Domestic Violence: A long way to go?

Open the newspaper today and what do you see? The common theme for today is violence. People becoming victims of someone's rage or plainly their own stupidity. A few seconds of bad decision by someone and lifetime of misery for a lot more. Hidden between these hugely publicized mass killings and destruction and corrupt politicians are the news of us, the common people. We blame the Government and yet through these news when we look into our homes, we see the root of all these problems spread over the wide canvas.

Domestic Abuse, women man-handled by husbands seem to have become a common-place. In fact, I wonder, the word "man-handled" was invented out of such stories of atrocities. You rarely hear the term "woman-handled", well of course, if you did, it was nothing more than in a pun or jokes of hen-pecked husbands.

These stories are both heart-breaking and excessively angering, when you think from the point of view of the victims. Traditionally the male sex has been the dominant sex in the country. Probably because of the better physical strength and aggression or plainly because the women let us take that lead. No offense to the womenfolk in this country, but this small act of modesty when the cornerstones of our vast culture was being laid has unfortunately become the greatest hurdle and undoing in their progress and freedom. It got perceived as their weakness and eventually over time has actually turned into one.

Even today, with the growth and awareness being put forward by the Government and other organizations, many women are still victims of domestic abuse and an oft neglected crime in the country "marital rape". This for a lot of people is considered as a debatable issue as to how come rape comes into the picture between a married couple? Being a husband or partner does not discount one from the crime. On the contrary, being a partner there is an additional responsibility to understand and respect these needs. Unfortunately, the ratio of those who understand still has stiff competition from those who do not.

A majority of the women don’t come forward with the fear of being ostracized by their family, the media and the police authorities. Statistics state that in India one in every seven women have been raped at least once by their husbands, but cannot do anything about it because the law does not support them. Inability to understand or a false sense of domination in this case does make one overlook this need of the partner leading to marital rape.

If we take a legal view into the matter, the House of Lords in England declared that the husband could be charged as an offender in the rape of his wife. This decision removes the protection of the husband from such prosecution which was part of marital exemption. This exemption assumed the wife to have given a general consent to her husband as a natural outcome of the marriage. However, the above decision of the House of Lords has not been followed in India- where marital exemption to the husband ‘still exists’. The legal system in the country still has to mature to the concept and accept it.

Women have been demanding the deletion of the exception clause in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code which states that “sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape”. But the same is being delayed by the judiciary on the grounds that this topic needs wider debate. This could also be attributed to the fact that proving that the woman's claim is genuine is almost impossible in most such cases.

The "male ego" as it is more commonly known by all, is driven by a sense of aggression that needs consistent venting. Though not true for all men, here it refers to the more frustrated middle class and the power hungry section of the society. More often than not, this venting ends up being on women who choose to take it rather than stand up to it. Maybe because they either do not have the strength /  support or are just too scared to think of the consequences.

Now why wouldn’t they react in that manner? Coming to the point of male ego, it is an ego that we are talking about and an ego does not exit your mental state until it is well fed and satisfied. Going against this ego will only result is more backlash and aggression. Like men who are even today the main breadwinners for the family (some will object to this statement but realistically, the equation still has some way to go before this statement is shown the door), women are still the ones who make the family a family. The ones who are expected to maintain the ties. This is another reason most choose to be oppressed and continue living a life of horror.

When the whole country is noticing a wave shift in the way women are progressing today in almost every field, unfortunately, there still are men who feel that a show or power and aggression to "control" their women is a must to have a feeling of power for themselves and their standing in society. Beating someone of a weaker physical standing is very easy to do and for most does act as a quick aphrodisiac. The need and urge to vent frustration from work, inability at doing something or simply the need to divert anger inevitably ends up on the female counterpart.

Domestic violence can be of many types and variations that occur once in a while or continually. Psychological Abuse, financial Abuse, physical/sexual assault can all be termed as Domestic Abuse. Female infanticide (aborting the female child), mental and physical abuse, sexual abuse, public humiliation, dowry related torture and killings are majorly the form of problems that women in India have to face. There are initiatives been taken by NGO's and the Government to curb these problems, but these problems actually are so deep rooted into our society that it needs more to be eradicated.

What it needs is for the general people like us to stand up to it. Day after day, we can see and hear this happening around us. The horrifying screams and its after effects are obvious to us, but we choose to recoil into our safe zones, with the excuse that it is none of our business. In doing this we have totally missed the point, that ignoring a problem does not make you exempt from it, it only makes the problem dormant for some time. If you cannot step in and do something about it, this will never go out of society and you want it or not, society has a big effect on your life and future.

Delhi in the year 2009 recorded a huge 3900 registered cases of domestic abuse. This we need to keep in mind only covers the incidents that were reported to the police. How many have gotten justice, no one will ever know. There are hundreds more which secretly keep enduring and will never be listed to make an official figure. The very fact the number is so high in the capital of the country, is actually a matter of national shame. If we cannot protect our women from ourselves, who can we protect them from?

Around two-third of married women in India were victims of domestic violence and one incident of violence translates into women losing seven working days in the country, a United Nations report said. As many as 70 per cent of married women in India between the age of 15 and 49 are victims of beating, rape or coerced sex. This is not just some "number" which we read about and then squeal "What can we do about it? It on such a huge scale.. what possible difference can I make to it?".

In a recent article from a leading newspaper, a woman who wished to be kept anonymous talked about her ordeal. "He beat me with a belt, spat on me, treated me badly in front of friends and family. I have scars all over and most times have to wear sunglasses while leaving home to hide the marks". After years of suffering, she could not handle the torture and reported the same to the authorities. But her misery does not end here as she is not shunned and continually harassed by her in-laws for taking the "internal family matter" to the cops. Coming from an educated background and married to an engineer did not matter, since education had not taught her husband how to deal with human beings.

Women’s groups have been continually trying to educate more and more women to come forward and report such incidents. A small victory for them came by the way of the Domestic Violence Act, for protecting the women from such incidents. But not entirely the way everyone would have wanted it. The act heavily biases on the side of the woman making is susceptible to misuse. As a result, a lot of such cases will be probably running for a long time to come. The judiciary needs to review and come up with a more robust system for protecting the rights of women while not making it into a weapon.

In times of such costly lifestyles and fragile relationships, ignoring the power of the woman is a costly miss to have. Look around today, ranging from the President to the mayor of Mumbai to the CEO of huge bank like ICICI, women have proved their worth in a man's world. The intelligent are the ones who can see this as potential than a liability, who can see that catering to this centuries of hunger for growth and freedom is tapping into a rich resource of energy, a fresh outlook into a monotonously male society. It is needs nurturing and adequate control for too much of a restriction-free zone can also reverse the problems of our society than fix the ones that are degrading it today.

This is a national and humanitarian issue of utmost importance that needs our involvement. We need to know that our contribution however small makes a difference. Even if you can help one person, its one life you have affected, something we always want to do, but never have the courage to go forward with. If you need more information you can look into these

It is our responsibility to make things right…. Don’t run, embrace it and build better lives..


  1. You've raised a very important issue. Kudos for that! Very well articulated. Anyways, just to add to your effort, a line that I remember

    The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.
    -Roseanne Barr

  2. Very very thoughtful. I had goose bumps reading this. Especially because I just came across this horrid incident of the tribal girl from West Bengal on NDTV. Its disheartening to know that majority of Indians are still barbaric. And again, our laws do not inflict severe punishment on those who carry out such sickening acts!!


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