‘Women are the only exploited group in history to have been idealized into powerlessness’ – Karl Marx
Violence against women in India is an issue rooted in societal norms and economic dependence. Female feticide, domestic violence, sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence constitute the reality of most girls’ and women’s lives in India. Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviour which involves violence or other abuse by one person in a domestic context against another, such as in marriage or cohabitation. Intimate partner violence is domestic violence by a spouse or partner in an intimate relationship against the other spouse or partner. Domestic violence can take place in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. Domestic violence can take a number of forms including physical, emotional, verbal, economic and sexual abuse, which can range from subtle, coercive forms to marital rape and to violent physical abuse those results in disfigurement or death.
Globally, a wife or female partner is more commonly the victim of domestic violence, though the victim can also be the male partner, or both partners may engage in abusive or violent behaviour, or the victim may act in self-defence or retaliation .Wife battering affects the physical and psychological wellbeing of the abused women and even that of their children. Although female participation in public life is increasing and laws have been amended, India still has a long way to go to make Indian women equal citizens in their own country. Domestic violence that is any act of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse, or the threat of such abuse, inflicted against a woman by a person intimately connected to her through marriage, family relation, or acquaintanceship is universal and has its root in the socio-cultural set up of the society. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical aggression or assault, or threats thereof; sexual abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse; and economic deprivation. It can also mean endangerment, criminal coercion, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, trespassing, and harassment. In our society, many women are violently treated by their intimate partners while they suffer in silence. Overall, one-third of women age 15-49 have experienced physical violence and about 1 in 10 has experienced sexual violence. In total, 35 percent have experienced physical or sexual violence. The relationship between gender and domestic violence is a controversial topic. The relationship between gender and domestic violence is a controversial topic. Local customs and traditions are often responsible for maintaining certain forms of Domestic Violence. Such customs and traditions include son preference, which can lead to abuse and neglect of girl children by disappointed family members; child and forced marriages; dowry; the hierarchic caste system which stigmatizes “lower castes” and “untouchables”, leading to discrimination and restricted opportunities of the females and thus making them more vulnerable to abuse; strict dress codes for women that may be enforced through violence by family members; strong requirement of female virginity before the wedding and violence related to non-conforming women and girls; taboos about menstruation leading to females being isolated and shunned during the time of menstruation; female genital mutilation; ideologies of marital ‘conjugal rights’ to sex which justify marital rape; the importance given to ‘family honour’. The causes of domestic violence are not made clear through research, but there are several factors that can result in violence. One of the most important is a belief that abuse, whether physical or verbal, is acceptable. Related to that, growing up in a violent home or living within a culture that accepts domestic violence is factors. Other factors are substance abuse, unemployment, psychological problems, poor coping skills, isolation, and excessive dependence on the abuser. Understanding and breaking the intergenerational abuse patterns may do more to reduce domestic violence than other remedies for managing the abuse.
Responses that focus on children suggest that experiences throughout life influence an individuals’ propensity to engage in family violence. Researchers supporting this theory suggest it is useful to think of three sources of domestic violence: childhood socialization, previous experiences in couple relationships during adolescence, and levels of strain in a person’s current life. People who observe their parents abusing each other, or who were themselves abused may incorporate abuse into their behaviour within relationships that they establish as adults. Psychiatric disorders are sometimes associated with domestic violence, such as borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, drug abuse, and alcoholism.
Many cases of domestic violence arise from the jealousy felt by one partner that they suspect their partner of being unfaithful or is planning to leave the relationship. Besides jealousy, the other partner may feel insulted by the rejection, which impacts on their self-esteem. Violence related to extramarital relations is seen as justified in certain parts of the world. Similar feelings may at times be generated in a situation where one partner is doing better than the other, for example, when the woman is more successful than the husband. Stress may be increased when a person is living in a family situation, with increased pressures. Social stresses, due to inadequate finances or other such problems in a family may further increase tensions. Violence is not always caused by stress, but may be one way that some people respond to stress. Families and couples in poverty may be more likely to experience domestic violence, due to increased stress and conflicts about finances and other aspects. Some speculate that poverty may hinder a man’s ability to live up to his idea of “successful manhood”, thus he fears losing honour and respect. Theory suggests that when he is unable to economically support his wife, and maintain control, he may turn to misogyny, substance abuse, and crime as ways to express masculinity. Counselling is another means of managing the effects of domestic violence. For the victim of abuse, counselling may include an assessment of the presence, extent and types of abuse. In a study of victims of attempted domestic violence-related homicide, only about one-half of the participants recognized that their perpetrator was capable of killing them, as many domestic violence victims minimize the true seriousness of their situation.
- Comprehensive and extensive premarital counselling should be given to intending couples on how to manage their marital relationship.
- There should be public enlightenment through the mass media on the negative effects of domestic violence against women, especially wife battering.
- Youths should be encouraged and taught to detest and not imitate brutish treatment of wives around them.
- Medical professionals, after physical treatment should refer the victims to counsellors and psychotherapists.
- Punishment given to grievously offending husbands should be publicized, so that I t can serve as deterrence to others.
Having looked at a sensitive topic of “Domestic Violence in India”, we can sense the importance of discussion of such a topic. The varying causes which can spark the violence within the four walls of homes need to be analyzed carefully and a wise study of the factors causing the violence may prevent a family to suffer from the menace of domestic violence. The domestic violence may have a far wider and deeper impact in real life than what has been covered in this article.
About the Author
Piyu Choudhary is currently pursuing her B.Com. LL.B. (Hons.) from Mody University, Rajasthan. Her hobbies are blogging, and creative writing. She is passionate about writing research articles and papers on national and international legal issues that promote debate and discussion. Studying about the issue of Women and Criminal Law entices her.