India Confronts the Problem of Violence Against Women

Fri, 01/04/2013
National Public Radio

During this National Public Radio broadcast, ICRW's Priya Nanda discusses the vulnerability of women and girls in public spaces in India and the root causes of their unequal status in society. Nanda was joined by three other guests on the "To the Point" show to discuss whether the December gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old New Delhi woman marks a turning point in what many say is the cultural, legal and political oppression of women and girls in India. 

The show begins at 8:00, and Nanda is introduced at 27:00.

ICRW's Priya Nanda Discusses New Delhi Gang Rape

Nanda is a guest on National Public Radio discussion about gang rape, murder of New Delhi woman
Fri, 01/11/2013

During this National Public Radio broadcast, ICRW's Priya Nanda discusses the vulnerability of women and girls in public spaces in India and the root causes of their unequal status in society. 

During this National Public Radio broadcast, ICRW's Priya Nanda discusses the vulnerability of women and girls in public spaces in India and the root causes of their unequal status in society. Nanda was joined by three other guests on the KCRW (89.9FM) "To the Point" show to discuss whether the December gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old New Delhi woman marks a turning point in what many say is the cultural, legal and political oppression of women and girls in India. 

Listen here. The show begins at 8:00, and Nanda is introduced at 27:00.

Child Marriage Policy Briefs Released in Nepal

ICRW policy and advocacy briefs help inform regional plan to end child marriage
Wed, 12/19/2012

ICRW policy and advocacy briefs that provide recommendations for preventing child marriage in Southern Asian countries were released in Nepal this week. The briefs will help policymakers develop a regional plan to end child marriage.

International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) policy and advocacy briefs that offer recommendations for preventing child marriage in nine Southern Asian countries was released this week in Kathmandu, Nepal during a regional consultative meeting of representatives from governments, nongovernmental organizations and others. 

ICRW Asia Regional Office Director Ravi Verma participated in the event, which was organized by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, an inter-governmental body created by the governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Participants used the gathering to review commitments and actions on behalf of girls and develop a regional action plan to end child marriage.

The ICRW policy and advocacy briefs provided a regional perspective on the issue of child marriage, highlighted common challenges to preventing the practice and offered evidence-based policy options. Produced in partnership with UNFPA and other organizations, the briefs provide important guidance on how to kick-start strategies for reducing early marriage in a manner tailored to the unique context and needs of each country.

“Our advocacy kit and policy briefs provided the larger evidence-based background for these countries to design a regional action plan to end child marriage,” Verma said. He added that event attendees also drew lessons from evaluations of child marriage prevention programs worldwide to inform the regional plan.

Read the policy briefs: Child Marriage in Southern Asia: Policy Options for Action

Help change the course for adolescent girls worldwide by joining ICRW’s Turning Point Campaign. 

Using Cricket to Talk About Gender Equality

Thu, 08/02/2012
The Huffington Post

ICRW's Madhumita Das writes about the Parivartan program in a blog for The Huffington Post. The blog is part of a series organized by Huffington Post and InterAction during the London Olympics, and includes blogs centered the connection between sports and gender, disabilities, peace building and other topics.

Boys’ Attitudes Shift about Manhood, Violence Against Women

Views about gender roles improve among young Indian athletes in ICRW program
Wed, 07/18/2012

Parivartan, a three-year ICRW program in Mumbai, India, used a sports setting to challenge boys’ notions about manhood and women’s roles in society. A final evaluation shows that many of the athletes’ attitudes, perceptions and behaviors about gender equity changed for the better.

New International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) findings show that Indian boys’ views about manhood and women’s roles in society became less patriarchal and more equitable after participating in an ICRW program that aimed to shift norms about gender equity. 

The program, called Parivartan, drew in boys from Mumbai through the popular sport of cricket and challenged them to question traditional notions of manhood present in many societies, including their own. Results from ICRW’s evaluation provided proof that sensitizing boys to gender issues can potentially change stereotypes they hold and their attitudes about violence against women. 

Unfolding over three years among boys ages 10 to 16, Parivartan capitalized on cricket coaches’ role in the young athletes’ lives to impart the program’s key messages. It required the coaches, too, to shift their own ideas about expectations of men and women in society. 

