It was a normal conversation with a friend which started with FIFA and ended on a very horrifying note. In India, domestic violence is one of the major evils that plague our society. Some cases surely reach courtrooms, but many are buried inside our homes. In this case, my friend has a similar story. Her father is suffering from a fatal illness, her mother is often beaten up, and the children are harassed by their own family members.
In the dictionary, harassment means, “illegal behaviour towards a person that causes mental or emotional suffering, which includes repeated unwanted contacts without a reasonable purpose, insults, threats, touching, or offensive language.”
“Domestic violence (also named domestic abuse or family violence) is violence or other abuse by one person against another in a domestic setting, such as in marriage or cohabitation. It may be termed intimate partner violence when committed by a spouse or partner in an intimate relationship against the other spouse or partner, and can take place in heterosexual or same-sex relationships, or between former spouses or partners. Domestic violence can also involve violence against children, parents, or the elderly. It takes a number of forms, including physical, verbal, emotional, economic, religious, reproductive, and sexual abuse, which can range from subtle, coercive forms to marital rape and to violent physical abuse such as choking, beating, female genital mutilation, and acid throwing that results in disfigurement or death. Domestic murders include stoning, bride burning, honour killings, and dowry deaths.”
These are theoretical definitions which you will find everywhere, but the reality is a bit different. Here are some questions I asked my friend who is going through a tough phase in her life:
When was the last time you talked with your father?
I really don’t remember when was the last time I had a conversation with my father. I just ask him about his meals and greet him every morning. It’s been more than five years that I had a healthy conversation with him. At times, it is really humiliating, and I just want to shout out of frustration.
What was the worst thing you’ve experienced within your family?
I was 15 years old, when I realised that I am not safe in my own house. My uncle tried to physically assault me. It was terrible, the feeling was horrible. At that age, I was not even able to react to the same. My uncle was almost 30 years old when this incident happened. I have tried to escape from that house, but the horrors are still alive in my mind.
Did you ever try to narrate this incident to any of your family members or friends? What was the reaction?
When I was 15, I was not able to express myself well. At the age of 19, I tried to tell my father about this horrible incident, but I became numb when he replied that “Jawani ke josh me ladkon se aisi galtiyan ho jati hai, inka issue nahi banana chahiye”. (Sometimes, in the rush of youth, boys make mistakes like these. We shouldn’t make an issue out of it.)
For a moment, I couldn’t believe that it was my own father who just said these words. It was a dreadful night for me. My father told me that it happens in mere excitement and one should not make it an issue. At that exact moment, I lost all respect and love for him.
Did your parents ever quarrel?
Quarrel is a very light word for the humiliation she faced in her marriage. I am extremely phobic to marriages. I have a fear of being beaten up like my mom. Actually, I would like to quote my father; “Agar ek mard apni biwi ko accha khila raha hain, acche kapde de raha hain, accha ghar de raha hain. Aur in sab ke badle, subah sham do thappad maar raha hain toh ismae badi baat kya hain?” (If a man is providing for his wife, buying her nice clothes to wear, giving her a good home to live in, then what is the big deal if he hits her every day?)
Why don’t you talk to your mother? Take some legal action against this aggression and violence?
I have tried to initiate a conversation with my mother many times, but she ignores my pleas every time. When I was 19, I spoke to her about it, and she said that she can’t possibly try for a divorce or take any legal action because of her children’s comfort. My father used to beat her up with a bat, belt and what not! She was humiliated in public, sometimes kicked off the stairs.
Do you still see him as your superhero? Are you worried about his treatment?
A superhero? Never. When he supported my uncle for that incident, I lost all my respect and love for him. How can a father cover up for some other man at the cost of his daughter’s dignity? At times when I used to save my mother form his aggression, he used to beat me or yell at me when I stood up for my mother he used to yell at me. Every daughter sees her father as a superhero, but my superhero was already lost.
What do you want to become? What are your dreams?
Currently, I just want to run away from this chaos, and by chaos, I mean this situation. I want to become a teacher. I am working on the same. If I don’t, then my father will marry me to someone who will treat me like he treats my mother. Once I am able to earn money and become a bit stable, I’ll help my mother out.
Yes, I have a younger brother. He is a stable and sane person, but because of the upbringing and the dominance of my father over my mother, my brother has grown up with the same thinking.
I will tell you about this one incident. It was a pleasant day, and I was wearing my pyjama and a t-shirt inside the house, and my brother taunted me by saying that my attire wasn’t decent enough for a girl. My brother is well educated, but what is the use of an education when you are making such remarks? Sometimes education is not enough to guarantee a person’s values and morals.
Why don’t you fight the violence and suppression?
Most victims of domestic violence end up living traumatic lives without knowing that there can be a way out. Even if your own father doesn’t believe you, that shouldn’t stop you from speaking up. More power to any person in such a situation. I wish you never lose hope.
These were only some of the questions I asked. My friend’s story aptly depicts the patriarchal nature of the Indian society. Just having laws won’t help. We also need to empower women instead of judging them and give them the confidence to fight for their rights and speak up against any act of violence.