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Home Is Where Safety Isn’t: Why Home Is Often The Most Dangerous Place For Women!

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By Amit Sengupta:

Which place is supposed to be the safest? Many would instantly say- it’s our homes. Yes, absolutely. Which place can be more safe and secure than our homes! But for millions of women and girls in India, this is not true. They face one of the most pervasive forms of abuse within the precincts of their homes.

You may not like to believe this, but facts and figures prove otherwise.

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Photo Credit

Oxfam publication ‘Ending Violence Against Women: Case for a comprehensive international action plan’ says: “The home is often the most dangerous place for women and many live in daily fear of violence. One in three women will experience physical or sexual violence from men, usually someone known to them, in their lifetime.”

Here are some eye-opening and shocking facts about this silent killer, from the publication.

• Every year, 60 million girls are sexually assaulted either at, or going to and from school[1].

• Domestic violence is now outlawed in 125 countries but globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime[2].

• Globally, up to 70 % women experience violence in their lifetime[3].

In India, violence at homes is endemic. Most often it roots from the deeply entrenched patriarchal mindsets, attitudes and beliefs.

“Widespread tolerance towards domestic violence adds to the challenge. The sex ratio, one of the lowest worldwide at 933 girls per 1000 boys in 2011 census, highlights the levels of systemic violence that characterize gender relations in India. In a recent survey across five states, a majority of women and men (72 and 68 percent respectively) felt that a husband was justified in beating his wife for at least one of the following reasons – she refuses to have sex, does not cook properly, is unfaithful or is disrespectful towards her in-laws,” cites the Oxfam India policy brief ‘Protecting Women From Domestic Violence’.

Why does a man hit his wife? Perhaps, the reasons are not too difficult to fathom.

Is it to assert power? Is it to express masculinity? Is it due to the mindset that it is fine for a husband to hit or beat his wife? Or is it because of our patriarchal society that makes it normal for men to think that women are not equal to them? In fact, other than the husband, often the mother-in-law, sister-in-law or other in-laws are also responsible for such cruel and hostile behaviour.

In the month of July this year, I went on a visit to one of India’s centrally located states – Chhattisgarh. Oxfam began its operations in this state in 2013. I accompanied a photographer friend, Srikanth Kolari, to a couple of women’s rights partners’ project areas in a district located not too far from the capital city of Raipur. We were there to hear voices of survivors of gender-based violence. Listening to those experiences shook me, to say the least. I was hearing survivors narrating their stories of how they faced those crimes like witch hunting and a husband beating his wife who was a school teacher.

Why does violence on women and girls take place?

I think the reasons are many and may be one or all of them. While we may know the reason that’s causing violence against women and girls, and more particularly, violence within homes, we are collectively failing to check the menace. Oxfam believes that the elimination of violence against women and girls is essential for realizing gender justice.

This is one of the major reasons why Oxfam is joining hands with the global, national and sub-national community in an effort to reduce the social acceptance of violence against women and girls. Over 2000 organisations in nearly 137 countries have taken part in the ‘16 Days of Activism’ campaign since 1991. Every year, Oxfam and its partners, allies and networks, mark the ‘16 Days of Activism’ with a groundswell of active campaigning in an effort to advocate for ‘ending violence against women’.

For 2014, the international theme for the 16 Days of Activism is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Gender-Based Violence!”. While Oxfam recognises that violence against women has many forms, for 2014, we have chosen to focus on ‘violence at homes’.

By the time this blog is published, I will be working with colleagues and campaign partners, similar to previous year, building on our past and existing work in institutions and communities; generating awareness and action throughout these ‘16 days’ to create a demand as a part of our ongoing campaign on gender. During this fortnight, we will work to influence men and women, boys and girls, and take them along in this journey. My colleagues are also campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and Chhattisgarh and this is a unique effort to amplify the local and national voices on a globally connected issue.

Let’s break the silence on violence against women and girls!