“Parivartan demonstrated that role models for youth – in this case, sports coaches – hold great potential as conduits for helping to address and change seemingly indomitable societal norms,” said Madhumita Das, an ICRW senior technical specialist who directed Parivartan. “What we don’t know yet is if the changes that took place among program participants will remain with them into adulthood.” 

Parivartan’s athletes hailed from opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum: middle- and upper-class youth from Mumbai schools who had paid coaches and practiced their game in their cricketer’s white on a manicured field near a country club in downtown Mumbai; and boys from Mumbai’s slum community of Shivaji Nagar, who were coached by mentors close in age and practiced on dirt or asphalt, where they used recycled equipment and sometimes ran in sandals or barefoot. 

Modeled after the Coaching Boys into Men program by Futures Without Violence (formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund), ICRW sought to test whether the influence of coaches and the sports setting could serve as a venue – like home and school – to learn about gender roles and relationships. Experts aimed to document how attitudes, perceptions and behaviors did or did not change among athletes – as well as their coaches. 

“Coaches are more than just instructors of sports techniques. They’re also role models,” Das said. “So we wanted to value this unique relationship of coaches’ with their athletes, to have them channel positive messages to young men about manhood and respect for women.” 

The study sample consisted of 168 athletes in 26 Mumbai schools who were exposed to the Parivartan curriculum, and 141 athletes from 19 schools where the program was introduced later. This design provided a means of comparison, to gauge the effectiveness of the program. Similarly, 168 athletes from Shivaji Nagar took part in the program, while 133 athletes from another community served as the comparison group. 

Researchers sought to answer three questions: (1) What changes occurred in gender and violence-related attitudes, perceptions and behaviors among the Parivartan athletes? (2) What effects did participation in the training and the overall program have on the coaches? and (3) What changes did the wives, mothers or daughters of the coaches perceive as a result of the men’s participation in the program? 

In general, ICRW found that attitudes about gender equity and violence against women shifted for the better among the young cricketers. The coaches’ mindset and behavior also evolved positively. 

ICRW determined the changes by asking the athletes to respond to a series of statements centered on stereotypes around manhood and roles for girls and women. This included questions such as, “A wife should always obey her husband” and “Only men should work outside the home.” The participants were asked at the beginning and end of the Parivartan program to indicate on a 5-point scale whether or not they agreed. ICRW compared responses among athletes from the school setting, the slum community and the groups who did not receive the Parivartan curriculum.

Among ICRW’s findings was that most young cricketers supported a more traditional view of manhood when the program started – a view where boys are not expected to be faithful to girlfriends, where they must always act tough and where they believe they’ll lose respect if they talk about their problems. “This suggested that despite their young age, many boys had already been exposed to and internalized the idea that real men are tough, unfaithful and unemotional,” Das said. 

Those perceptions had changed for most by the end of the program. However, many participants said they still believed that only men can work outside of the home – one of the more deeply-engrained cultural expectations. 

When ICRW looked at changes across the three areas researchers studied – boys’ controlling behavior, manhood and masculinity and girls’ and women’s roles – it found that Parivartan participants’ attitudes about gender roles had changed significantly, compared to those who did not participate in the program. 

An important transformation took place in the Shivaji Nagar athletes’ opinions physical abuse of girls: they became less supportive of it. Such violence is not uncommon; many girls in India, particularly those from poor neighborhoods, are not valued much by their families or others in their community. Many don’t have the chance to attend school or have much say over the course of their lives. To that end, some men and boys see girls as disposable and to be controlled – sometimes, by using violence. In the Parivartan study, most young athletes agreed that a girl does not deserve to be hit if she doesn’t finish her homework, obey her elders or argues with her siblings. However, there was still somewhat strong agreement – specifically among the community athletes – that a girl deserves to be slapped or beaten when she doesn’t help with household chores. 

“Particularly in poor communities, girls are often seen as a big support to handle household chores and look after their younger siblings,” Das said. “More importance is placed on that role in the home, regardless of how young they are, than in getting an education.” 

