Not All Wounds Are Visible

“I am living in hell from one day to the next. But there is nothing I can do to escape. I don’t know where I would go, if I did. I feel utterly powerless, and that feeling is my prison. I entered on my own free will, I locked the door, and I threw away the key.”

Every Third Woman In India Suffers Sexual and Physical Violence at Home.According to the survey, 27 per cent of women have experienced physical violence since the age 15 in India. Domestic violence cases, where women reported physical abuse in rural and urban areas, were at 29 per cent and 23 percent, respectively.

Domestic violence is not physical violence, alone. Domestic violence is any behavior, the purpose of which, is to gain power and control over a spouse, partner, girl/boyfriend or intimate family member. Abuse is a learned behavior; it is not caused by anger, mental problems, drugs or alcohol, or any other common excuses.

The issue of gender-based violence in India has been creeping up the policy agenda over the past couple of years. And with substantial data, it proves one thing: rampant domestic violence against women in India is a reality.

Harshita Kanjani
Harshita Kanjani

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDVA), provides a definition of domestic violence that is comprehensive and includes all forms of physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, and economic violence, and covers both actual acts of such violence and threats of violence. In addition, the PWDVA recognizes marital rape and covers harassment in the form of unlawful dowry demands as a form of abuse.

Patriarchal attitude remains very much a part of our family structures, which (the) state is reluctant to reform.

Another flaw in the implementation of the law is that there is no uniform protocol for service providers. Service providers in this case are mostly NGOs, and often have no link with the police or with protection officers, according to the Lawyers Collective report. Service home authorities are not trained under the Protection of Domestic Violence Act or taught to handle cases of domestic violence, the report said.

Earlier, there was widespread hesitancy among the Indian women who experience domestic violence, to report or prosecute against such crimes. Domestic violence was often not handled as a legitimate crime or complaint, but more of a private or family matter. But now this trend has changed. Section 498a introduced to protect women from Domestic Violence.

Harshita Kanjani
Harshita Kanjani

There are a lot of stress-related factors within the household, including low educational attainment, poverty, young initial age of marriage, having multiple children, and other limiting engendered development factors.

If the numbers we see in domestic violence were applied to terrorism or gang violence, the entire country would be up in arms, and it would be the lead story on news every night.

Irrespective of all the abuse meted to women at their homes, there still is a silver lining.

The main distinguishing factor in acceptance of domestic violence, is education, much more than income, or even age. The report stated that experience of domestic violence, including physical and sexual violence decreases sharply with schooling and education.

Harshita Kanjani
Harshita Kanjani

By schooling, the percentage of women who report physical violence declined from 38 per cent among women with no schooling to 16 per cent among women with 12 or more years of formal education.
Education, however, does not automatically translate in a lower incidence of domestic violence.

The act of domestic violence towards women is a human rights violation as well as an illegal act under Indian law. It is therefore widely considered a threat to women’s agency through any lens, and there is growing recognition in many Indian regions that the nation can reach a higher potential through obtaining greater social and economic capital than by reducing women’s participation in society. Domestic violence is one of the most significant determinants of this denial. Greater gender equality through greater women’s agency cannot be achieved if  basic health needs are not being met and if cultural biases that allow for domestic violence in India persist.

Domestic violence can be so easy for people to ignore, as it often happens without any witnesses and is sometimes easier not to get involved. Yet, by publicly speaking out against domestic violence, together, we can challenge the attitude towards violence in home and show that domestic violence is a crime, and in no case, acceptable.

By Harshita Kanjani

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