditional systems based in local institutions or families.
It is quite obvious that the child bride submits to sex with an older man and her immature body must endure the damages of repeated pregnancies and childbirths, which ultimately lessens the life expectancy of girls, affects their health, nutrition, education, and employment opportunities and lowers their economic participation rate. All these consequences severely nullify the human rights of the girls involved.
5. Forced Marriages
A forced marriage is a marriage conducted without the valid consent of both the parties, where duress is a factor. Forced marriages are different from arrange marriages to which the parties give consent happily for the matches selected by the family.
Forced marriages may involve both men and women as victims, but primarily it is consider to be an issue of violence against women. The issue of forced marriage is a violation of basic human rights and a form of child abuse. Often, victims are subjected to non-consensual sex, physical and emotional abuse, isolation, and threats of violence. International law and conventions also support an individual’s right to self-determination, minimum marriage ages and the rejection of abuse of women and honor based violence. 
Rape is the most pervasive form of sexual violence, which cuts across state borders and cultures, used in all countries and in all cultures as weapons of degradation and terror against women. Rape is an intrusion into the most private and intimate parts of a woman’s body as well as assault on the core of her self. Rape is the desire for power (to dominate, subordinate, control) and feelings of hostility (contempt, anger) are vented out on the victims, transforming them from persons to objects and often plunging them into a ‘rape crisis syndrome’ A woman’s risk of being raped by someone, she knows is four times greater than being raped by a stranger. But such incidents of the crime of rape remains vastly underreported because victims fear from being re-victimized in the criminal justice system, of not being believed, guilt, self-blame and from failure of the rape victims to equate their humiliating experience with the legal definition of rape. There are various incidents of rapes done by family members like father, brother, uncles etc but remains unreported. Recently in north Kerala’s Kannur district, a father, brother and an uncle of a 13 year-old girl were arrested for allegedly raping the minor for the past two years. The victim has also told the police that her elder sister, who had committed suicide two years ago, had also been raped. In yet another shocking incident of child rape in Kerala, the girl was first raped by a neighbour with her mother’s connivance when she was only 11 years. This was followed by her father allegedly raping her several times.
About a 1,000 rape cases were registered last year in Mumbai with home as the place of crime. The figure, released by the CID, was about 200 more than in 2011. Going by the CID’s data, home is the most unsafe place for a woman.
Even cases reported in Gujarat shows that, rapist is not a stranger lurking in the shadows to pounce on victims. He is most likely to be a family member, a distant relative, a neighbour or even an employer. Police records state that of the 439 rape cases reported in the state, 438 victims have told investigators that they knew the assailant. In past five years, the ratio of cases where the assailants were known to rape victims hovers at around 98 per cent.
Of the 24,923 rape incidences in India in 2012, 98% of the offenders were known to the victim which is higher than the global average of approximately 90%. Known people do not even spare little girls who have not even started school. In Bapunagar recently, a four-year-old was raped by a 23-year-old man. He was her neighbour who lured the girl with games and chocolates and took her to his residence to play. He played with her life instead. Most of such cases remain unreported as maximum sexual violence’s in these states are done by the members of family and thus the stories are not projected to the outer world. “It is a myth that Gujarat or Kerala is safe for women. Here, danger lurks more in the homes and neighbourhoods as in majority rape cases. To my mind, this is a bigger breach of trust, as the known men cultivate trust in the girls and execute the crime with great planning in cold blood.
“Generation after generation, all the women in that sub-caste, they become prostitutes. And nobody thinks that it’s unusual, that it’s something horrendous.”
— Urmi Basu
In India every 40 girls under the age of 15 are forced into prostitution. Nearly 1.2 million sex workers are below the age of 18 with about 40 underage girls being forced into prostitution on a daily basis. With the 8 % of increase in the flesh trade, India has become one of the prominent names in child prostitution. Research suggests that there may be as many as 10 million children in involved in prostitution worldwide. There’s a high rate of suicides among these girls because they have no escape. Girls who tried to get are beaten black and blue and locked up all over again.”  In some Indian villages, girls are sent into prostitution by their families – a tradition that began as religious obligation but is now continued for money. 
Pastor Paul Ciniraj of Paul Ciniraj Ministries in India, describes the tragic cycle of prostitution that Dalit (depressed community) girls, as young as 10-years-old, are forced into by their own families in Rajasthan State. The girls are mostly aged between 12 and 15, though some are as young as 10. They stand at the roadside along with their fathers and brothers who fix the ‘price’ for them. Members of the girls families are well aware of the brutal behavior of customers who often ravage the little girls. Many of the child sex workers contract sexually transmitted diseases. 
The tribal community of Bedia that resides along the Jaipur Highway outside Bharatpur takes pride in their family business which is “Prostitution”. Customarily, were entertainers in Rajasthan and MP. It was their occupation to for the women and girls to perform for feudal lords. With the changing times Prostitution has become their family tradition.
Adolescent girls are initiated into the family ‘tradition’, while their brothers become ‘agents’. According to Prof K K Mukherjee, former head of department of social work, DU, “There are 91 families in Khakranagla. Of these, 75 are of Nat, Bedia and Gujjar castes 46 of them engage in
sex work.” Apart from the Bedia, there are other tribal communities such as the Kanjars, Nuts and Sanshis who takes up prostitution as their primary source of income. 
The protection of society and deterring the criminal is the avowed object of law and that is required to be achieved by imposing appropriate sentence. It is expected of the courts to operate the sentencing system as to impose such sentence which reflects the social conscience of the society.At a fundamental and general level, what is needed is a ‘social revolution’ for empowering women which must seek to reform “the mind-set and old thoughts of our society.” Such change cannot be achieved in a courtroom or through mass protest. It requires instilling particular values to boys and girls, at home, at school and in the public sphere. Conceptions of masculinity and femininity must be readjusted to place emphasis upon respect for the self and for others. This change in mind-set must be accompanied by institutional reform. Victims of violent crimes are brutalized not just by their attacker but thereafter by the system they appeal to or live with. Women in India tend not to appeal to the legal and criminal system because, far from being a source of protection and empowerment, they find that this system makes them even more vulnerable to abuse. Firstly, India needs to talk to itself more to make its homes safer for women. Victims of family violence suffer inherently more than victims of stranger violence. It is not without controversy to suggest that an attack by an intimate partner is more deserving of censure than an attack by a stranger. The relative absence of a concept of ‘family violence’ in criminal law means that the criminal law—unlike the civil law—typically responds only to parts of the overall pattern of family violence. This may limit the role the criminal law can play in addressing family violence and may distort the handling of family violence within the criminal system.
Criminal legislation must be amended to include specific offences committed by an offender who is in a family relationship with the victim because mostly family violence occur over a long period of time; and is typically under-reported and under-enforced, and may occur in non-physical forms. As a result, it may be difficult to prove each particular incident of family violence. This effect flows on to other legal frameworks that depend on the criminal law, such as victims’ compensation, with the effect that family violence victims are also typically under-compensated. There may be alternative ways for the criminal law to deal better with cases of family violence, short of creating an offence of family violence but nonetheless responding to the seriousness of the conduct. These include options exercisable at the point of charging a person for an offence, as well options which emphasize family violence on sentencing.
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