Domestic Violence in India

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Domestic violence is common in every country and cuts across people from all races, cultures, class, age and level of education globally. According Karlekar (1999) Rape and domestic violence accounts for 5% of both physical and non physical ailments among women aged between the ages of 15 to 44 years. Despite the  phenomenal  efforts that have been put up by various agencies such as the united nations, international  non governmental organisations and even other women movements, domestic violence still persists as  a global epidemic and one of the critical areas that need to be tackled especially in relation to women. However this is not to conclude that women are the only victims of domestic violence. Men, children and the aged have also been victims of the same. Domestic violence remains one of the most persistently violated human right that denies the victims especially women dignity, self worth, right to fundamental freedom and even equality. This particular essay will concentrate on domestic violence in India, the various ways in which it is meted to the victims and even how it traverses across various demographics. The essay also looks at a case study in India that caught media attention globally and some of the statistics on domestic violence both in India and globally. In addition the essay looks at some of the advanced definitions of violence and domestic violence and some sociological theories that relate to domestic violence.

       Violence refers to the expression of force either physically or verbally against another person, resulting to pain, injuries or destruction, usually done against ones will. Violence in most case is used as a tool for manipulation the world over. According to the world health organisation (WHO), over 1.6 million people world wide lose their lives to violence. WHO has also rated violence as one of the leading causes of death in people aged between 15 to 44 years. This accounts for 14% of deaths among males and 7 % among females. This is not to forget that  apart from  those people who die from the violence, scores of others are injured, maimed and suffer psychologically from the various forms of violence .Violence has a very negative impact on development of any nation. This is because in the effort to curb violence, resources which could have been used in other development agenda are wasted. Governments trying to curb violence spend resources on law enforcement, health care for those affected, especially in cases where the violence is physical and also in lost productivity still for those maimed due to the violence or even those affected and wasting their lives in prisons.

There are various theories that relate to domestic violence. These incude: Social learning theory; which suggests that violence is transmitted from one generation to the other. People learn from observing behaviours and imitating them. If the behaviour is violent they imitate it and this behaviour is likely to continue. From this theory it is assumed that men learn to be violent through observing   for instance, their parents and since women also observed their mothers being battered and do nothing, then it becomes a cycle. The resource theory by William Goode suggests that since women are more dependent on their spouses economically, they always fear the burden of taking care of the expenses in the absence of their spouses. They are afraid to leave their marriages therefore, since they have very few options and resources to cope once they leave.

Domestic violence also referred to intimate partner  violence(IPV) or  domestic abuse refers to  a pattern of abuse or coercive  behaviour  that is usually perpetrated by  one or both partners who are in an intimate relationship or by one person against a family or house hold  member be in a marriage, family, dating are even a cohabitation setting Usually the aim of the perpetrator is to gain  control  and power over the other person in a  relationship setting. Lisa , Albert and John (2002) defines as domestic violence as a broad range of acts which are interpersonal in nature involving a victim and an offender whereby those involved are related.

Domestic violence  can  take  many forms which could be physical violence, mental  through intimidation and use of threats, verbal  and sexual abuse economic deprivation, emotional through, controlling and domineering the other  person or  psychological  intimidation,isolation,economic control, stalking and even property destruction                                                                                                                                                                 It’s important to note that despite the fact that most studies have found that men inflict injury at highest rates in most of the cases; they also suffer as a result of domestic violence.  De Becker (1997) notes that in most cases men regardless of their age or the part of the world they come from tend to be more violent than women. However it has also been noted that most women engage in gender based violence as a way of self defence. Domestic violence is not only a violation of ones human right  but  has also been rated as alone of the causes of major health problems especially among  women..  Martins (1981) argues that the problem of domestic violence is not necessary as a result of the relationship between a husband and wife but historical attitudes by men towards women and the economy. He specifically notes that the legal and social services are inadequate. He there fore suggests that the police and prosecution in such cases be controlled.

