The process of social construction of gender identity is closely associated with the culture and institutional arrangements of the society. Gender identity is relative to external forces. Gender works to define women and men in society and affects the roles they play in life. Gender formation recognizes not only difference between women and men but also between women and other women, depending on sexuality, race, ethnicity, class etc.
Gender inequality persists in most of the societies i.e. there are differences and inequalities between men and women in roles and responsibilities assigned, activities undertaken and control over resources, as well as decision-making opportunities. Family and household are one of the most basic institutions of society which are responsible for gender construction and gender discrimination.
In India in an average household the birth of a girl child is not considered as a very happy event. At the same time the birth of a boy itself is considered as an investment for the parents. The restriction goes to such an extent that the girls find their laughter, their walk, their eating habits and playtime activities are strictly monitored. The girls get the training especially from their mother for how to be an ideal wife, daughter in law, mother etc. the typical role stereotypes prescribed in patriarchal families.
The status of women in India is not equal to status of men in terms of participation, access and reward. This situation owes its existence to the patriarchal and feudalistic structure of society. Patriarchal norms have marked women as inferior to men. A girl child is considered a burden and is often not even allowed to see the light of the world. The discrimination starts from even before the girl child is born and sometimes she is killed as a foetus, and if she manages to see the light of day, she is killed as an infant. And this discrimination continues in every aspect. Be it education, health, protection or participation, the girl child is always treated unequally. Indian society still hasn’t been awakened to the importance of empowering the women.
The male dominance is prevalent in society. Males also generally have greater control of important resources at most technological levels. The concept of male superiority is reinforced by worldwide male-oriented initiations and other rites. In Indian society, in some of families men are taught to be aggressive and violent from childhood. After their marriage they do not treat women properly. They always try to be superior and treat women as inferior. This mindset is constructed from childhood only which gets reflected in their behaviour. Hence there is gender inequality which exists in society in spite of laws.
Meaning of Violence
Violence is an act of physical force that causes harm or is intended to cause harm. The damage inflicted by violence may be both physical and psychological. Violence is a general type of hostile behavior that may be physical, verbal, or passive in nature. Violence is a relatively common type of human behavior that occurs throughout the world. People of any age may be violent, although older adolescents and young adults are most likely to engage in violent behavior. It has a number of negative effects on those who witness or experience violence and children are more affected by it.
Types of Violence
Violence can be categorized in a number of ways. Violent crimes are typically divided into four main categories – i.e.
1. Homicide (the killing of one human being by another, sometimes for legally justifiable reasons).
2. Assault (physically attacking another person with the intent to cause harm),
3. Robbery (forcibly taking something from another person),
4 Rape (forcible sexual intercourse with another person).
Other forms of violence overlap with these categories, such as child sexual abuse (engaging in sexual acts with a child) and domestic violence (violent behaviour between relatives, usually spouses).
Violence is caused due to several reasons like due to social and cultural environment, based on situation, personality characteristics, genetic predisposition, etc. Violence has a negative impact on those who experience or witness it. Other psychological symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and mood swings (see bipolar disorder), are common in victims of violence.
Children seem to be particularly susceptible to the negative effects of violence. Those who experience or witness violence may develop a variety of problems, including anxiety, depression, insecurity, anger, poor anger management, poor social skills, pathological lying ,etc. Exposure to violence can lead to increase in violent behaviour in children.
Looking at the domestic front, staring from Vedic age to twenty first century, women in India perhaps have never experienced equal rights and freedom compared to their male counterparts. The subordinate status of women combined with socio cultural norms that are inclined towards patriarchy and masculinity can be considered as an important factor determining the domestic violence.
Domestic violence is social problem which is known by other names like wife battery, family violence, spouse abuse, wife beating, or more specifically silent crime. It has been subject of concern for the society since decades. The term ‘domestic violence’ is used when there is a close relationship between the offender and the victim. There is usually a power gap between them. The victim is dependent on the offender. Domestic violence can take the form of physical, sexual or psychological abuse.
Forms of domestic violence
Child abuse, senior abuse, honour-based violence such as honour killings, female genital mutilation, forced marriage and all forms of abuse by an intimate partner or former intimate partner, including psychological abuse and stalking .Offenders of domestic violence are usually partners and ex-partners, immediate family members, other relatives and family friends.
