Nearly 60 per cent of married women in Bihar are victims of domestic violence, the highest in India, according to a survey by the Union Health and Family Affairs Ministry.
An alarming 59 per cent of married women in Bihar suffer domestic violence with 50 per cent of wives enduring physical violence, 19 per cent sexual violence, two per cent emotional abuse and 59 per cent experiencing both physical and sexual violence.
The national average for violence against married women is 37 per cent, according to the National Family Health survey that was released recently.
Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh jointly occupy second place with 46 per cent spousal violence. Manipur comes a close third with 44 per cent, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu (42 per cent), West Bengal and Assam (40 per cent), Arunachal Pradesh (39 per cent) and Orissa (38 per cent).
In Jharkhand, which has a substantial tribal population, only 35 per cent married women are subjected to domestic violence, a figure lower than the national average.
The survey, commissioned by the Union Health and Family Affairs Ministry, covered 3,818 women and 1,214 men in Bihar between April and July 2006.
The NFHS report for 2005-06 found a direct correlation between illiteracy and violence against married women.
While 64 per cent of married women, who experienced the trauma of physical, sexual and emotional assault, were illiterate, 63 per cent of the male perpetrators were uneducated.
The percentage came down where the husband was better educated (59 per cent); wife better educated (49 per cent) and both equally educated (48 per cent).
The survey revealed that only one percent of married women in Bihar initiated violence against their husbands.
While hearing a public interest litigation filed by women's activist and lawyer Shruti Singh, a division bench of the Patna High Court comprising Chief Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha and Justice K K Mandal asked the state government to appoint protection officers in every district by November 30 this year.
The court also directed the government to create at least one safe shelter for women in each district and arrange a training programme at least once a year to sensitise police officers.
The petitioner had complained that the delay in appointment of protection officers, creation of safe shelters and recording of reports of incidents of domestic violence in prescribed format were stumbling blocks for women seeking to make the legislation an effective tool for their protection.