In India where almost half of the population are women, they have always been ill-treated and deprived of their right to life and personal liberty as provided under the constitution of India. Women are always considered as a physically and emotionally weaker than the males, whereas at present women have proved themselves in almost every field of life affirming that they are no less than men due to their hard work whether at home or working places. Behind closed doors of homes all across our country, women are being tortured, beaten and killed. It is happening in rural areas, towns, cities and in metropolitans as well. It is crossing all social classes, genders, racial lines and age groups.
Violence against women is not a new phenomenon. Women have to bear the burns of domestic, public, physical as well as emotional and mental violence against them, which affects her status in the society at the larger extent. The statistics of increasing crimes against women is shocking, where women are subjected to violence attacks i.e. foeticide, infanticide, medical neglect, child marriages, bride burning, sexual abuse of girl child, forced marriages, rapes, prostitution, sexual harassment at home as well as work places etc.
The term used to describe this exploding problem of violence within our homes is ‘Domestic Violence’. Anyone can be a victim and a victimizer. This violence has a tendency to explode in various forms such as physical, sexual or emotional. ‘Domestic Violence’ includes harms or injuries which endangers women’s health, safety, life, limb or well being, whether mental or physical. It may also be through physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic abuse. According to ‘United Nation Population Fund Report’, around two-third of married Indian women are victims of Domestic Violence attacks and as many as 70 per cent of married women in India between the age of 15 and 49 are victims of beating, rape or forced sex. In India, more than 55 percent of the women suffer from Domestic Violence, especially in the states of Bihar, U.P., M.P. and other northern states.
So now that we’ve begun talking about domestic violence and breaking the silence around it, we are faced with another, presumably larger challenge. How do we end domestic violence?
Here, I would like to discuss the structural and systemic issues that we need to tackle in order to end violence against women and girls.
Let’s start by acknowledging the complexity of the issue. The perpetrators of domestic violence are not merely criminals. They are often those we know and love- our friends, partners, brothers, fathers, relatives, and colleagues- who have been socialized and conditioned into believing that it is acceptable to be violent towards women and girls. Similarly, the women and girls experiencing violence on a daily basis are all around us.
The sooner we learn to accept that this is something that could happen (or is happening) to anyone of us, the easier it will be to fight and put an end to it. Additionally, each survivor’s circumstances and experiences are different, and patriarchy is so deeply entrenched in us all, that there can no blanket or quick-fix solutions to end violence against women.
We need dedicated, competent, and sensitized personnel such as protection officers, police, judges, lawyers, healthcare professionals, and other service providers who are backed by adequate resources and infrastructure to be able to effectively implement the law. We also need convergence and coordination amongst different departments and ministries at the State and Centre, and time-bound processes for grievance redress and effective justice delivery, to ensure that a woman can easily get help at the time she needs it most. Let us continue to put pressure on our government to genuinely commit to ending violence against women and girls, and deliver on their promises instead of merely paying lip service to the issue.
Along with extending support to those experiencing domestic violence and calling for government action, we also need to address the structural causes of violence by increasing our focus on its prevention. We need to ensure that the youngest are able to understand and deal with what is happening around them. Any child who has been exposed to violence should have a support structure to be able to receive help at the right time.
It is disturbing that more than 72% of women and 68% of men believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife for reasons such as going out without informing him, neglecting the house or children, refusing to have sexual intercourse, not cooking food properly, disrespecting her in-laws, and under suspicion of being unfaithful.
To challenge this social conditioning, we need to create programs in schools and communities to equip young boys and girls with healthy relationship tools.
Let’s talk to our children openly about gender inequality and violence against women and girls. Let’s set an example for them and intervene in a situation of violence that we know of or are witness to. Let us not reduce gender-based violence to a ‘women’s issue’, but instead make a conscious effort to draw more boys and men into our struggles. Let’s keep the home a safe, secure, comforting, and happy place by ending domestic violence against women and girls for good!