Violence Against Women: A Site Dedicated to Providing Information and Resources for Health Care Providers & Survivors of Violence against Women Violence against Women
A site dedicated to providing information and resources for health care providers as well as survivors of violence

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Is Violence Against Women a Health Issue?

The term Violence Against Women encompasses a wide array of abusive behaviour that is directed towards a woman by virtue of the fact that she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. (CEDAW) 

The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) - III has reported 33% women facing some form of physical violence, while 10% reporting sexual violence and 16% reporting parental abuse. One percent of never married women reported being sexually abused by someone. Of these, 27% reported that the abuser was a relative. There were about 8000 cases of dowry deaths -women killed within their marital homes. More than 75,000 cases were registered of cruelty by husbands and relatives.

Violence against women has physical, emotional and economical consequences for women and society at large. Therefore it is important to look at the impact that violence has on women to fully understand its implication. Violence can be emotional - threatening, doubting, name calling; physical - beating, burning, slapping, kicking; financial - not giving money, forcing to work, taking the salary away or sexual - forceful sex, not being intimate. The perpetrators of violence can be a known person like husband, relative or a friend or an unknown person. 

Impact of Violence Against Women on Physical and Mental Health of women

Evidence from literature suggests that domestic violence carries an immense burden of disease owing to the fact that it has a profound impact on the physical and mental health of the survivors.  Domestic violence has been linked to a host of different outcomes, immediate and long-term, like sapping women%u2019s energy, compromising their physical health including reproductive health, and making them more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS (WH0, 2003). India has been found to be among those with the highest prevalence of violence during pregnancy, at 18% - 28% (Khosla, 2005, Peedicayil A et al, 2004). Research indicates that there is a close association between domestic violence during pregnancy and foetal/infant mortality, developmental abnormalities, and maternal mortality (Kekeebhoy, S.J. 1998; B.R. Ganatra, K.J. Coyaji, V.V. Rao, 1998). 

Violence has a deep impact on women's mental and emotional health eroding their self-esteem and leading to a variety of mental health problems that can sometimes even lead to suicide (WHO, 2005). Suicide is 12 times more likely to be attempted by a woman who has been abused than one who is not (Violence against Women in the Family, United Nations, New York, 1989). According to studies in Australia, Nicaragua, the United States and Zimbabwe, women who are abused by their partners are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and phobias as compared to non-abused women (WHO Report; Robers GL et al, 1998; Ellsberg M et al,1999;Fikree F F Bhatti, 1999; Danielson KK et al, 1998)

Moreover, the relationship between domestic violence and health is a dynamic one - women who suffer from diseases such as psychiatric illness, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis etc. often bear the brunt of violence.

Survivor's Contact with Health Professionals(HCP)

Health care professionals are in a strategic position to reach out to women facing violence. They are not only the most certain contact for a survivor of violence but also probably the earliest. They can not only treat their immediate complaints but also provide holistic care which is an opportunity to mitigate violence. Early identification of women facing violence and appropriate intervention by health care givers can prevent the more severe health consequences that she will face if she continues to be abused. As also, there is a level of trust and faith in a health care provider since the system is not perceived as hostile and rather safe as she can approach it without arousing suspicion. 

Women approach the health facility in order to obtain treatment for the health complaints and injuries caused by violence. It is a well known fact that on facing abuse, a woman is more likely to approach a doctor rather than a lawyer or the police. According to a multi-site study performed in seven cities in India almost half (45.3%) of the women who faced violence reported injuries requiring treatment (INCLEN 2000). Another study examining the cases of women recorded in the Emergency Police Register of the Casualty Department in an urban government-run hospital in Mumbai found that two-thirds of the women above 15 years of age (66.7% or 497/745) were definitely or possibly cases of domestic violence (Daga et. al, 1998). 

But, unfortunately most health professionals don't receive such training and therefore  the end up treating only the immediate complaints and thus, the cycle continues. In addition to this, women tend to have immense faith in health care professionals and are more likely to reveal their problem to them than anyone else. They are perceived as non-threatening, so women can approach them without arousing the suspicion of relatives who may be abusers or without the fear of being found out. 


The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, which came into force in October2005 , has identified a medical facility as a  key player in implementation of the act and several roles of such a medical facility vis-à-vis women facing domestic violence have been laid down. According to the Part II, Sec. 3 (i), Sub-section 17 of the Act

  • A private / public medical facility cannot refuse treatment to the aggrieved woman under any circumstances. 
  • Further, if necessary, the person-in-charge of the medical facility is required to make a domestic incident report if one has not already been made and forward the same to the Protection Officer in that area. 
  • A medical examination report must also be given to the woman free of cost.





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