It’s unclear whether the positive changes in attitudes and behavior that ICRW found will stick as the young men grow into adults. To guarantee such an outcome, ICRW recommends that Parivartan be institutionalized into the settings to which teenagers connect and learn, so that its messages are consistently reinforced. 

While the formal program in Mumbai is no longer, Parivartan is expanding its focus and working with a new group of youth in a rural area: Now, it will be Parivartan-Plus, and part of the U.K. Department for International Development’s STRIVE effort to address social inequities that continue to fuel the AIDS epidemic. The program will take place in rural Karnataka, in southern India, and along with addressing violence against women, it also will tackle sexuality and the links between alcohol and substance use and HIV. 

Gillian Gaynair is ICRW’s senior writer and editor.

Related Content:

Photo Slideshow: The Sport of Respect

Mixed Views in India on Whether to Criminalise Marital Rape

Channel News Asia

ICRW's research on the prevalence of intimate partner violence across India is featured in this Channel News Asia article on the government of India's decision not to criminalize marital rape.

ICRW's research on the prevalence of intimate partner violence across India is featured in this Channel News Asia article on the government of India's decision not to criminalize marital rape.

PRESS RELEASE: New Report Highlights Gaps in Quality of Female Sterilization Services in Bihar, India

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Given the increased demand for reproductive health services in India, more attention is needed to assess the quality of care for these services. To assess the current state of care and patient satisfaction, The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and the Government of Bihar conducted research in Bihar, auditing 79 facilities (including district hospitals, sub-divisional hospitals, primary health centers, and private hospitals), and conducting interviews with around 800 providers, female sterilization and IUD clients from 2013 to early to mid-2014.

Today, ICRW released a new report with findings from that assessment, which sheds light on the quality of these services, as well as patient satisfaction, finding that while there have been some improvementsto infrastructure, there is much more to be done in the provisioning of female sterilization services to ensure that clients are satisfied with the sanitary conditions, as well as privacy and dignity that they expect while receiving these services.

ICRW’s research found that the overall quality of care received by many women was substantially low, with a lack of a focus on women’s needs and their right to high-quality health services that fit their needs and lifestyle.

In only one in ten primary health centers were all women provided a bed post-surgery, leaving the vast majority of women who recently underwent sterilization procedures to recover on mattresses or thin cotton mats on the floor, a breeding ground for infection. In nearly one out of three facilities, hospital waste, including used syringes, cotton and bandages were found scattered around, further compounding the risk of infection for female patients.

“Safe, sanitary conditions are absolutely non-negotiable and can be achieved with very little or no heavy additional costs but will surely yield long-term dividends to establishing the credibility of these programs,” said Pranita Achyut, lead researcher on the report.

The findings highlight that very few private and public hospitals had all the drugs identified by the Government of India as necessary to have on hand while performing sterilization procedures; many women after the procedure were discharged without ensuring that they received check-ups or counselling and advice; the infrastructural facilities at the sub-divisional hospitals and primary health centres were very poor, including within the operation theatres themselves; and fewer than half of all the facilities surveyed had separate functional toilets for women.

“The evidence generated by our research reinforces the oft-repeated reality of poor quality health services for women who seek sterilization procedures,” said Dr. Ravi Verma, head of ICRW’s Asia Regional Office. “The plight of poor women denied of the dignity and respect they deserve, coupled with the high risk of exposure to infections and post-surgery complications, are clearly highlighted by our research. It is hard to overemphasize the clear, demonstrated need for women-oriented and sensitive family planning services.”

RECOMMENDATIONS: Based on our findings, ICRW puts forth a host of recommendations to improve the safety and sanitary state of health facilities so no woman’s life is at risk. These recommendations include designating safe, clean waiting and recovery areas for women; equipping facilities with necessary, sanitary equipment, drugs, and supplies to effectively perform sterilization and IUD procedures; ensuring health facilities have qualified health providers who ensure they respect the rights of women undergoing procedures; and educating women on their right to safe health care procedures.

Overall, our research indicates that while the government is taking many steps to improve provider and clinical quality, without addressing clients’ understanding and demand for quality, we will not be able to fully address the issue.

