Report Says Many Indian Women Mistreated by Husbands

By T.C. Malhotra | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

New Delhi ( - More than two in five Indian women are mistreated by their husbands for a variety of reasons, according to a new report, which women activists in India say is an accurate reflection of the situation.

In a report released to coincide with International Women's Day on Thursday, the human rights monitor Amnesty International said that women and girls were tortured or mistreated daily across the globe.

"In India more than 40 percent of married women reported being kicked or sexually abused for reasons such as their husbands' dissatisfaction with their cooking or cleaning, jealousy or other motives."

According to official reports, a woman is tortured every 15 seconds and about 700,000 are raped each year.

The Amnesty report, entitled "Broken Bodies, Shattered Minds," said the problem was fed by a global culture that "denies women equal rights with men, and which legitimizes violence against women."

Sometimes the perpetrators are "agents of the state" or members of "armed groups," but they are mostly victims' employers or members of their own families or communities.

Dr. Iqbal Malik, a leading female socialist politician in India agreed with the findings of the report. The torture of women, she said, had increased substantially, not only in India but also in neighboring states including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

"The torture begins over petty matters such as bad cooking style, the unpleasant presentation of food to their husbands, and so on," she said.

The report is part of a global Amnesty campaign against torture.

"States have a duty under international law to prohibit and prevent torture and to respond to instances of torture in all circumstances," the organization said this week.

It cited World Bank figures indicating that at least 20 per cent of women worldwide have been physically or sexually assaulted.

"Family honor" killings are reported from several countries, says the report, in a reference to situations where women are murdered by brothers, fathers or husbands who accuse them of dishonoring the family through immodest behavior. The "crimes" can range from infidelity to chatting with a male neighbor.

Rama Devi of an Indian women's forum, Mahila Jagran Manch, said most abused women in Indian rural areas are mistreated because of domestic matters.

The report also highlights human trafficking, forced labor, forced marriages and the sexual exploitation of women.

"Trafficked women are particularly vulnerable to physical violence, including rape, unlawful confinement, confiscation of identity papers and enslavement."

Another Indian women's organization activist, Kanta Singh, said the problems were continuing even in the fact of modern trends.

"Violence against women, sexual abuse and dowry deaths keep increasing in India despite a reasonably higher degree of awakening and in the literacy rates of Indian women."

Saroj Negi, a women's welfare campaigner, said the problem often began before birth - with the conception of a female child.

"'In some parts of the country, it has become a fashion to eliminate the female child before it is born," she said.

Baby girls are often unwanted because daughters cost their families a considerable amount in dowries upon marriage, whereas sons bring in dowries from their wives' families.