Domestic violence is used to isolate the victim making them helpless especially when they re dependent on the perpetrator. This usually robs the victim their inner strength, feelings of self-worth and even the ability to make personal choices.  In most cases the victims takes the blame and feel that they are the main cause of the abuse. This is mainly why most people prefer not to report such kind of violence. They are not even willing to share it with someone close. Surviving from domestic violence is like walking from a raging fire. Usually the fire will have consumed your home, your life and even how you define yourself. You are left wondering how the fire started in the first place, how it spread and even how you took too long to escape, Mitchell (1999) .This is a key tactic used by the perpetrators of violence as in return they gain power and control. Children on the other end are traumatised by domestic violence and they also feel unsafe and that they are responsible for the abuse. This as explained in the theories this may be replicated in their adult life too. Michael and Sherre (1998) explains that there’s in enough evidence that rigid and harsh child rearing methods produce punitive and authoritarian adults

        Domestic violence is not peculiar to any country but is a recurring phenomenon in the whole world. In the 1970s, women movements caught the world attention by highlighting domestic violence and women’s rights their main concern was wife battery. In the late 1970s statistics have indicated that 248 of every 1,000 females and 76 of every 1,000 males are victims of   domestic violence usually committed by the spouses. Due to the increased awareness of women rights as human rights, and the increase in the number of women movements and  International non governmental organisations.(INGOS)  concerned with  the getting these rights recognised,  this has resulted to gender violence  emerging as a global issue.

Domestic violence has however remained low on the human rights agenda until in the early 80’s despite with the increasing evidence that it was rampant. Putting the concept of domestic violence as a human rights issue is a recent development and translating it into the international legalities and translating it into to programmes and policies at the grassroot level is still a main challenge. It is only after the 1990s when major advancements regarding domestic violence were recognised in the global human rights agenda. Over the last two decades, domestic violence has received increased recognition in most western countries such as the United States of America, Canada and other European countries.

In 1992 a critical step towards recognising domestic violence was made by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) under the general recommendation .The CEDAW submitted that gender based violence which constitutes domestic violence perpetrated on women, constitutes a form of discrimination and could therefore amount to breach of specific CEDAW provisions. This was during their 11th session. In 1993 there was another major development when the United Nations general assembly made a declaration on the elimination of violence against women. The 1995  world conference  for  women  held in Beijing was also a major milestone in the fight against  gender based violence .As a women  rights movement, the Beijing conference for women  developed the Beijing platform for action(BPFA) .This platform set out twelve areas considered  very critical areas of concern as far as women are involved. The (BPFA) is considered one of the most progressive ‘blueprints’ ‘for   for achieving equality for women identified violence against women. Gender based violence was set out as one of the twelve areas of concern and the platform also set out strategies to ensure implementation of the same. This was in a bid to assist governments in implementation. During the Beijing +5 conference held in New York in 2000 the BPFA set out to review the progress of member states and also set out to evaluate its objectives in order to gauge the progress. From this evaluation the BPFA came up with the outcomes document which also outlined more measures meant to address the issue of gender based violence against women. The recognition of gender based violence as gender discrimination therefore is a major milestone in dealing with the vice. The declaration on the elimination of violence against women and the BPFA   provides a point of reference from which strategies to achieve gender based violence free environment could be achieved.

In India domestic violence has taken a very ugly face. It is characterised by simplified  forms of restraining of women  going  to the this  go to the extremes of  abuse, aggression and even severe suppression .Female child survival is also at stake India where efforts are made to prevent the survival of the girl child. This ranges from infanticide  to neglect  to malnourishment rape ,denying girls education, marrying them at a very young age, wife beating to harassing females brides  W. This is usually with the aim t encouraging them commit suicide. These are some of the various ways in which women experience gender violence. In the Indian community men   enjoy absolute power  and privileges .In a family setting they make all decisions and  are also  elevated to a very high position of Annadata or ‘giver of grains’ or Grihakarta   ‘the household authority’. Men have absolute power and authority and are practically worshipped, Ranki (2004). It is therefore easy to understand why domestic violence in this case may not be seen as a problem. This is because men area allowed to control women at every stage of their existence be it as youngsters or adults. The social stigma faced by women in India especially if she goes public about her husband and in-laws also prevents them from reporting the violence to the police.

There is even a myth in India that women were fated to suffer. This therefore makes violence against women a normal occurrence. Women are also forced to maintain a strict dress code whereby they cover their entire body as a way of coercion.  There is also another myth that wife battery is a private matter and this way most Indian women  deny that it exist while they experience it. When they want a divorce there is a high resistance from their families.

