“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 of my own free will, I locked the door, and I threw away the key”
Above words of Haruki Murakami precisely echo the sentiments of millions of souls suffering the agony of tourture and harrassment in the hands of their loved ones. Domestic Violence is a multifaceted problem. It roots from our verandah and branches out nationally and globally. There is hardly any village, hardly any city, hardly any country which is free from this social evil.
But the question arises: “What is domestic violence?” We all know the answer: the violence against women done by her husband in perticular or any male in general is known as domestic violence. Wrong! Domestic Violence is not limited to violence against women alone. It is a much broader concept. Shortly put, Domestic Violence is any form of violence which is born inside the four walls of the house. It has nothing to do with the gender of the victim or the victimizer. Any act of violence and torture whether physical or emotional, against anyone whether male or female inflicted by their intimate partners or any other member of the family is Domestic Violence.
Let’s take the case of this young woman for example which was highlighted by the Deccan Herald. A young married woman sought refuge in her mother’s home in Delhi to save herself from the verbal and physical abuse of her spouse. Just after that the country wide lockdown was imposed so she was not able to return to her husband’s home for long. She felt safe here but not for long as her brother saw her to be an extra burden on the family in the time of financial crisis and in a fit of anger and frustration beat her black and blue. Another famous case is of former stuntman of the ‘James Bond movie’, Eddie Kidd. According to a report Eddie was subject of constant physical torture by his wife Samantha for years. After the imprisonment of his wife Eddie narrated his plight while talking to an English Newspaper. He said that Samantha had a drinking problem and she used to punch him and slap him in front of their house help. Eddie was rendered unable to walk after a work mishap and hence became the recipient of verbal, physical and emotional abuse in the household.Both of the above-mentioned cases tell us about the universality, genderlessness and seriousness of the problem.
Let’s talk about the present scenario for example, the pandemic and the lockdown. There has been a soaring increase in the rate of domestic violence during the lockdown period globally. According to WHO data, the cases of domestic violence reported in Jingzhou (Hubei), tripled during lockdown as compared to the number of last year. There is a report by National Commission of Women (NCW) released in mid April 2020, which claims that there has been an increase of 100% in the cases of domestic violence against women during the period of lockdown. This is the data of domestic violence against women specifically in lockdown. But, we know that the problem is neither limited to lockdown nor to women alone. So where is the data of men you ask? Well there are none available. Yes you read it right!
Domestic Abuse against men is not legally recognised by Indian Law. The gender biased law only sees men as the abuser and not the abused. The cases of domestic violence against men have risen as alarmingly as women’s in recent years; maybe more because we have no systematic data. Most of the cases go unreported because most men suffer from the additional stigma of public humiliation if matter is highlighted. Moreover, the form of violence is different than the one we have presumed in our minds. Many victims told that they were beaten by the male members of the wife’s family or were pressurized by the wife in ways unimaginable which left them traumatized both physically and emotionally.
Society is a coin and male and female are the two faces of the coin. Evils like domestic violence are heinous crimes not against sexes but against humanity as a whole. It is inopportune that such a nefarious atrocity exists in our society and we are responsible for it. As civilized humans it is our duty to raise our voices against the malpractices of our surroundings. We need to be more sensitive as citizens, more observant as neighbours, more vigilant as colleagues. We need to stop stigmatizing and stereotyping the people around us. We can’t shrek our responsibility by saying “How can we interfere in someone else’s private affairs“. It is time to intervene. There are numerous laws to correct this felony and to safeguard the victims. Both the central and Government along with NGOs are working to eradicate it. But, our support and encouragement is needed. We need to strengthen the law, reduce the loopholes and extend a helping hand to protect the victims. The need of the hour is to remove the spectacles of prejudice and ignorance and to come together as a society.