Women's Day - Some Thoughts
Every year we celebrate International Women’s day on march 8th and this time around the documentary called ‘India’s Daughter’ rocked the world with its content of Indian civic society’s mind which offers punishing women who does not follow their cultural norms by raping them to death. The scenario is more than alarming. Women remain as second class citizens.
The Indian polity more or less has always tried to cope with the contemporary need based developments of laws for specified purposes. It is well accepted by the thinkers, philosophers and academicians that if JUSTICE, LIBERTY, EQUALITY and FATERNITY, including social, economic and political justice, the golden goals set out by the preamble of the constitution are to be achieved; the Indian polity has to be educated and educated with excellence. One can only hope that Indian polity will be equipped with the successful implementation of laws by powerfully implementing them.
Domestic violence has been recorded along the history of human civilization. It can be seen as emanating from human’s basic desire to gain power. Even though women have proved their capabilities in almost every sector affirming that they are no less than men, domestic violence is still very much prevalent. According to UN population fund report, around two third of married Indian women are victims of domestic violence.
The constitution of India guarantees substantive equality to women but behind the closed doors of homes all across of our country, women are being tortured, beaten and killed. It’s happening in the villages of rural India to the luxurious apartments in metros. It’s in all classes, castes, racial and different age groups; and has become a legacy being handed over from generation to generation in the name of culture and customs.
We can define domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person
Most of the time the reason for never ending harassment may not be very serious like dowry or so. It can be for arguing with partner, refusing of having sex with him whenever he wants or the way he like it, neglecting children, going out without informing the partner, not cooking properly on time, indulging in extra martial affairs, not looking after in-laws, infertility, desire of male child, greed for money, alcoholism.
In metros, factors are slightly different which include more income of a working woman than a partner, her absence in house till late night, abusing and neglecting in-laws, being more progressive in society and standing up for her rights. Working women are often subjected to abuses assaults and coercion for sex by colleagues or superiors as reward for hikes and promotions.
According to the statistics, women in India who are more educated than their husbands, earn more or are the sole earners of the families face a higher risk of domestic violence than women who are more dependent on their partners. In such cases, men need to reassert their power or maintain social control over their wives to preserve the status quo in the relationship.
Other forms of violence are female infanticide; the manifestation of violence is very deep-rooted and dangerous. It is a pernicious manifestation of an ideology which devalues a girl child. Child abuse and incest; even though sexual assaults are happening against male and female children it is observed that 90 % of victims are female. Child marriage, Immoral trafficking of children, sati, forced prostitution, age related abuses, killing in the name of honor, humiliation isolation, threats, intimidation, denial and blame.
Any attacks on women leads to a problem which will lead to depression, anxiety, low esteem, lack of trust in others, feeling of abandonment, anger, sensitivity of rejection, chronic health problems, lack of sleep, inability to work, poor relationships.
There are direct and indirect victims of domestic violence like children. Children coming from violent home show growing insecurity, lose confidence which leads to gradual withdrawal from the society and becomes completely depressed. They become disobedient being aggressively violent. Some may succumb to drugs and alcohol when treated harshly, attempt suicide, Victims of sexual assaults are likely to become abusers in later life.
It is difficult and potentially misleading to make a culture based arguments about the problems that women face in India because of the size and diversity of the country. Domestic violence is an undesired output of the gender inequality inside home. The need of the hour is not more powerful laws but to create a gender friendly environment in which a woman would be able to assert her rights and seek legal recourse. Given the lack of support a woman is provided with, it is highly unlikely that a woman will ever resort to legal remedies unless she is assured, at a minimum, a right to reside in her home. It became more complex because of the lack of general personal laws in property and matrimonial rights.
Educated women are aware of their rights; when they stand up conflicts begin. In 1983, domestic violence was recognized as a specific criminal offence by the introduction of section 498A into the Indian penal code. This section deals with cruelty by a husband or his family towards a married woman. Four types of cruelty are dealt with by this law.
i. Conduct that is likely to drive a woman to suicide,
ii. Conduct which is likely to cause grave injury to the life, limb or health of the woman,
iii. Harassment with the purpose of forcing the woman or her relatives to give some property,
iv. Harassment because the woman or her relatives are unable to yield to demands for more money or does not give some property.
The punishment is imprisonment for three years and a fine. It is not necessary that the victim herself have to complain, any relative or friend can make a complaint on behalf of herself. If a woman dies of unnatural causes within seven years of marriage and has been harassed before death, the courts will assume that it is a case of death by domestic violence. It is punishable up to 7 years. On 23rd June 2005 the cabinet approved the protection of women from domestic violence bill, after which it received assent from parliament. This approval brings to the fore a new civil law on domestic violence, which provides immediate emergency remedies for woman facing violence. These include protection orders; non-molestation orders; and the right to reside in the shared household.
The role of NGOs in controlling domestic violence is crucial. They offer extensive mental and legal supports the victims, and conducts awareness regarding the legal rights they have in hand for fighting against the atrocities they are subjected to. NGOs encourage more and more people to report any case against Domestic violence and following up the cases.
Woman must not accept but challenge. She must not be awed by that which has been built around her. We must respect women in their struggles for expression. Women empowerment doesn’t just mean smart economics; empowerment is beyond financial independence. It’s all about, knowledge, dignity, respect and more over equality, liberty and more.