Gender-based violence in India

The actors, strategies, challenges and  pathways for future engagement and collaboration in Uttar Pradesh, India.

Uttar Pradesh (UP) has a population of over 199 million. Socially, UP still has a deeply entrenched caste system with a strong feudal hangover – and these have influenced the politics of the state.

A predominantly rural state, agriculture is the mainstay of the state's economy: 73 per cent of the total work force is in this sector. UP is also amongst the poorest states in the country.

Violence against girls and women in Uttar Pradesh

Women in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh in India face extreme marginalisation and discrimination. Caught in the mesh of a feudal-patriarchal system, they are not only subject to ritual segregation or ‘purdah’, but their bodies are often the battle grounds for many wars – between communities and clans, over inadequate dowry settlements, or even in the matter of population control. This daily violence takes its toll in the form of death and maiming in many ways and mostly women remain mute, suffering and seeing others suffers.

Surveys show that 42 per cent of ever married women have experienced spousal violence (IIPS and Macro International 2007). The National Crime Records Bureau reports that in Uttar Pradesh, 32,546 crimes against women were registered in 2013, this was 10.5 per cent of India's total. The majority of crimes against women are committed by family members (Government of Uttar Pradesh, 2006). 

Men’s attitude to violence against women Uttar Pradesh

During the last 10 to 15 years, the issue of gender equality has been raised very fervently in place of women’s development. There have also been some changes: while on one hand the need for women’s education is being recognized, the same cannot be said about the control over her property, mobility or sexuality. There is also increasing fear among men about decreasing opportunities and resources as a result of women’s empowerment. There are anxieties among some men of their decreasing control over women, of losing their leadership position, of ‘being left behind in the race’ by women. As a result men can see gender equality as harmful for their interests.


A new IDS policy briefing summarises the key findings of a global research programme on effective organised activism against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). It highlights the importance of addressing the underlying structural causes of violence showing that men are becoming more visible as partners in tackling SGBV, holding themselves and others accountable for maintaining harmful gender norms that perpetuate violence.

A new case study, published by the Institute of Development Studies, explores the 'New ‘MASVAW Men’', a growing network in Uttar Pradesh, India, and the role of men and boys in addressing sexual and gender-based violence through collective action.

Ntokozo Yingwana explores the importance of a collective strategy for impact, inspired by a recent global learning workshop on engaging men and boys in sexual and gender-based violence initiatives. The workshop brought together partners from Egypt, Kenya, India, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Uganda.

Online directory of movements, agencies and key actors August 2014 – January 2015
Movement mapping workshop, India August 2014
Movement mapping workshop report, India February 2015
Analytic case study on the roles of men in movementsAugust 2015

India programme reports

The New ‘MASVAW Men’: Strategies, Dynamics and Deepening Engagements. A Case Study of a Networked Approach to Challenging Patriarchy Across Institutions in Uttar Pradesh. Edström, J., Shahrokh, T. and Singh, S.K.(2015)

A growing network of men in Uttar Pradesh, India, have built engagement for addressing gender-based violence through Men’s Action to Stop Violence Against Women, or MASVAW. This case study explores the role of men and boys in addressing sexual and gender-based violence through collective action; a collaboration between the Centre for Health and Social Justice in New Delhi, MASVAW, and the Institute of Development Studies. 

Evidence report | Accompanying brief

MASVAW Movement Mapping Report: Movement Mapping and Critical Reflection with Activists of the Men’s Action to Stop Violence Against Women (MASVAW) Campaign, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, August 2014. Shahrokh, T; Edström, J; Kumar, M; Singh, S.K. (2015)

This movement mapping report introduces a collaborative research project between the Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ), India, their local activist partners in the Men’s Action to Stop Violence Against Women (MASVAW) campaign and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) to explore the effectiveness of men’s collective action in addressing GBV. 

Evidence report

Case study

This is a collaborative project between the Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ), India and the Institute of Development Studies. The research is premised on the notion that challenging patriarchy and working towards gender equality must include working with men and boys to understand their privileges as well as the coercion and subjugation that they face within a patriarchal system. CHSJ is working in four Indian states on the issue of mobilising men to transform discriminatory norms, moving towards norms based on equity, equality and gender justice which has its roots in a deep belief in the fundamental human rights of all people.

In order to improve our understanding and knowledge of shifting roles of men in addressing sexual and gender based violence through collective action in the Indian context, this research will explore actors, strategies, challenges and potential pathways for future engagement and collaborations in the state of Uttar Pradesh. 

This case study builds on CHSJ’s own work to mobilise and engage men and boys to address the issue of gender-based violence. Action research which took place in 30 villages of three districts of Uttar Pradesh worked to promote social transformation at the grassroots level through mobilising and training men’s groups, initiating campaigns and community action. An important learning from this study was that for sustained socially transformative action, strategies needed to connect with, or create platforms that enable collaboration with other groups on action against violence, making visible the gendered relations and hierarchies that permeate diverse community processes.

CHSJ’s work on ‘Mobilising men to challenge sexual and gender-based violence in institutions’ (undertaken with IDS) aimed to build male leadership in challenging the violence women face in institutional settings. CHSJ has focused its activities on three main sectors: university campuses, where SGBV is known to be widespread; local government, which play a key role in the enforcement, or lack thereof, of the Domestic Violence Act; and human rights work with Dalit communities, which hitherto has failed to adequately address the gendered nature of violence against them. The project focused on male activists and leaders within Panchayats, political parties, student groups and human rights organisations. It aimed to create a culture of collaborations between individuals working in different settings to achieve common goals.