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How lower domestic violence rates can boost economy

Andhra Pradesh or as a matter of fact, any state or country, would enjoy an economic boon worth thousands of crores of rupees if it steps up efforts to reduce domestic violence. 
 
Globally, violence between intimate partners is huge: it costs the world 25-times more than all wars and terrorism. In India, the latest National Family Health Survey shows that 22 percent of married women aged 15-49 experienced spousal physical or sexual violence in the past 12 months. 
 
That suggests that in India, at least five crore women were assaulted last year. However, the lockdown has increased domestic violence rates across the world, including India.
Yet, there has been relatively little research into reducing this devastating impact. Despite nearly a decade of implementation, evidence of the effectiveness of the 2005 Domestic Violence Act is fragmentary at best. 
 
The few available assessments suggest there is a lack of clarity within the judiciary about interpretation, inadequate money is allocated to establish required infrastructure, and there is too little awareness about the law among judges, protection officers and civil society, as well as among women. 
 
It is clear that legislation alone is not enough to change outdated norms that underpin violence. Research from Srinivas Raghavendra, Mrinal Chadha, and Nata Duvvury of the University of Ireland Galway helps close gaps in the evidence — and points to sizeable economic benefits from reducing domestic violence. 
 
The researchers study two of the very few approaches that there is empirical evidence of effectiveness. 
 
The first is based on the “SASA! project”, which is a community mobilisation intervention seeking to change the norms and behaviours that result in gender inequality, violence and increased HIV vulnerability for women, pioneered in Uganda and used in more than 20 countries. 
 
The approach, costing ₹980 per person, guides communities through a process in which people are repeatedly exposed to the programme. New attitudes and norms that promote more equitable relationships diffuse throughout the community. 
 
The researchers suggest that this community mobilisation intervention could target women aged 15-59 years below the poverty line who have been in a partnership in the past year. In Andhra Pradesh this would mean reaching 17 lakh women for a price-tag of ₹164 crore. 
 
Of these 17 lakh women, more than 5 lakh would be assaulted by a spouse annually. Based on studies in India and abroad, it is likely each of these women will on average experience abuse 8-times a year. 
 
The second intervention, used in South Africa, combines micro-finance with training about domestic violence, gender norms and sexuality, thus providing women with the means and knowledge to improve their well-being. 
 
The study explores the effects of using the intervention to target the same women over a two-year trial, followed by a two-year scale-up. It would cost about ₹850 per person, meaning a pro-gram cost of ₹142 Crores in Andhra Pradesh. 
 
In their original countries, both programs led to an estimated 55% reduction in domestic violence by the end of the intervention, and benefits that were estimated to last for at least another four years. 
 
Annually, domestic violence among the targeted women leads to about 20 deaths in Andhra Pradesh. Either of these programs would avoid about 11 deaths annually, along with many medical injuries including eye injuries, bruises, dislocations, and broken bones. 
 
This has spillover effects. Women who are victims of spousal abuse have to miss paid work, unpaid domestic work, and free time. Each assault on average costs a woman 5.5 days. 
 
This reduction in productivity is a huge loss to the Andhra Pradesh economy. The cost to the entire formal and informal economy in 2018 from all married women is a whopping 1.8% of GSDP or ₹13,000 crore per year. 
 
Helping just the 17 lakh women would create total benefits worth about four thousand crore, meaning that either of the two programs would have benefits worth somewhere in the region of 20 rupees for every rupee spent. 
 
Expanding the cheaper program to the entire state of Andhra Pradesh would cost ₹1,500 crore but the benefits would increase to a phenomenal 28,000 crore. 
 
Reducing domestic violence is not only morally imperative, but can help Andhra Pradesh become more productive and generate benefits worth many thousands of crores of rupees. 

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