The author works with policy, research and campaigns, Oxfam India

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  1. Babar

    Feminism is two-faced and bigoted, full of hypocrisy and lies. Look at any article talking about domestic violence, and it will be devoid of the violence that is perpetrated by women, psychological and physical. Feminists never talk about how violent women can be, their discussions will always be devoid of female murderers, they won’t write about female pedophiles, they are not concerned about female sexual predators, about false cases of dowry, fake cases of rape, fabricated allegations of domestic violence, and the list is endless. Even the law does not recognize domestic violence against men.

    1. TheSeeker

      You’re accusing feminists of being one-sided when you yourself are a masculist because you’re stressing on men’s issues only.
      Sexism is a mirror with two faces, don’t forget.

    2. Babar

      It is not about raking sides. It is about propaganda and manipulation, where all women are shown as victims and all men as perpetrators, whereas the reality is that women commit more crimes, both physical and psychological, on men and women. Even while discussing crimes against women, why don’t we ever talk about the physical and psychological violence perpetrated by mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, daughters-in-law, and grandmothers?

  2. Monistaf

    From Oxfam.org
    “Human development is driven by empowered women. But women and girls are still massively under represented and often oppressed. We work to help them speak out and demand justice, and to assert their leadership.

    The right to gender justice underpins all of our work.”

    ‘Gender’ includes males, females and transgenders. Does Oxfam help or care about the injustices against males? In the last few months..

    43 men were executed in Mexico by a ruthless gang
    250 Syrian Soldiers were executed by ISIS in Syria
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/news/video-1116055/GRAPHIC-CONTENT-ISIS-executes-250-Syrian-soldiers.html
    48 Fishermen were executed by Boko Haram in Nigeria
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-30167886

    Can we break the silence on violence against men too, while we are at it? Or do we claim that we are too busy to notice because we are “fighting the patriarchy”?

    The last time I checked, we have come a long way (Developed) since the first humans walked out of Africa about 60,000 years ago. We have sent probes to Mars, landed on the moon, traveled at twice the speed of sound, established civilizations, democracies, and justice systems and thrived like no other species on earth. By Oxfam’s definition, women must already be empowered!!

  3. Babar

    According to an online survey conducted by Save Family Foundation and My Nation Foundation in April 2005 and March 2006, it was shockingly found out that, of 100,000 men who took the survey 98% of them faced severe domestic violence at the hands of their wives and in-laws in the form of verbal, physical, emotional, mental and financial abuse.

    Domestic Violence: Not Just A Women’s Issue, Men Suffer Too

  4. Babar

    Misandry prevails.

    http://youtu.be/LlFAd4YdQks

  5. Gaurav

    arranged marriage is responsible for majority of domestic violence. love marriages are always based on mutual respect and men and women who go for love marriage are people who have stamina for a proper relationship and know when to walk out of it. men and women who go for arranged marriage do not know how to find a relationship on their own and clearly will need help if something goes wrong. a man who does not know how to build his own relationship clearly does not know how to communicate and will always retaliate physically. why do women go for arranged marriage

  6. ASHISH

    First, I must confess that I have been in a physical fight with my girlfriend-cum-wife several times. Once, when it had gone beyond a few insults I did raise my hand, and I regret it to this day; will never forget myself to lose self-control.
    Nonetheless, I sometime feel that like male friends, when we take it just as friendly fights where violence is just about a few shoves, pushes and slaps, it should not be confused as VIOLENCE. But at the same this time, this should be a two-way consensus. A woman as well as her partner must agree to this clause that the fight may have been physical but was not domestic violence; and the benefit of the doubt must lie with the fairer sex–for obvious reasons.
    That would leave a way or scope for raproachment. I could be wrong but I just felt that in the course of a heated argument, both the participants, be the wife or the man, MAY raise hand for his or her weaker argument. This should not be taken as violence as much as the frustration to win the debate. Nonetheless, a male mostly in an advantegous position physically, should be the party to prove his innocence till proven guilty in the event of a legal complaint.
    I REST MY CASE

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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