Domestic violence, be it in the shape of physical, mental, or emotional abuse, is alive and well in India. I’m sure many of you know someone who has been a victim of violence, or know someone who knows someone who’s been a victim, or have even been a victim of abuse yourself. I for one can say I’ve known a few individuals who’ve been victims of abuse. It brings me to tears that I am powerless to do anything, lest I shame the “honor” and “pride” of a family. For most folks, ignorance is bliss. Why get tangled in the affairs of others? We’ve become too apathetic as a society–too distanced from friends and family in fear of overt involvement in their private affairs.
Often, when I voice consternation at the treatment of certain women whom I believe are victims of spousal abuse, I am reprimanded with the same ubiquitous bullshitz:
“Leave others to their personal affairs,” “people will work their problems out eventually,” “it’s not as big of a deal as it seems,” “what’s it to us,” “Binil, don’t be a snoopy bitch, let others be.”
You get the point.
Of course, I’ll agree we’ve come a long way in combating domestic abuse. After years of lobbying, women have finally obtained long overdue rights and protective measures against an abusive spouse, partner, and/or relative. This isn’t enough. Why? Because domestic abuse, as an epidemic, continues to thrive and consequently handicap the livelihood and well-being of women.
The annual statistics regarding violence against Indian women are appalling. They are as follows:
*500,000 women are stalked by an intimate partner every year
*4,500,000 women are physically assaulted every year
*More than 1,200 women are killed by an intimate partner
*Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women in India
*85-95% of all domestic violence victims are female
What’s truly disturbing is how women’s abuse is treated by the Indian society. It’s often separated from Indian culture, unlike violence against women in the Middle East or Muslim countries. Often, human rights organizations explicitly connect the abuse of women in Middle Eastern societies to culture and religion via the patriarchical belief of family honor. If you’ve ever flipped through an annual report of Human Rights Watch, you’ll immediately notice that the abuse of women in intertwined with culture. Both Christians and Muslims in the Middle East are guilty of abating and abetting the abuse of women through traditional, cultural, and religious beliefs. One popular practice in the Middle East is honor killings. When family members and/or relatives have doubts regarding a woman’s sexual virtue, she is killed, often by her own father, brother, or other male relative. Women also participate in this horrendous act of cruelty. Why? In order to rid the family of shame and uphold it’s honor. Yeah, we men can have fuck fests every hour, but if a woman even glances at a man, her virginity is in question, and by extension, her life.
Though indeed an heinous crime, honor killings in the Middle East are often sensationalized in the Western world and infrequent compared to other abuses of women’s rights. Why is the West so infatuated with honor crimes in the Middle East? And why does it always connect culture with the practice, yet fails to do the same with the abuses of women within its own periphery?
Feminist and human rights organizations have branded the patriarichal culture of the Middle East, in its various forms, as the primary culprit behind the abuse of women. Yet, why is it that abuse within India is any different? Why is it that in India, the perpetrator of abuse is held accountable as an individual, but not as a party to patriarichal values? Why is Indian culture often absolved of blame when examining the causes of domestic abuse?
Popular culture reinforces domestic abuse. Along with soft drinks, popcorn, romance, and action we are also constantly served a dosage of rape. Take Delhi for example. They’ve become a staple of movies. In too many films, violence against women is glorified. Take Sin City for example. Scantily clad women who are used and abused. In Troy that nymph of Brad’s is portrayed as merely a weak sexual being. The abuse of women within films is either obvious or subtle, but often times, it’s there. The ubiquity of rape in movies is extremely irritating. We’ve been desensitized to see rape as a crime in movies. It’s just THAT common nowadays. Rape? Oh thats all! They ban smoking in movies. why not ban violence, rape and the likes.
Where do abusers learn their behavior? From what they see indirectly sanctioned on television and/or the silver screen. With violence against women portrayed as a normal occurence within everyday life, we have become emotionally numb. This desensitization has led our society to pursue an extremely passive stance towards the burgeoning institution of violence.
What’s more disturbing is we have not fully acknowledged the intricate link between Indian culture and violecne against women, which is upheld in India by patriarichal values that may be different from those of other cultures, but are equally devastating to a woman, a family, and society as a whole. I can list a gazillion paradigms to illustrate the various means through which women are repeatedly dehumanized in our patriarichal society Granting women the right to vote, education, have all the sex they want, wear bikinis, etc. does not make Indian culture any less patriarichal than a Middle Eastern society.
I guess, it’s high-time women in India begin to question the patriarichal values of our society that maintain and/or reinforce a system of violence and abuse against women.
In Peace I Write The Above.