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The Spectre of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Dr. D. Samarender Reddy

MBBS; MA (Economics), The Johns Hopkins University

Writer / Poet

Femina took out a campaign sometime back on domestic violence, with the hashtag #ActAgainstAbuse. Bollywood star Taapsee Pannu who was a part of Femina’s campaign, said, “It [domestic abuse] is considered to be a personal matter. Women are given to feel that issues like these should be kept between the couple and the family. If a woman is not able to put an end to it by herself, then she needs to speak up, seek out help and support from outside. Otherwise it is going to kill her – mentally and physically.”
Taapsee herself starred in a film focused on domestic violence – Thappad – where she plays an educated, upper middle-class woman who is forced to take stock of her relationship after being slapped by her husband. Speaking about it in an interview to PTI, she said, "The film is not just about domestic violence. It is just one trigger. There is a dialogue in the film which says 'I can suddenly see all the unfair things that I did not notice earlier'. So Thappad (slap) is a trigger and suddenly you see these things that were taken for granted in a relationship."
Domestic violence, also called "domestic abuse" or "intimate partner violence", is a social and legal concept. In the broadest sense, it refers to any abuse—physical, sexual, emotional, economic (financial) or psychological actions or threats of actions—between intimate partners. Domestic violence in Indiansetting has five major components: emotional abuse; physical violence; sexual violence; honour killing; dowry-related abuse and death.
Prevalence of Domestic Violence in India
If we calculate the national average for the state-and-UT-wise figures reported in the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), 2019-20, for the “ever-married women age 18-49 years who have ever experienced spousal violence” it works out to roughly 30%. However, the percentage varies widely between urban and rural areas (higher in rural areas) and from state to state.
To make matters more troubling, according to Unicef’s Global Report Card on Adolescents 2012, 57% of boys and 53% of girls in India think a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife.
Learn to Recognize Domestic Violence
Women are well advised to keep in mind that domestic violence does not merely mean physical abuse. It can also be emotional/psychological, sexual, and economic/financial. They should learn to recognize when they are being abused, so that they can take appropriate steps to stop it.
You are being subject to domestic violence:
If your partner…

  • Treats you roughly—grabs, pushes, pinches, shoves or hits you
  • Indulges in verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming
  • Embarrasses or makes fun of you in front of your friends or family
  • Makes threats of physical violence or other consequences if you don’t do as they want
  • Prevents you from doing things you want – like spending time with friends or family
  • Blames you for how they feel or act
  • Constantly puts down your accomplishments
  • Uses force or threatens you to have sex
  • Makes you perform sexual acts that make you uncomfortable
  • Criticises your performance in the sexual act
  • Takes away your money
  • Prevents you from getting or doing a job
  • Places all the bills or debts in your name

If you...

  • Sometimes feel scared of how your partner may behave
  • Try not to do anything that would cause conflict or make your partner angry
  • Always do what your partner wants you to do instead of what you want
  • Constantly make excuses to other people for your partner’s behaviour
  • Believe that you can help your partner change if only you changed something about yourself
  • Stay with your partner because you are afraid of what your partner would do if you broke up

What Can You Do About Domestic Violence?
Don’t live in the false hope that the things will get better someday. They don’t. Usually, they get worse. So, seek help from elders in the family. Seek free online counselling through or call one of the helplines listed on the National Commission for Women (NCW) website in this Tweet Now, the NCW has also launched a WhatsApp number 7217735372.
If you are facing domestic abuse, you are entitled to legal rights safeguarded by The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, such asthe following:
Protection:A magistrate can pass orders to stop the offender from committing violence, interacting with you, taking away your assets, or intimidating you.
Legal Service:Women have the right to free legal services under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
Compensation:You can claim damages for mental and physical injuries.
Monetary Relief and Maintenance:You are entitled to maintenance, including loss of earnings, medical expenses, and damage to property.
Residence:You cannot be evicted from the shared household.
Custody:The court can grant you temporary custody of children.
Get your girl child educated. It has been found that experience of domestic violence, including physical and sexual violence, decreases sharply with schooling and education. Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its November 2017 report stated that 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. These figures are borne out by the fact that domestic violence in Kerala, in both urban and rural areas, is below 10% (NFHS-5 data) whereas the national average is around 30%, and as we all know Kerala has the highest literacy rate in India.
India can attain greater social and economic capital by increasing women's participation in society. Domestic violence is one of the major deterrents to this. It is time we ended the cultural biases, such as patriarchy, dowry, family honour codes, etc., that allow for domestic violence in India.