Is violence against women increasing? Yes, said Donna Fernandes, founder of the women’s organisation Vimochana, participating in a discussion held in Bangalore on Saturday on ‘Violence against women: 21st century’s chronicle of shame’, as part of the film festival on gender violence at the Goethe-Institut.

Revealing alarming figures, Ms. Fernandes used the example of the number of cases registered in the burns ward of the city’s Victoria Hospital. “We have been working here for the past 15 years and the numbers are increasing. In the early ’90s, there was one death every three days. Now there are four to five. This year alone, till November, 507 women have died; 198 were discharged against medical advice. Close to 700 women have died in Victoria Hospital alone. Several others die by way of suicides, drowning and related incidents.”

Cash cow for the police

Castigating the failure of the law enforcement agencies, she said violence against women had become a moneymaking area for the police. “The face of violence is also changing. Apart from patriarchy and globalisation, there is a collapse of the law enforcement machinery. Corruption thrives where there is violence against women.” Such violence is also reported by elite sections of the society as well, not just the underprivileged.

Writer Shashi Deshpande pegged the reason behind the escalating violence as “women stepping out to find their place in the world”. India has an impressive array of laws, but they are not helping women as law enforcement agencies are not helping.

Speaking about the media’s role, Shaibya Saldanha, founder of Enfold Proactive Health Trust, said the media fails to follow up on cases of violence.

Market forces

Parvathi Menon, Chief of Bureau, The Hindu, admitted that a section of the print media had completely given up. Being in the hands of the market forces, it was hesitant to raise uncomfortable questions, “but we can’t get lost in a sea of despair”.

State intervention

Citing the successful example of the Tamil Nadu government’s Cradle Baby Scheme through which the sex ratio in that State improved drastically, she said nothing can substitute the state in bringing intervention.

“Ultimately, it can’t be a man vs. woman fight. We have to enlist men as well,” she added.

Filmmaker Nupur Basu moderated the discussion.