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Gender, Violence and Vulnerabilities of Adolescents in India


[L-R] Dr. Sanjay Kumar, Dr. Anita Raj and Shireen Vakil

Researchers in India have undertaken three major studies related to gender, violence and the vulnerability of adolescents. The research has been led by Anita Raj, Tata Chancellor Professor of Medicine and the Director of UC San Diego’s Center on Gender Equity and Health in the Department of Medicine. She is also a Professor of Education Studies in the Division of Social Sciences at UC San Diego.

As part of its successful India Seminar Series, the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University, invited Professor Raj to present her work in New Delhi. Professor Raj’s work is especially pertinent at a time when the conversation around different aspects of gender has been center stage across the globe.

There was an overwhelming response to the event, ‘Gender, Violence and Vulnerabilities of Adolescents in India’, which was attended by key stakeholders across various fields, including non-profits, educators, students and lawyers. The discussion was moderated by Shireen Vakil, Head of Policy and Advocacy, Tata Trusts, and the opening remarks were given by the Mittal Institute’s India Country Director, Dr. Sanjay Kumar.

Professor Raj’s research is designed to inform the Government of India’s Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram Program (National Adolescent Health Program). Here are some of the key findings:

(I) Family violence and suicidality among adolescent boys and girls in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

  • 1 in 20 unmarried adolescents and 1 in 10 married adolescent girls reported suicidality in the past year
  • Suicide/self-harm is a leading cause of death for adolescent girls and boys globally. Family violence appears to increase risk for adolescent suicidality

(II) Process of marital decision-making among adolescent girls in rural Jharkhand.

(III) Partner and non-partner sexual violence against adolescent girls, and the effects of the Nirbhaya case on reporting of rape in India.

  • Non-partner violence and rape crime reports increased following the Nirbhaya case, in December 2012, but not uniformly across the country.
  • There is some indication that districts with higher media access had greater increase in rape reporting to police subsequent to the Nirbhaya case, supporting the value of media awareness to help address violence against women.

The session closed with many important questions, dialogue and various conversations around gender and violence among youth in India. There were discussions around the role of education, social norms and sex education that perhaps resonate with the ongoing conversation on gender around the world.  

More information:

McDougal et al 2018_Beyond the statistic-exploring the process of early marriage decision-making using qualitative findings from Ethiopia and India

Raj et al 2009_When the mother is a child- the impact of child marriage on the health and human rights of girls

Raj et al 2010_ Association between adolescent marriage and marital violence among young adult women in India

Raj et al 2014_Brief report_Parent-adolescent child concordance in social norms related to gender equity in marriage – findings from rural India

Raj et al 2014_Sexual violence and rape in India