Pranita Achyut, lead researcher and Dr. Ravi Verma, head of ICRW’s Asia Regional Office are available for interviews and commentary.

Press Contacts:

Washington DC – Erin Kelly,, 011. 571.265.1110

New Delhi– Ruchika Kumar,, 91.11.46643333

# # #

Mission Statement: 

About ICRW: For nearly 40 years, ICRW has been the premier applied research institute focused on women and girls. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in South Asia and Africa, ICRW provides evidence-based research to inform programs and policies that help alleviate poverty, promote gender equality and protect the rights of women and girls. Learn more at

2015 Open Square Summit

Ravi Verma, head of the ICRW's Asia Regional Office, will present on the groundbreaking GEMS program at the 2015 Open Square Summit.

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 8:30am - 5:00pm
The Carnegie Library
801 K Street NW
Washington, DC
United States
Futures Without Violence

Promoting ‘safe spaces’, delaying marriages and improving sexual and reproductive health

Adolescent girls in rural Rajasthan continue to experience early marriage, early and repeated pregnancy and discontinuation from secondary schools, all despite legislation against child marriages and government programs designed to both delay marriages and encourage girls to continue with their education, and promote reproductive health. Data shows that in nearly half of the Rajasthan districts, the proportion of girls marrying before age 18 ranges from 61 to 75 per cent, whereas in the remaining districts it ranges from 30 to 60 per cent. Further, modern contraceptive use is only 7% among 15-19 year and 20% among 20-24. The proportion of girls using modern contraceptive is even less in rural areas. Additionally, school drop-out rates are very high in Rajasthan, particularly in secondary school. According to DLHS-3 (2007-08), 41% of 14-17 year girls are out of school, compared to 14 per cent among 11-13 years.

While there are many programs focused on adolescent girls, most programs focus one issue at a time –education, health, livelihood, or life skills. The proposed program is an effort to find opportunities and an approach that can combine various platforms in ways that would provide greater options to girls through shifts in norms and beliefs about girls and young women and will help create safe spaces for women and girls.

In this project, ICRW will work with around 2,500 unmarried and married adolescent girls between the ages of 12-19, as well as their parents, in-laws, community, schools, local health systems and other key stakeholders through an integrated safe-space model program designed to improve safe spaces and the sexual and reproductive health of the adolescent girls, specifically with a focus on the right to comprehensive maternal health care. The concept of safe spaces on a continuum of home, community and schools will provide girls a sense of safety and esteem, and opportunities to remain mobile, form network and access mentors for guidance and help. These spaces will help them gain wider knowledge and skills to face challenges and feel motivated to raise voices to resist pressures against marriage at an early age; to adopt positive sexual and reproductive health related knowledge and attitudes and negotiate access and utilization of SRH services and  continue in schools.

The project will specifically work to enhance community support to keep girls in schools and promote higher education, through delayed marriages, and work to create public spaces free from violence. The program will improve girls’ knowledge about sexual and reproductive health services, and improve their access to services.

The objectives of the project are as follows:

  • Improved use of sexual and reproductive health services, including more girls using contraceptives;
  • Increased support from the parents and community to delay marriage and help girls gain increased access to reproductive health services; and
  • Increased support from parents and other community members to end violence against women and girls.

UNFPA Press Release: UNFPA-ICRW Study Deconstructs The Mind Of The ‘Masculine’ Indian Male

Tue, 11/11/2014

 UNFPA Press Release

A new study, ‘Masculinity, Intimate Partner Violence and Son Preference in India’, by the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, and the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) explores how the average Indian male interprets the idea of ‘masculinity’ and how that shapes his interactions with women and increases his desire for sons.

The study explores two areas that are particularly important in the Indian context: intimate partner violence and son preference. It is well-established that Indian women face social and familial pressures to produce sons, and the failure to do so increases the threat of violence and abandonment in marriage.

Indeed, not all men think, feel or respond in the same way, which is why the study uses a masculinity index to measure the degree of behavioural rigidity, based on the levels of control men practice in intimate relationship and their attitudes towards gender equality.