Domestic violence against women is the most common in India. This is basically due to the mindset that women are weaker than their male counterparts. Functionalism is a theory that can easily relate to the domestic violence situation in India.  This theory utilises social and cultural traits in explaining how various systems operate. The theory stresses that cultural practices have a psychological and physiological function in any given society. This could be through reduction of fear and anxiety and also satisfying people’s desires. According to Radcliff Brown, all practices that are constituted in a society ultimately contributed   to the maintenance and survival of the whole system. In the India case, this theory will confirm that occurrences in society, domestic violence included, contributes in the survival of the society. As explained below its evident that domestic violence in India is highly influenced by the societal culture and beliefs.

The main reasons for battery of women India range from desire for male children .There are instances where women who do not bear male children are brutally tortured. There are even instances where women’s wombs are ripped open in order to kill the female child encase the woman disagrees to have an abortion voluntarily. This is practiced in rural India. Infertility and not looking after in-laws are also major cause of domestic violence towards women .There have been gruesome reports of young bride being burnt alive or subjected to continuous harassment for not bringing home the amount of demanded dowry. Women are also hit if they suspect their husbands are having extra marital; affairs. In urban setting the case is complicated by the fact that that the women are working as compares to the rural areas where the women are financially independent. Some of the causes of domestic violence include having a better income than the spouse and there is also assault and coercion by the employers through demands for sexual favours. Young widows in India are also subjected to violence where they are accused of their husband’s deaths; they are usually cursed and denied basic necessities like food and clothing. The widows are in some circumstances raped or even molested by the family members and in most cases they are not allowed to remarry.

            It is also important or also note that domestic violence is not only meted to women alone in India but also to men, the elderly and even children. Domestic violence against men has gradually increased in India; however this kind of violence is less frequent.  There was an instance recently when men gathered ain Chandigarh and shimla to voice their opinions on violence being meted on them by women and other family members. This just proves that domestic violence also affects men India albeit in a small scale.

          In terms of numbers, the number of reported cases on domestic violence against children and teens is the second form after violence against women. In rural areas a its usually associated with child labour or punishment for not following family traditions. Girls are the worst affected as they are not supposed to take the place of boys   when a couple  wants  to bear children. The girls are therefore cursed and assaulted for taking the position of the boys. A survey of teens and college students found that rape accounted for 67 percent of sexual assaults in girls. Disabled children are also cursed and mistreated ands there are even cases where poor families sell body organs of retarded children in exchange for money. Domestic violence against old is common when there is need for property. They are usually abused and neglected by the relatives who want to inherit their property and at times they are beaten to death. The scenario is even worse for the elderly women who are more vulnerable to gender violence than their male counterparts. The elderly women become victims of property grabbing, material exploitation and abandonment. This is especially due to the gender discrimination structures that exist. They are isolated, cursed and times even considered as bad omen. Other Forms of Domestic Violence in India include family wars. This is usually over property disputes, religious conflicts that arise during religious ceremonies and even inter caste marriages.   Violence over caste marriages are common in many states like Haryana, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh a mong others. There is also mistreatment of domestic servants through overwork, working without pay or even rest. There have also been serious cases which are related to dowry payment.  In dowry related violence there are instances where the brides and wives end up being burnt. This is one type of violence that is particularly common in India. According to a Television broadcast aired in 1993, around 6100 women were killed in one year just because of dowry. In the United Kingdom contracted killers also known as ‘bounty killers are paid large sums of money to track down Asian girls who flee from violent homes and try to take refuge in the women’s safe house (Ranki). The fact that the police force in India comes from the same society which has deep rooted prejudice against women makes it even complicated for the police to tackle domestic violence cases even when they are reported. Rinki notes that the police even have a undisguised contempt for women. The police officers especially from the lower ranks treat women as second class citizens.

The Indian feminist forums and other women movements in India  have also tried to tackle the issues of domestic violence. Since 1990s they were demanding for a civil law on domestic violence. However it was not until the year 2005 when protection of women from domestic violence was enacted. The Lawyers Collective Women’s  Rights Initiative(LCWRI )  sought to clarify what Domestic violence is  but has also taken the fore front  in challenging the  government’s bill on domestic violence  which was circulated on December 11, 2001. Circulation of this bill presented a milestone in the fight of gender based violence although it has been criticised as having dangerous implications to women The Vienna congress on human rights also critically analysed this area.