Victims of domestic violence – Women form the largest group of victims. However, men, children and elderly people can also be victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence occurs at all levels in society and in all population groups. The victims are also scared of complaining to the police because they think that harassment will increase. Urban residence, older age, lower education and lower family income are associated with occurrence of domestic violence. Estimates of prevalence of domestic violence within India vary widely from 18% to 70% according to studies. ).
Causes of Domestic Violence
The lifestyle of men such as smoking, alcoholism and drugs promote men to commit domestic violence. Studies have also revealed that sons of violent parents, men raised in patriarchal family structure that encourages traditional gender role are more likely to abuse their intimate partners. Gendered socialization process is what mainly responsible for domestic violence. Low educational level and poverty are important reasons for domestic violence. Thus, domestic violence is simply not a personal abnormality but rather it roots in the cultural norms of the family and the society. Again, looking from another angle, it is found that many of the victims of domestic violence has either refused to name the perpetrator of the assault or attributed the injuries to other reasons.
Domestic violence happens in rural areas, towns, cities and in metropolitans as well. Irrespective of social classes, genders, racial aspects and age groups we find domestic violence happening in Indian households. According to ‘United Nation Population Fund Report’, around two-third of married Indian women are victims of Domestic Violence attacks and as many as 70% of married women in India between the age of 15 and 49 are victims of beating, rape or forced sex. In India, more than 55 percent of the women suffer from Domestic Violence, especially in the states of Bihar, U.P., M.P. and other northern states.
The incidents of Domestic Violence cases have increased in lockdown period in India and globally. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, reports of domestic violence up surging all over the world is worrying. The pervasive spread of the virus has forced domestic violence victims to stay at home with their abusers, leaving them with little options to find any shelter or even solace. In abusive households, women have to battle the male aggressor inside and the virus outside. As they are closely confined within the walls of their houses, living with abusive partners hurts them both physically and emotionally. Due to the lockdown, many of the victims were not able to contact the police or social workers as they were trapped at n the first three weeks of the nationwide lockdown, data of the National Commission for Women (NCW) indicated the expeditious rise in the number of domestic violence cases between March 23 and April 16. NCW registered 587 complaints related to domestic violence against women. This was a notable upsurge from 396 complaints received in the past 25 days between February 27 and March 22”. Moreover, most of the cases were reported from states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, and Punjab with the abusers.
It is necessary for the government to create shelter for the victims and give them a protective environment. Apart from these, professional counsellors, psychiatrists, mediators, lawyers, and even psychotherapists can prove to be a vital asset by helping the needy person through WhatsApp, phone calls, video-conferencing etc. during this time. The community gatekeepers including religious, youth, and women leaders can create awareness about the negative impact of domestic violence and familiarize women about their rights within the community and they can safely report the cases of gender-based violence to the concerned authorities.
Case study of Arundhati Sharma
This is a case study of a small village Antroli of Kheda district, Gujarat. This is a real study of a girl of this village who got victim of domestic violence due to child marriage and orthodox mentality of society. The survivor’s name is Arundhati Sharma and belongs to a lower middle class family and their main source of income is farming. She also belongs to a Brahmins community. This is an arrange marriage and she got married at the age of 16 years with an 18 year old boy Sunil.
Her marital relation is not working properly because her husband is a drinker. After marriage, she came to know about this evil truth. Her husband drinks on regular basis and if she or his family tries to stop him then he threatened to commit suicide. When he drinks, he used to beat, slap and push his wife. He also abuses his wife. Arundhati doesn’t want to live with him. He does physical abuse beating with object, emotional abuse (verbal abuse, threaten to commit suicide) and economical abuse (not providing money for basic needs also).The frequency of domestic violence also increased day by day. As days passed, he used to abuse and beat his wife twice or thrice a week. Survivor Arundhati tolerated this for two years and later she decided to leave her husband and wanted to live an independent life. She was not aware about women rights and said that the girls have to obey their parents and the culture of this society.
