Towards violence free lives for women: tracking of Union budgets (2018-21) for violence services
The report Towards Violence Free Lives for Women, published in February 2021 by Oxfam India, reviews the Union budget for services related to violence against women from 2018 to 2021.
to the report, the government of India can extend response services to up to 60
per cent of women and girls affected by violence, if the quality and
accessibility of such services is ensured. For this, the annual budget allocation
would need to be between 10,000 and 11,000 crore rupees. In addition to the
current budget being insufficient, the report also highlights gaps in the
quality of services due to restrictions in unit costs of such schemes as the
Universalisation of Women Helpline, which aims to provide 24 hours referral and
information services to violence-affected women.
64-page report discusses the background of the study; the prevalence, severity
and reporting of violence against women and girls in India; the country’s
national, legislative and policy commitments; the resource requirements for these
commitments; the allocation and utilisation of funds for tackling violence
against women and girls; scheme-wise budgetary allocations; as well as
recommendations for the government.
India ranked 95 out of 129 countries in the 2019 SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Gender index, brought out by Equal Measures 2030, a global network of organisations advocating gender equality. With a score of only 56.2, India fared ‘very poorly’ on the index especially on the SDG 5: ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’.
According to the government of India’s National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4), around 33 per cent of women reported having suffered some form of domestic violence. National Crime Records Bureau data from 2018 indicates that a woman or girl is raped every 15 minutes. An estimated 63 million women are ‘missing’ from India’s population due to sex-selective abortions, as per the government’s 2017-18 Economic Survey.
The percentage of women who sought help after experiencing physical or sexual violence dropped from 24 per cent in NFHS-3 (2005-06) to 14 per cent in NFHS-4 (2015-16).
Over 8.44 crore women and girls are affected by domestic violence in India, and each of them require emotional support as well as social and legal response services. Of these, the report states, 1.83 crore survivors also need medical attention.
Budgetary allocations to tackle violence against women and girls – for such women-specific schemes as the women’s helpline; the One Stop Centre Scheme for providing integrated support and services to women affected by domestic violence; and the Swadhar Greh Scheme for providing temporary shelter, food and more, to women in distress – formed less than 0.07 per cent of the total Union budget in 2020-21.
In 2014, the government of India set up the Nirbhaya Fund, a yearly fund for promoting the empowerment, safety and security of women and girl children, with an initial contribution of Rs. 1,000 crores. After subsequent annual additions by the government, the fund was worth Rs. 4357.62 crores by 2019-20.
At Rs. 2,009 crores, the 2020-21 budgetary allocation for tackling violence against women and girls is not even a fourth of the requirement for providing a decent level of response services – the report notes. A review of the allocations for the four key ministries involved in providing response services – the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Law and Justice, and the Ministry of Women and Child Development – shows a shortfall of 85 per cent in the budget for women-specific schemes.
In addition to increasing the budgetary allocation for women-specific response services, the report recommends that the central government share 90 to 100 per cent of the allocation with state governments, as opposed to the current 40 per cent. The State should consider expanding the Nirbhaya Fund for at least 5 to 10 years more, as well as revise the unit and programme costs for schemes addressing violence against women to improve their accessibility and quality.
Focus and Factoids by Madhu Sivaramakrishnan.