The Domestic Violence Act 2005 for women empowerment in India marked a very significant attempt in recognising domestic violence as an offence which should be punishable by law. The main beneficiaries are women and children according to section (2a) of the act. The act empowers women to sue a person they are having a domestic relationship with who subjects them to domestic violence. The act has a provision for protection, residence, custody and maintenance orders; in addition it has other relief in favour of domestic violence victims. Children too can sue their parents for any kind of torture.

        In a domestic violence survey conducted in India, whereby 10,000 women were interviewed. The result indicates that 26% of physical violence was experienced in urban areas and 20% rural areas. Psychological torture was at 45% and 51% respectively. (Rinki)  According to Rinki the authors reported that this was ‘just the tip of the iceberg. The Police records in India also indicated that a woman is raped every 34 minutes, molested every 26 minutes, kidnapped every 43 minutes and killed every 93 minutes.

It has been reported that between a quarter and a half of all women have at one point been abused by people they were so close to and between 40% to 70% of females who have been victims of murder have been victims of people they were in intimate with. According to United Nation Population Fund Report two-thirds of married Indian women have been victims of domestic violence. In addition as many as 70 per cent of  women who are already married  and  are between the ages of 15 and 49  have  suffered as a result of rape ,beating or forced sex .The study found that in India, more than 55 percent of the women suffer from domestic violence.

In a 10-country study on women’s health and domestic violence which was conducted by the world health organization WHO, the results indicated that between 15% and 71% of women had reported domestic violence by a partner.  It was also found that every year; about 5,000 women are murdered by family members through honour killings. Women and girls, yet they are widely practiced in many countries   such as India, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.  Worldwide, the research indicated that one in five women had reported sexual abuse as children.

A Case study on domestic violence is the case of Naina Sahni who was killed then burnt by her husband in 1995 in a tandoor, in New Delhi. Naina was killed following a marital dispute and domestic violence meted to her by her husband for suspecting the he had a marital affair .On July 2, 1995,the  body  of Naina Sahni (29) was  discovered burning in a tandoor (a clay oven ) by  police  officers who got  suspicious, when they saw a huge smoke coming  from a hotel . It was alleged that Naina was killed by her  husband Sushil Sharma who was  the Delhi Youth Congress president.

According to the charges, Sharma suspected his wife of infidelity. He believed she had an affair with a fellow classmate and this led to domestic violence and marital discord. On the fateful day, he shot her twice before cutting her body into pieces and tried to burn it in a tandooor and that is when he was caught. Apparently, Naina’s elderly father felt that he was guilty for nor protecting his daughter. 0n 30th march 2004 there was a story in the mid day, a local daily where a young girl was strangled to death by her father at Turbhe for refusing to fetch him water. (Rinki)

        Some of the possible ways of Prevention include; increasing education access and job and opportunities for women and girls .This could help enlighten women on the issue of domestic violence, hence help in preventing it. This is because it would improve their self esteem and also enlighten them on negotiation skills. Gender equity in communities should also be encouraged through community sensitization. Other possible methods would include; educating the various demographics on ways of detecting and handling early signs of domestic violence and also initiate programmes that counsel children who have experienced domestic violence in their families. Mass public education campaigns which would mostly target men and boys who are mostly the perpetrators would be beneficial. These campaigns would also aim at changing the men’s attitudes towards gender inequalities and general violence. Mobilising resources and setting up legal assistance for abused women and also creating awareness among the health workers can help in prevention of domestic violence.

In conclusion Issues of domestic violence continue to struggle when it comes to receiving recognition and even policies that have been formulated have not yet been implemented. There are various efforts that have been put in order to eradicate domestic violence. However this has been a very tough battle, in that domestic violence is still rampant everywhere in the world. There are cases of domestic violence reported on daily basis and this leaves one to wonder if there has been any progress made. This should however not dampen the spirit of the fighters of this evil, since silence would be worse than speaking against domestic violence. There is so much that remains to be done though if these efforts have to succeed. In order to end domestic violence there is need for a social, political, and economic environment that is going to ensure that there is enough support for domestic violence victims and other related activities. Governments also need to put the implementation of the outlined policies to the fore front instead of leaving such massive responsibilities to   women movements to tackle them single headedly. To succeed in eliminating domestic violence, every one must join hands and be part of the solution.