By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC
Ironical but true, domestic violence is on an increase in our Mahaan Bharat. One of the main reasons for domestic violence was lack of education. What has baffled experts is that with increased prosperity and the level of education of the middle class of India going up, domestic violence should have come down but on the contrary it is going up.
Earlier, it was confined to the lower strata of our society where it was common, considering that fights normally occur because of poverty and illiteracy. But this phenomena has now spread to major cities and among the educated and so-called elite and the upper strata of society. It has also been reported that this is now a common feature amongst the nris. Very recently I met an nri lady having this problem and I could not believe my own eyes or ears. How does one educate the educated? Most of the women who have educational qualifications and work abroad, probably escape this but other home-makers, who go abroad after marriage, face the music since they are at the mercy of their husbands and do not have any recourse to any legal help. Most of the times, they are not able to properly communicate in english and other local languages and are stuck with this problem for a long period and resign themselves to their fate.
It is said, around 50 percent of women in India are victims of domestic violence. This does not mean that 50 percent of men beat their wives. Domestic violence can be in the form of mental torture and emotional torture too. The National Crime Records Bureau reveals that crime against women is committed every three minutes, a woman is raped every 29 minutes, a dowry death occurs every 77 minutes and one case of cruelty committed by either husband or a relative of the husband occur every nine minutes. And this occurs in spite of the fact that women in India are protected legally from domestic abuse under “Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.”
A UNICEF report card has mentioned that 57 percent of men in India think that husband is justified in beating his wife and an astonishing 53 percent of women also think that getting beaten from husbands is ok. What happens is that children of families in which wife-beating is a routine, start believing that this is acceptable in our society and behave the same way when they grow up.
My mother was married when she was 13, a case of child marriage, which was widely prevalent those days. Girls were hardly educated and from childhood these children were brain-washed to treat their husbands as the ultimate. Thank God, child marriage has come down drastically in South India at least but it is still prevalent in North.
One of the main reasons for domestic violence is dowry demands. In spite of strict laws against the practice, has dowry system collapsed or gone down? On the contrary, it has gone up. Now people talk of crores. In Bihar and UP, the bridegrooms are auctioned and the highest bidder gets the groom. There is a strong link between domestic violence and dowry. About 8,391 dowry deaths have been reported in 2010, a steep increase from 6,995 reported in 1997 but there are some exceptions too.
Factually, the percentage of domestic violence could be still higher because of the hesitancy of the girls to report any such cases. They hope and hope thinking that their husbands would improve by the day but in reality this never happens. The first time the husband beats his wife and the wife accepts it, it gives him an extra impetus to repeat the same whenever he gets a chance. Even the Police are not helpful in these cases. They start behaving like Counsellors and start advising the women to adjust. They are very hesitant to even register any firs in the first place. They forget a simple fact that the woman would have come to the Police as a last resort after exhausting all other avenues.
Women suffer many kinds of physical and emotional problems as a result of this abuse. It has been seen that those who experience this kind of violence tend to have mental depressions and disorders. Health problems include injury, miscarriages, fear, low esteem, sexual dysfunction, eating disorders and fatal after-effects can include suicides or even homicides. Emotional abuse includes harassment, threats, verbal abuse such as name calling, degradation, stalking and isolation.
There are no instant solutions since we are dealing with a society which has accepted this form of cruelty for centuries and would not accept any changes immediately. But it is time the women stand up and resist. In 2010, a beautiful film called “Bell Bajao” (Hindi for ‘Ring the Bell’) was made by the Ministry of Women and Child Development which won an award at the Cannes Film Festival. It is relevant even now and the Ministry should continue to show this film in all theatres and television. The theme of the film is very simple: It says, if by chance one comes across a domestic violence case, please do not walk away but do intervene and help the women. “Bell Bajao.”
Thanks to media, both print and electronic, this problem has now been recognised as a reality of the present generation. But for a domestic violence victim, the most important relief is parental support. Parents of the affected girl should stand by their daughter and not wash their hands off as done in most of the cases. It requires a lot of courage for a woman to stand up and complain. The society also on its part can be of immense help by understanding the problem compassionately. Police can engage some professional Counsellors to counsel the victims instead of their own personnel trying to sort out this complex issue themselves. Any more suggestions?
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