According to Frederika Meijer, UNFPA India Representative, “Gendered ideas of masculinity and childhood experiences are significant contributing factors behind men using violence. This research identifies alternative expressions of masculinity that offer pointers to effectively engage men and boys in achieving gender equality. It identifies triggers that could enable them to become change agents in addressing gender discrimination.”

Results from the 9,205 men interviewed show that the average India man is convinced that masculinity is about acting tough, freely exercising his privilege to lay down the rules in personal relationships, and, above all, controlling women.

Take a look:

  • One-in-three men surveyed didn’t allow their wives to the wear clothes of their choice.
  • Sixty-six per cent men believed that they had “a greater say than their wife/partner in the important decisions that affect us”.
  • 75 per cent men expected their partners to agree to sex. Moreover, over 50 per cent men didn’t expect their partners to use contraceptives without their permission.

Clearly, “being a real man” is characterised by authority, while a woman has to prove her femininity with qualities of “tolerance and acceptance”. The study shows that often a departure from these mannerisms could provoke a violent reaction from men.

Sure enough, the study shows a very high prevalence of intimate partner violence in India. Around two-out-of-five men from the seven study states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya

Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Punjab and Haryana were found to be ‘rigidly masculine’ in their attitude and behaviour, as they firmly stated that women should neither be seen nor heard.

What’s more, 60 per cent admitted to using violence to assert their dominance over their partner if she wanted to step out of her traditional roles or was unable to meet the expectation of bearing a son. In fact, more than half - 52 per cent - of the 3,158 women surveyed talked about experiencing some form of violence during their lifetime, with 38 per cent suffering physical violence, including being kicked, beaten, slapped, choked and burned, and 35 per cent were subjected to emotional violence, including insults, intimidation and threats. While Odisha and Uttar Pradesh emerged as the states with the highest incidence of intimate partner violence at 75 per cent, Punjab and Haryana followed at 43 per cent and Maharashtra at 37 per cent.

“The study reaffirms and demonstrates that addressing inequitable gender norms and masculinity issues are at the heart of tackling root causes of intimate partner violence and son preference,” states Luis Mora, Chief, Gender-Human Rights and Culture, UNFPA.

If men with discriminatory gender views are more inclined to physically abusing their partner, then they are also the ones more likely to want sons, affirms the study. Boys are preferred in many Indian families as they stand to inherit property, carry forward the family lineage and participate in specific religious rituals. Census 2011 data reveals the child sex ratio in the country has dropped from 927 girls per 1,000 boys to an all-time low of 918. Examining the extent of son preference, the study measured daughter discrimination and finds that over a third of the men and women show both high daughter discriminatory and son preferring attitudes.

Undoubtedly, the traditional construct of masculinity increases the tendency for violence and son preference among men. In order to be able to enlist them to become a part of the solution and not the problem, a couple of factors need to be taken into account. Firstly, the study catalogues economic stress as a major trigger for both violence against women and the desire for sons. A crisis that threatens their position as the primary providers at times prompts them to use violence to gain control. Simultaneously, it reiterates their belief that more male children can guarantee better financial security.

The other aspect that plays an essential part in intensifying conventional masculine attitudes is childhood experiences. The more men witness their father exercising greater control at home in their formative years, the less likely they are to develop gender equitable attitudes. Says Ravi Verma, Regional Director, ICRW-Asia, “The findings of the study are extremely clear on lasting impact of the childhood experiences. It is high time we begin to seriously think how we wish to bring up our boys and also present ourselves as adults to younger ones within the families.”

The Masculinity study makes an urgent call for developing policies that build men’s confidence to behave differently. Two solutions that offer promise of real transformation are: breaking the cycle of discrimination by reaching out to young boys with alternative ideas of masculinity, that are not based on power or authority; and ensuring quality education for both sexes along with ensuring women’s access to income.

Mission Statement: 

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person's potential is fulfilled. UNFPA expands the possibilities for women and young people to lead healthy and productive lives. UNFPA started working in 1969, the number – and rate – of women dying from complications of pregnancy or childbirth has been halved. Families are smaller and healthier. Young people are more connected and empowered than ever before.

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