Domestic Violence

According to the latest World Bank Data released, India has overtaken Japan to emerge as the 3rd largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity, behind US and China. That’s no mean achievement for a country that has taken a back seat on development for a very long time.

But there is also a dark side to this success story. An ugly truth that we would rather not see nor discuss and least of all do anything about. And it’s happening right here in our homes. Yes, our homes. Women are being subject to all sorts of violence; physical abuse and emotional abuse. And we are all turning a blind eye because it happens to be a mother, a sister, a wife, a sister-in-law, an aunt or even a grandmother. But abuse it is.

So what has made us so insular and accepting of an act that must be downright condemned and stood up against? Why is it that we carry on with our lives from one day to the next hoping it will pass? It never does, it only increases. Such is the nature of the beast.

Types of Domestic Violence

Physical violence

This is overt, recognizable and assertive violence against a female member of the house. Most of India is a patriarchal society and therefore, by extension, the male members of the house feel a natural right to be assertive, irrespective of the relationship with the female member. Each time a male member is challenged, be it for excess drinking or smoking, coming late, not undertaking domestic chores and responsibilities or giving inadequate financial support to the family, any assertion against the male member is seen as a challenge to authority and the usual response is a violent reaction.

The problem is that as children, many of us have witnessed this in the form of an argument followed by a slap, an act that we as children have been at the receiving end. This often leads us to believe it to be alright and we accept the odd slap as normal. The problem starts from here. As one grows into adulthood, the boys assume it’s only natural to continue to assert themselves in the way they saw the male members at home while the girls learn to be submissive and accept the violence.

The response to violence at home varies and depend upon the status of women members. If they are homemakers, the tendency of women to accept their situation and carry on with their daily chores is more visible. In cases where the woman is working and financially strong, the tendency to stand up to violence is greater.

The problem is that violence against women has taken ugly forms. Several cases of violence have been reported right from slaps and punches to cigarette burns and acid being thrown, and in some cases body mutilation.

Emotional abuse

This is a far bigger problem than physical violence. Degradation of a woman’s self-esteem starts at an early age, with the girl child being told that she has to do domestic chores while her brother goes out to play. The stereotyping of a girl’s role and responsibility starts at home and then graduates to her role in society. So when a girl or woman does not conform to expected role play, the scolding, the taunts, the snide remarks begin. So often is this done by all members, male and female, that the girl child is left a poor self-esteem.

This only gets further compounded when she grows up and has to then play the stereo type role of a wife, a daughter-in-law and then a mother. At all stages, she is at the receiving end of overt and not so overt remarks and negative comments. The problem is that she gets very little support from her own family, who goads her to deal with the problem on her own since she is now a member of another home. So who does this woman turn to for help? On one hand she needs to hold her family together and if she speaks up or seek external help, she risks losing her family. It’s a Hobson’s choice that most women in India face as a routine.

The problem with our society is that the biggest enemy of a woman is another woman. When it comes to emotional abuse, very often the perpetrator is a woman member of the family. So where does this leave the victim?

How do we tackle this problem?

The answer to that is lies at several levels and they are:

At home

If any of us is a witness to domestic violence that comprises of physical or emotional abuse, we must bring this to the notice of relatives, friends, neighbours, and NGOs that are focused on helping in situations like this. In case of physical violence, we must bring this to the notice of the Police. This may seem extreme given the fact that you would be speaking up against a member of your family but keeping quiet will make you an accomplice on moral grounds. You cannot and must not allow your conscience to hold you back. So do the right thing and speak up.

Be aware of the laws relating to Domestic Violence Act

All of us must be aware of what the law says and know what steps to take in given situations. Here the school, college, NGOs, self-help groups and social gatherings can help in discussing this problem and creating awareness. NGOs like ASHA are doing good work in this area but India is a vast country and lot more needs to be done.

More than any law, humans stay in check because of social and peer pressure. Therefore, this is the most important level to fight the problem. The law can only do so much. Most of all women must be encouraged to speak up with support from her neighborhood and society

Speedy implementation of law

This is a perennial problem of the Indian judicial system. There are over 24,000 pending cases in various courts across India pertaining to domestic and sexual violence against women. The cases drag on for years while the victim is left in a hapless situation between family and the law. The government has to fast track cases of violence against women on a priority basis.

Finally, it comes down to all of us as individuals. Can we all recognize the problem? Do we agree that we must not indulge in domestic violence of ANY kind? Do we agree that we will not remain silent if we see it happening in our family or in the neighborhood? The answer to the problem lies within us and today. ACT.

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