Domestic violence (DV) means any violence in a relationship, whether it is physical, verbal, sexual, mental, or economical, in order to harass an individual and hurt their dignity. In India, DV is seen as a kind of ‘relation maker’ which we justify as “aise hi to rishte majbut bante hai” (this is what makes relationships stronger). The normalisation of domestic violence can be said to be as dangerous as the crime itself.
Society starts grooming women from childhood on how to be quiet and bear the pain rather teaching the men how to behave with women. Indian society is at war with its own women. The practices which culturally sanctioned the degradation of women through Sati pratha were implemented from time-to-time.
Society had developed different means to suppress women: traditionally – by showing the fear of God; economically – making her dependent on the men; politically – by not giving rights to women. And, if these barriers didn’t stop women then the ‘Bramashtra’ of social exclusion was used which, in turn, stagnated the development of women throughout history.
A recent report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation cites India as the most dangerous country for women, but there is also a 2014 study in The Lancet which reports that “although the reported sexual violence rate in India is among the lowest in the world, the large population of India means that the violence affects 27.5 million women over their lifetimes.”
Our own National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data indicates that 30% of women have faced abuse at some point in their lives. The statistics may have increased in 2020, which can be assumed by one, seeing the daily cases of violence against women. There has always been an increase in the rate of crime against women, and this happens due to the ignorance and justification given by the stakeholders of our society.
India is a patriarchal society which has treated women as a secondary to men. In our society, women are seen as a burden or as ‘bringing bad luck’ to the family. The sex-selective abortion was a typical scenario a decade back, but the one who survived through it have also been dominated, subjugated, harassed.
This has led to instances of domestic violence, rape, dowry deaths, ‘honour killing’ and lack of education among women. The deep-rooted patriarchy is exposed when it allows men to dominate women. To stand up against injustice, one needs to be bold and vocal, but, our society teaches girls how to talk, how to laugh softly. You might have heard “dheere bolo” (talk softly) or “mardo ke beech mein tumhara kya kaam hai” (what’s your business between the men?) This shows society has not given women their right to speech which our Constitution guarantees.
The data from National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 (2015-2016) reports that 52% of women surveyed believe it’s reasonable for a husband to beat his wife and 42% of men agreed to it. This shows that society mould women to accept such violence as their fortune. The parents teach girls how to behave, from their childhood to when they are married.
Society has cast the survivors of domestic violence as if they have contributed to it. Society labels women as “aurat hi aurat ki dushman hai” (Women are women’s enemies), which adds to the misery. This becomes possible due to constant ‘propaganda’ against women. Women are shamed for the way they dress, judged for their lifestyle and ‘accuse’ them for being ‘friendly’, which invited trouble.
The problem is, we have not created spaces for women where they can be independent. I have heard, many times, my mom saying that she will not bear the violence next time, but she keeps quiet—as she knows that she is dependent on her partner. We have underestimated the patriarchy in creating violence within our family.
The fact is that patriarchy thrives by normalising these instances of violence.
The media has been the greatest tool used for development throughout history. In modern days, this very tool has been used to seemingly exploit women. Indian cinema is one such dominant media which reflects our society—as masses identify with them. Truth is cinema does not show the reality of society; it shows what the people want.
Movies portray human life as black and white with no grey areas. Most movies are based on women’s issues and a hero who ‘saves her’ making it a super hit. If a plot is changed and women are portrayed as heroes, it fails. Men always see themselves as ‘saviours’ of women. The cinema has further supported this by making women the sidekicks.
The cinema influences social attitude. When it shows the hero impressing a girl by stalking her and insisting despite her lack of interest, it fails to show that the girl’s consent is important. It is as essential as the desire of the man. Cinema shows a deceptive reality and promotes serious offences like stalking, abduction and even harassment in the name of romance.
Unlike cinema, TV serials are ‘women-centric’. They show women’s issues but in an entirely different manner. They are quite similar to cinema as they have a good wife who saves everyone in her family from an evil woman. Supporting the stereotype “aurat hi aurat ki dushman hai”.
Apart from this, the media has an important role in empowering women, but it seems that they have failed to bring gender equality within its own ambit. The discrimination can be seen starting from who will cover the event to who decides what will be published. Perhaps trying to convey that women can only play softer roles. You will hardly see any women in the boardrooms where most decisions take place. Therefore, the issues of women are never highlighted like they need to be. It seems that the media just uses women as a decorative part to lure the audience and earn TRPs.
Post-independence, the Constitution gave women their rights, but the successive government repeatedly failed to actually provide it to the last woman in the society. Without going deeper into the past, if we talk about our current government’s success towards women empowerment, it clearly shows there are a lot of things yet to be done. The BJP-led NDA government has launched Beti Bacho, Beti Padhao in 2014 to improve the child sex ratio.
According to the data, 56% of the funds allocated from 2014-15 to 2018-19 were just spent on advertisement. This shows the government’s contribution towards women empowerment. Nearly 50% of the members of Parliament have a disclosed record of criminal charges against them, including members facing charges on serious crimes against women. So, by electing such candidates, society promotes sexism, which in the end, belittles violence against women.
Progressive laws exist like the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA), but, it only provides civil remedies to the survivor and that too stings the men’s right groups. They want it repealed on the basis that it is being misused.
There is little evidence to support their case and suggest it’s being misused. But, there are lakhs of cases which show the cruelty that women have to face.
So, to empower women as leaders and to eradicate gender violence, it is important that they are given the decision making powers. Women need access to education, training, skills to be independent, as dependency brings violence to them.
men should be trained first to make sure that they respect women’s dignity.
More women’s rights-based groups should be established for the protection of women. The powerful and positive role that society can play in empowering women must be supported and further explored to put an end to the normalisation of domestic violence.