A partially burnt, yet pretty face of a young beautiful lady still reminds me of that horrific incident which took place about two years ago. It fills me up with rage and leaves me petrified. That terrifying incident gave me countless, sleepless nights, as that girl was none other than my beloved, close friend. She was a cheerful, lively girl, but her life took a huge turn when she was married, soon after finished 10th standard.
Though she complied with her parents’ wishes, what happened just within one year of her marriage left her family with a feeling of guilt and loss. Almost 75% of her body was burnt and she was battling death. The reason behind this is not clear yet, as it was portrayed to be ‘an unfortunate incident’ which happened while she was cooking on a gas stove, but the environment in her house was enough to reveal the truth.
She was troubled for dowry by her mother-in-law and was frequently tortured, mentally as well as emotionally. Her death shocked me and I couldn’t believe this mishap.
I was sad and frustrated, and this cruel incident made me ponder over the unjust treatment meted out to women in India. It led me to think: How can I, as a woman, expect myself to be safe outside my house, if even my boundaries don’t make me feel safe and protected??
‘Domestic Violence’ is not merely a term, rather, it echoes several stories which speak of grief. It is mostly thought that women, in India, undergo severe traumatic incidents as soon as they step outside their houses, but it is an irony of fate that even their homes don’t assure them safety. In a nation where we worship Devis, the birth of a girl child is considered to be a curse, and even the basic right to live is snatched from her mercilessly.
As per a story in The Hindu, “In November 2016, a report from the Asian Centre for Human Rights noted that between 1994 and 2014, 2,266 cases of infanticide were registered in India.” This is really shameful for a country which boasts of its traditions and rituals.
Many of the female foetuses are killed before they are born and if somehow, they manage to cross that stage and are ‘allowed’ to live in this misogynist society, then over the years, there are numerous challenges which remain all set to welcome them. Every third woman, since the age of 15, has faced domestic violence of various forms in the country, reported the National Family Health Survey (NHFS-4) released by the Union Health Ministry.
Trends reflect the continuing domestic abuse against women. Indian women are 18 times more prone to fire-related deaths than Pakistani women and 38 times more than Chinese women, an analysis of global disease data by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation claimed. NCRB data reveals that about 17,700 Indians died due to fire accidents in 2015, of which 10,925 (62 per cent) were women. (Source: News 18)
As per the report issued in February 2018, domestic violence cases reported from rural and urban areas, were at 29% and 23%, respectively. And, it is the biggest misfortune that the major perpetrators involved in this heinous crime are none other than their husbands. The reports state that about 31% of married women have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence by their spouses. India is one of those 36 countries where marital rape, the act of sexual intercourse with one’s spouse without the spouse’s consent, is still not a criminal offence.
This patriarchal domination compels women to have secondary and submissive roles in their married life, but, ironically, despite this sort of marital discontentment, many Indian women still refuse to rebel against their ‘pati parmeshvaras.’ Statistics reveal that 47.7% of girls between the age of 15 and 19, and 54.8% of women between the ages of 40 to 49 have given in to violence by husbands. The restrictions imposed on most women, which limit their ability to be ‘self-dependent’, sow the seeds of this conservative mindset. Females are mostly denied education as it is considered to be a useless investment. And, when after fighting all odds, women make themselves capable enough to be employed, then the meagre income and the huge gender pay gap stands as a major challenge which diminishes their confidence to earn or educate themselves.
As per the reports by IndiaSpend, women with a graduate or higher degree, earn 24% less than their male counterparts. This scenario forces them to be entirely dependent on their ‘better half’ for their livelihood and thus they have to endure all forms of maltreatment. They have to obey what their husbands command, whether unwillingly or willingly. And, this attitude continues this vicious circle of violence.
This issue can only be tackled if women gather courage to stand for their own rights. Nobody is going to help us if we don’t know how to help ourselves. And, to collect this confidence, a woman needs to be educated and qualified. However, education does not guarantee a reducing number of cases of violence against women, but still, it is a ray of hope in this darkness.
The authority should encourage women to be educated by making it easily accessible to them and most importantly by reducing this gender pay gap ratio which is curtailing the progress of women and clutching their enthusiasm to earn or be educated.
Only women are not entitled to inculcate moral values and know their limitations, instead men should be taught to respect women and to treat them as human beings, and not as ‘objects’. Obviously, they need to know that almost half of the population is ‘not a toy’ for the dominating half to play with!