[19 March 2024] The Hindu Op-ed: Violence, homelessness, and women’s mental health


PYQ Relevance: Mains: 

Women’s movement in India has not addressed the issues of women of lower social strata.’ Substantiate your view. [UPSC 2018]

Though women in post-Independent India have excelled in various fields, the social attitude towards women and the feminist movement has been patriarchal.” Apart from women’s education and women empowerment schemes, what interventions can help change this milieu?[UPSC 2021].

Prelims: Constitutional Provisions for Women;

Mains: Women Issues; Government Schemes and Initiatives for Minorities;

Mentor comments: Recently, there were some observations by the 5th NFHS Survey for all of India highlighting the new trends and observations that encircle violence against women. Once upon a time, Robert Sapolsky contended that our inclinations, actions, and choices were not products of an autonomous, conscious process of free will but rather shaped by biological factors such as our genes, neural circuitry, and brain chemistry. Therefore, to develop comprehensive solutions based on violence against women, recognizing and compensating women for their unpaid labor and creating the space for women to find supportive networks can offer them security and refuge.  

Let’s learn. 

Why in the News?

The recent observations presented by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) focus on a sobering picture of the pervasive violence against women in India.

  • Almost 30% of women between the ages of 18-49 years have experienced physical violence beginning at age 15; 6% reported sexual violence. 

What are the recent findings that relate to Women’s Mental Health Issues in India?

  • On Relational Disruptions: According to the Survey, the disruptions are often linked to violence, predicted homelessness among women, and access to mental health care. Reports highlighted discrepancies between women’s experiences of trauma and standard diagnostic frameworks.
  • A feeling of homelessness: A woman living with mental health conditions (including child sexual abuse and intimate partner violence) showed how homelessness can be both an escape from violence and a result of repeated trauma.
  • Survival challenges: The major challenge was that handicapped women due to domestic violence faced issues in finding food and safe spaces even on the streets.
  • Child Sexual Abuse: A recurrent theme that emerged was the impact of child sexual abuse prevalent in minority and uneducated areas.
  • On Poverty: Structural barriers like poverty and caste contribute to the breakdown of traditional support systems, leading to homelessness as a means of seeking safety and agency.
    • Experience of alienation and shame were the major cause as compared to poverty which did not entirely match with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders conceptualizations of trauma.

What are the challenging factors that are held under an umbrella?

  • Age-old ‘labelled’ assumptions: The label of madness has been used to discredit, subjugate, and silence women who are seen as demonstrating undesirable traits — intellectual curiosity, assertiveness, and autonomy.
    • From the witch trials in the Middle Ages to the incarceration in asylums, resistance to oppression and refusal to comply with expected norms were labelled as missteps.
  • Patriarchal prevalence in society: The social construct of womanhood continues to be carefully curated and enforced, confining women and their value within reproductive roles and docile submission to various forms of violence, routinely normalized and justified.
  • Health-care Gaps: Many of the manifestations of mental ill-health are embedded in the reality of adverse life events. In this context, investments cannot be confined to increasing proximal access to mental health care without collective action that can substantively address deep-rooted violence.

What are the Impacts on Women’s Health?

  • At the Individual level: Due to above mentioned two major reasons there has been a mainstream discourse on women’s mental health, which is dominated by a narrow focus on higher prevalence rates of depression, anxiety or eating disorders, or mental health needs.
  • At the Societal level: Women are often viewed through a reductionist biomedicine-dominated lens, neglecting the insidious impact of violence that women endure.
    • Navigating mental health and social care systems that mirror these biases, in the background of poverty and caste-based marginalization, takes a profound toll elevating the risks of homelessness.
Government Measures for the Protection of Women in India:

1) Constitutional Provisions:

Articles 14, 15, 15(3), 16, 39(a), 39(b), 39(c), and Article 42 emphasize equality before the law, prohibition of discrimination based on gender, equal opportunity in employment, and measures to secure livelihood and maternity welfare.
Through Article 243, the Constitution of India mandates reservations for women in local self-government bodies to enhance their representation and involvement in decision-making processes.

2) Legislative measures Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005:

This act aims to counter crimes against women, including rape, dowry deaths, and domestic violence.

Mission Shakti and Swadhar Greh Scheme: This initiative focuses on women’s empowerment, safety, and security through skill development, economic empowerment, and support services.

One-Stop Centres and Legal Services: The Government Authorities offer integrated services, legal aid, and support to women affected by violence.

The Bhartiya Nyaya Samvidhan, 2023: The government has implemented various measures like the Criminal Law (Amendment) Acts, Safe City Projects, and cyber-crime portals to enhance women’s safety and combat crimes against women.

Way Forward: Adoption of a multifaceted approach

  • Building a two-way relationship: The intricate relationship between homelessness and mental illness requires a deeper examination, emphasizing nuances like violence against women.
  • Building Independence:
    • Education: Embedding in the education environment, a curriculum that helps growing adolescents interrogate and challenge harmful gendered norms may help foster them with egalitarian values that reject all forms of violence against women.
    • Finance: Ensuring access to basic income, housing, and land ownership may offer economic independence and reduce vulnerability to homelessness.
  • Need to Explore Mental Health Care: The number of adults with mental illness has risen, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic; leading to a growing crisis in youth mental health hence a thorough exploration of the multifaceted aspects of mental health is crucial.
  • Need for a skilled Approach: Involving diverse professionals, innovative research, and meaningful engagement of individuals with lived experiences is essential.
  • Need for Robust Mechanism in Healthcare System: Prioritizing a variety of strong responses is key to addressing diverse needs, especially focusing on high-priority groups like homeless women.
    • A comprehensive response involves exploring phenomena, understanding their impact on mental health, considering intersectionality, and power dynamics, and utilizing feminist standpoint theory to advance knowledge.



Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch