The following article(by Vasundhara Sanger,TOI) says it all with thorough analysis, facts and specifics in place, that even urban, educated and financially independent women also endure domestic violence.
Why do they hide it? Though some of us already know why, others may like to know the rationale behind women refusing to acknowledge that they are victims of domestic violence too.
Today November 25th is the ‘International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women.’ Lets come together and pledge that we will not endure violence anymore, nor will let anyone else endure it and will spread the word and awareness of DV Act to everyone. Lets eradicate domestic violence and thrive to bring about harmony in marriages!!!
MUMBAI: The recent expose by a local newspaper in Mumbai on the alleged beating of Shweta Mahajan, a pilot married to Rahul Mahajan, has opened a fresh debate on the issues of domestic violence. It also reinforces the view that violence do exist in the upper strata of society. The couple, however, has denied any ripple in their marriage.
About a decade ago, a documentary film Char Diwari by Rinki Bhattacharya, a victim of domestic violence herself, showed how educated and financially independent women suffered physical and mental abuse at the hands of their husbands. Some of them did not have the courage to either separate from them or seek divorce.
It exposed the myth that violence exist only in the lower strata of society. Rinki Bhattacharya is the daughter of the legendary filmmaker Bimal Roy of Do Beegha Zameen and Devdas fame.
The film exposed how wives in affluent homes were beaten up by educated men from liberal backgrounds. It also explored the isolation and terror of women trapped in violent marriages and the social response to domestic violence. The film chronicled the saga of four gutsy women, who resolved to put an end to the violence and reinvented to start a new life.
Women’s organisations all over the world observe November 25 as the ‘International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women.’ This year, in India women’s groups have reasons to celebrate because Parliament has enacted a law to protect women against domestic violence, which also include live-in relationships.
According to activists, the recent Act to protect women against domestic violence will make people aware that there is a law. And that itself will serve as deterrent. Besides, women will begin to assert more. However, Gandhian and social worker Dr G.G Parikh of Yusuf Meherally Centre in Mumbai thinks that a law alone cannot act as a deterrent. “Violence is part of human nature and a law alone cannot change human nature. It’s the cultural thinking and education that is necessary for transformation,” he said.
Consulting physiotherapist and Counsellor Dr Minnu Bhonsle says whether the law will be a deterrent depends on if a battered woman files an FIR and pursue the case. In most domestic violence cases, women consciously cloak it.
Dr. Parikh says, “Violence in high society was always there, but it was rarely noticed, partly because of our pro-high society prejudice and partly because the upper strata hide it. In the lower strata, we expect them to behave in that manner. Women, however, remain vulnerable in our society.”
The corrective measure will be to work on the male right from the time when he is a child, to bring about an attitudinal change. “We take it for granted that men are like that. It is only Mahatma Gandhi who had urged to bring about a change both, in the victim and the oppressor; only then the change will be sustainable. This lesson, which we learnt during the freedom movement, has been forgotten,” laments the 82-year old doctor.
It may be recalled that Rahul was booked under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act and acts relating to destruction of evidence after taking an overdose of drugs in June this year.
However, Dr Parikh says though it could be one of the reasons, by and large he had not noticed that only drug abusers are more violent.
Harish Sadani of the Men against Violence and Abuse (MAVA) feels that gender issues are seen as women’s issues. “If men are part of a problem, empowering women to fight violence and injustice is not enough. When it comes to decision-making, a woman still looks to her husband for support. It is crucial to involve men in gender issues.”
Reasons for domestic violence
Violence against women is one of the most widespread violations of women’s human rights around the world. If studies conducted by various organisations are to be believed, it’s assuming epidemic proportions.
“Youngsters today are grappling with so many issues. Identity is one of them. Due to the male dominated attitude (masculinity and aggressiveness) and growth of nuclear families, peer pressure, job growth and competition, they are unable to deal with anger. The younger generation is at the crossroads and is facing dilemma,” says Sadani, who recently organised an anger management workshop for men in Pune.
Lawyer Ketki Jayakar, who practices at the Bandra family court said, “The reason for such high incidence of violence against women is the dearth of role models.” However, she admits that there has been a change in attitude. “Media is aggressively reporting on the issue of violence against women. There has been a gradual shift.” She also feels that the joint family systems did the work of shock absorbers, and elders in the family managed to drill sense into the warring couples. With the nuclear family prevalent in modern India that vestige of hope to save marriage and prevent abuse is no more.
There are multiple reasons for high incidents of domestic violence. One could be that the man has seen violent behaviour in his own family. “Especially, in a love marriage, a woman does not want to be viewed in retrospect as someone who made a mistake. The man must have seen his mom’s submissive behaviour and imbibed the fact that women are doormats,” explains Dr Bhonsle.
It could also be that the person actually has pathological disorder and has been the only child, who got away with tantrums and didn’t learn the functional ways of expressing anger. “Pathological disorders need medication and only counselling won’t help. They go through maniac phases. Sometimes the man is very violent and at times he will repent and apologise for his behaviour (bi-polar disorder). The woman also goes through these swings, along with him. When he is violent she wants to leave him; when apologetic, she forgives him. When there is drinking, the chances of engaging in violent behaviour increases,” says Bhonsle.
If there’s a child, he suffers because of the long drawn custody battle. If the man feels remorse, he suffers due to guilt. For a woman, fighting a divorce suit is expensive. At the end she breaks down, as court cases take time. In the beginning people support her, but slowly that supports wanes. The trauma takes a toll on her body,” says Ketki.
Why women protect violent husbands?
“A wedding in affluent families takes place with great fanfare. If the marriage does not work, the woman feels she would be seen as a failure. So she decides to cloak the abuse. Besides, people will make her ask herself if she was instrumental in breaking the marriage.”
Another reason could be the clout that the husband’s family may wield. According to media reports, Shweta Mahajan has been grounded and there is an enquiry for a lapse she had made in landing the aircraft last week.
Many highly educated and financially independent women have an issue with their own image. They want to be viewed as a “very together” in a relationship (Madhur Bhandarkar’s film Page 3 showed such instances). Also, at one point of time, some of them may have counselled a friend on a bad marriage. Now, they feel humiliated at being in the same boat, says Dr Bhonsle.
“Couples from high society have approached us for counselling, but the woman sits with a straight face, as if she did not want to walk out of the marriage. It is very demeaning for her to seek help. They do not even like if we empathise with them. So, she emotionally distances herself. This is because such people have cultivated a distorted belief that they are resolved persons,” Dr Bhonsle added.
Ketki thinks to save a marriage and prevent domestic abuse a woman is her own master. “Build your self esteem and be physically fit. Physical fitness is a must, so eat well, “says the seasoned lawyer.
To prevent a marriage from breaking, Bhonsle says they have made breakthrough. “We help them identify ‘areas of conflict’ and have some kind of emotional and geographical lines within the four walls of the house. They learn to co-exist. Technically, such a marriage is saved, but the emotional intimacy ends. The love is lost. In her opinion, the crucial factors in a healthy marriage are the three Cs- care, commitment, and communication. She also advises to remove what she terms ‘contaminants’. These are personality traits, which pollute the relationship.
Reverence for life
What pains Ketki is the fact that there is no reverence for life. “We do not respect life of people involved in domestic issues. We do not respect lives of couple’s old parents. In their twilight years, the parents get dragged into the turmoil of their children’s marriage. There is a need to be humane and to empathise with them,” she says.
What the studies on women say
A WHO report called ‘The Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women’ says one in six women worldwide suffers domestic violence. Women suffer broken bones, bruises, burns, cracked skulls, dislocated jaws, rape and of course terror. Domestic violence remains largely hidden as many women suffer silently. Physically or sexually abused women were more likely to suffer longer term health problems, including depression. Often the woman herself believes that the man is justified in beating her.
The second study by Oxfam (UK based charity) says that the problem is much worse in South Asia, where as many as one in every two women face domestic violence.
All wife beaters believe in male domination. These men have certain rules and regulations that women should follow, and if the women don’t follow them, they are subjected to violence or verbal abuse.
Another type of man hits out in a fit of anger or in an alcoholic stupor when he doesn’t get what he wants from the woman, or because she does not give him ‘respect’. These types of men often repent temporarily.
There is an even more dangerous kind of wife-beater. He does not believe in any moral or social conventions. He believes that the woman is his property and that he can do anything he likes with her. He will gratify any of his perverted, violent and sexual desires without any regard for the woman’s safety.
Some worldwide facts
Japan: 796 women surveyed in 1993 – 59% are reported to be physically abused by their partner
India: 6902 men surveyed – 45% of married men acknowledged physically abusing their wives
Uganda: Representative samples of women – 41% women admitted that their partners have beaten them or physically harmed them.
(The findings are from a survey conducted by the UNICEF)
By Vidhya M.S.