Mainstream, VOL LIV No 14 New Delhi March 26, 2016
How do Panchayat Women perceive Violence? A Survey Report
Monday 28 March 2016
by Bidyut Mohanty
Persistence of structural violence has been culturally ingrained against women in all stages of their life-cycle and in everyday life both in the family as well as in the society at large. This is mostly due to the value system of patriarchal belief in apparently less valued division of labour sanctioned by the Dharm Shastras. Recently due to rising consciousness regarding gender equity several international and national laws have been implemented to increase the prospects of women’s education, dignified labour, income and safety as well as to raise the political and social visibility.
In the case of India, two major policies, namely, political representation and micro-credit programme (in 2013 it became a law and is known as the National Livelihoods Mission applicable to both urban as well rural areas) have been formulated since 1990. Rural and urban women have been given political representations in the local government system since 1993 to raise their status in the society. Easy loans are given to women self-help groups to earn some additional income. Both these legislations were also initiated with an aim to reduce all forms of violence against women. The policies had twin objectives, namely, by giving space in the political field, so far excluded to rural women, it was thought that their image in the public would change from that of objectification to decision-maker at the grassroots level. Secondly, it was also visualised that as leaders they could take active part in conflict resolution along with developmental work. These noble objectives would get more teeth because of easy loan to augment an additional income. Thus being empowered with political and economic power, women’s social power would increase, it was presumed. But in reality the statistics on violence show that the incidence of violence against women is on the increase in spite of the presence of more than one million women leaders in the local government system.
The Institute of Social Sciences, during its annual Women’s Empowerment Day Cele-brations, 2015 conducted a random survey on the ‘Perception of Violence through the Lenses of Panchayat Women’. The following report, based on a survey with 260 respondents, the elected panchayat leaders, revealed some social reality. They came from Chhattisgarh, Maha-rashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Manipur, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttar Pradesh.1
Socio-Economic Composition of the Respondents
The percentage-wise respondents comprised 32 ward members, 24 Sarpanches, 16 Block Panchayat presidents/members and nine Zila Panchayat members respectively. Since violence is endemic among all sections of women due to the existing traditional social moorings, it was justi-fied for taking them as the target groups. [. . .]
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