Statistics reveal a steady rise in the number of incidents of violence against women (VAW). In 2005-06, out of the 907 plaints lodged at the Women’s Cell at Kalimati, 830 related to domestic violence.

Under this year’s 16-day Activism Campaign, the National Collaboration against Gender Violence Against Women has started an awareness campaign while the United Nations Population Fund is also focusing on combating this malaise. But in the absence of suitable set of laws and the government’s tardiness in taking up women’s issues with heightened interest, the violators have often escaped punishment. This state of near-impunity has encouraged violence to escalate.

For starters, tough legal provisions will have to be put in place, as in India where wife-beaters are being made to cool their heels in prison cells. But the problem is that the existing laws are not being implemented with resolve. Merely recognising VAW as a crime is not enough. A strong political will to devise a mechanism to book the guilty and guarantee the victims’ rights and accessibility to justice, rehabilitation, compensation and legal support are of greater import. In addition to other measures, the ratification of Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women would improve the situation considerably. While such a disturbing trend exists as regards discrimination against women, reaching the goal of political, social and educational empowerment of women still looks like a distant dream. Which is why a resolute political will is more than imperative.