The latest retrospective, cross-sectional study on the autopsy of women at the King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital has revealed that at least 12.3% of the total 1,467 women in the study have suffered from some form of gender-based violence (GBV). Records of autopsies conducted between May 2017 and April 2022 on all women, girls, and non-binary gender persons who died of unnatural causes and had a history indicative of violence were included in the study.
61% of the deaths were caused by intimate partners
As per the study, 61% of the deaths of these women were caused by intimate partners while in 39% cases it was the family members. Marital disputes and family issues were the prime reasons for 87% of these deaths. Further, 13% of deaths were due to love affairs or unsuccessful relationships. The study also revealed in four out of 10 deaths, the relatives / kin of the victim did not give any contextual information.
Findings to be used for formulating policy, research
Doctors who were part of the study said the findings will be used to form policy, practice and research on gender-based violence in Mumbai. “The results indicate that 67% of the female victims were married. Most (75%) women were between 15-44 years; the mean age of victims was 34.8 years and 99% of the deaths occurred in private spaces. The study also revealed that most of the fatalities were due to suicide (47%) and accidents (47%), followed by homicide (6%),” said an author of the study. Deaths caused by burns were the highest at 58%, followed by hanging (20%), poisoning (16%), jumping from a height (3%) and murder (3%).
According to KEM dean Dr Sangeeta Rawat, there will be a multi-disciplinary committee comprising police officers, politicians, NGOs and doctors making the policy. “Even if the hospital has one suspected GBV case, how to identify and prevent it so that it would not lead to suicide or homicide will be something that the committee will look into,” she said.
The study also highlights the critical gaps in the availability and completeness of contextual data concerning GBV among the study subjects.
Dr Harish Pathak, academic dean and part of the study, said the study recommends strengthening data management at the institutional level. This advocates collecting and disaggregating data on unnatural deaths received at the autopsy centres regularly to unearth the proportion of GBV in these deaths.
“It is the first-ever study conducted which has focused on GBV against women. It emphasises the need for systematic coordination and linkage with other allied agencies for producing accurate statistics and communication with policymakers to present a comprehensive picture of the burden of deaths due to GBV,” he said.
Moreover, the report is for researchers, professionals, policymakers, and students interested in understanding the scale and patterns of injuries resulting from GBV. It highlights the need to strengthen administrative data collection regarding deaths due to GBV in women (including non-binary gender) which would be critical for developing evidence-based interventions to combat the menace. Finally, the report provides recommendations based on key findings that would guide and inform actions at the institutional and policy level.
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