Blame it on culture?

May 9, 2011 § 4 Comments

“The house does not rest on the ground, but upon a woman”

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. 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. Domestic violence in India is highly influenced by the societal culture and beliefs.

The main reasons for domestic violence 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.

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.

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.

A Case study on domestic violence is that 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. Neither apparently, Naina’s neither 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 B., 2004. Behind Closed Doors: Domestic Violence in India)

What bewilders me is that Domestic Violence occurs in all sections of the society and is not just restricted to the illiterate and poverty stricken groups but in the well educated families too. So does this mean that high literacy level does not necessarily mean attitude change? Why do men want women to ‘serve’? Is it what they think is our ‘duty’? What happens if a woman refuses to ‘serve’ the man?Do women end up serving their man to not get beaten? where does this so called ‘serving’ end?Should the victim be blamed for letting herself get hurt or should the abuser be punished? Do women exercise the law for the right reasons? so are women truly empowered?How do we define empowerment? Should we just blame religion and culture as the cause?

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