Impact of domestic violence
The impact of domestic violence was survivor got depressed as she was living in a friendly environment before marriage in her parent’s house but soon after marriage she noticed the drinking nature of her husband which was not acceptable for her. After marriage when a girl goes to her husband house everything is new for her, new family, new rules and regulations, culture, environment etc. In this situation she has some expectations from her husband that he will help her in adjusting in new family by supporting her but in survivor’s case the scenario was different. The other impacts are that she got isolated and left her husband house and returned back to parent’s house. The survivor did not file any complain against her husband due to society. Later she got counselling and advice from a CRP member of Kaira Social Service Society, KSSS, Ahmedabad. They helped her under Child Marriage Prohibition Mission, Udaan Project (UNICEF) running by KSSS. After certain interactions, she told her story to counselor and now trying to overcome from her problem. Now she involves herself in different activities like stitching, cooking and attending social functions.
Respondent’s awareness regarding the Domestic Violence Act
The survivor is not aware about domestic violence act, 2005 but she knows the term “gharelu hinsa”. Simply she know that if husband or in-laws harass any married girl then it can be called as domestic violence but she is not aware about the types and its detail. She also knows that she can file a complaint to police against her husband but due to societal rapport she didn’t complain. But that time she was not aware about 181, 100 and other agencies working for the welfare and protection of women. The survivor did not file any complain against her husband due to society. She got counselling and advice from Kaira Social Service Society, KSSS, Ahmedabad under Udaan Project (UNICEF) Under Child Marriage Prohibition Mission.
Now after counseling, she is overcoming from depression and isolation. She starts interacting with others and taking interest in social activities like attending functions and traveling with family and friends. She also got motivated for further education and filled the 10th class form and preparing for exams. She also starts continuing her stitching work which she left due to marriage. The husband also promised that he will not harass her if she will return but she doesn’t want to go back because she has lost trust and interest in him after harassment. She also doesn’t want to remarry anyone.
Laws related to this issue
There are several domestic violence laws in India. The earliest law was the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 which made the act of giving and receiving dowry a crime. In an effort to bolster the 1961 law, two new sections, Section 498A and Section 304B were introduced into the Indian Penal Code in 1983 and 1986.The recent law related to this issue is The Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act 2005 prohibits a wide range of abuse against women. It was brought into force by the Indian government from 26 October 2006.
There are certain limitations to legal institutions in a variety of contexts. Common problems include limited resources, lack of coordination between civil, criminal, and family of action to stop domestic violence.
The cases of domestic violence are increasing day by day even after the enactment of several laws for the protection of women. It is high time to make change in the mindset of the society and destroy the prejudices that damage the future of the girl child. What is required is a concerted effort to develop the society in eradicating this issue of gender inequality. Every child should be treated equally and given every opportunity required to grow to his/her full potential. The experience of violence is certainly a barrier to the socio-economic and demographic development of the country. In view of the prevalence of the problem, it is suggested to have programmes that take into account involvement of the community and especially the males for effective as well as fruitful implementation of the issue.
It can again be suggested that education of the girls should be encouraged, which will work as deterrent to domestic violence. There should be more stringent laws against the perpetrators of the violence, laws giving more rights to the women will always be beneficial to curb the issue. As it is deep rooted in the socio cultural practices and both the perpetrator as well as victim take it granted, there is need of major transformation in the socio cultural milieu. In order to address the problem, social norms and values towards gender roles should be transformed to facilitate the implementation of appropriate responses to domestic violence and to prevent it from happening altogether.
There are instances of domestic violence were the victims are aware about laws and act but they don’t complain due to fear and what will society think. Inspite of being aware of laws, they have fear to report the issue. So according to me their family should support them in such issue or there should be committee appointed to look after this situation so that they can make victim feel comfortable and without hesitation victim can file complain. The approach of society should be changed in this matter. Even if victims report in the police station, there is no use as they don’t take efforts to look in this case of domestic violence. They close case by saying some or other reason. While approaching the police and other formal agencies of governance may be forbidding for several women experiencing domestic violence, a potential case can be made for the role of intermediary civil society organizations. While several such organizations exist, the linkages with other units such as legal, financial, medical and psychological support are weak or absent.
Parents and teachers should strive to infuse good moral and religious values in children. If people will change their mindsets and proper counseling and guidance will be there, then definitely in future women can lead a violence free life.
1 Domestic Violence and the Politics of Privacy-
By Kristin Anne Kelly
2 Prevention of Intimate Partner Violence-
By Sandra M. Stith
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Accessed on 25th September, 2020
Author– Bharati Chitnavis