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Domestic Violence

"…the wife: however brutal or tyrant she may unfortunately be chained to-though she may know that he hates her, though it may be his daily pleasure to torture her, and though she may feel it impossible not to loathe him- (he)can claim from her and enforce the lowest degration of a human being ,that of being made an instrument of an animal function contrary to her inclinations." John Stuart Mill

The above lines reflect the brutality that one out of every three women has to face at the hands of their husbands, fathers, brothers and uncles in their homes around the globe. Domestic violence can be described as when one adult in a relationship misuses power to control another. It is the establishment of control and fear in the relationship through violence and other forms of abuse. It is basically an abuse of power. The abuser tortures and controls the victim by calculated threats, intimidation and physical violence. Although men, women and children can all be abused, in most cases the victims are women. In every country where reliable, large-scale studies have been conducted, results indicate that between 16 and 52% of women have been assaulted by their husbands\partners.

These studies also indicate widespread violence against women as an important cause of morbidity and mortality. These physical attacks may also include rape and sexual violence. Psychological violence includes verbal abuse, harassment, confinement and deprivation of physical, financial and personal resources. For some women emotional abuse may be more painful than the physical attacks because they effectively undermine women's security and self-confidence.

Violence within the home is universal across culture, religion, class and ethnicity. The abuse is generally condoned by social custom and considered part and parcel of marital life .An example of this can be seen through the gist of a popular Spanish riddle: Question: What do mules and women have in common? Answer: A good beating makes them both better."

The statistics reveal grim picture of the realities prevalent in developing and developed countries alike.

  • In the United States a women is beaten every 18 minutes; between 3 million and 4 million are battered each year, but only 1 in 10 cases of domestic violence is ever reported.

  • In the United Kingdom, 1 in 3 families is a victim of assault and 1 in 5 a victim of serious assault, according to a recent report by the home office.

  • In Austria, in 59%of 1500 divorce cases, domestic violence is cited as a cause in the marital breakdown.

  • In India the records of National Crimes Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs government of India revealed a shocking 71.5% Increase in cases of torture and dowry deaths during the period from 1991 to 1995 .In 1995, torture of women constituted 29.2%of all reported crimes against women.

  • In Bangladesh, half of the 170 reported cases of women murdered between 1983 and 1985 took place within the confines of the homes.

The question arises why women put up with the abuse in the home? The answer lies in their unequal status in society. They are often caught in a vicious circle of economic dependence, fear for their children's lives as well as their own, ignorance of their rights before the law, lack of confidence in themselves and social pressures. These factors effectively force women to a life of recurrent mistreatment from which they often do not have the means to escape. The sanctity of privacy within the family also makes authorities reluctant to intervene, often leads women to deny they are being abused.

This is equally common in the higher as well as in the lower segments of a society. A woman who files a charge of abuse is often forced to drop it by her husband's family if she wants an uncontested divorce. Social prejudices reinforce domestic violence against women. They are treated as their spouses' property; husbands assume that this subordinate role gives them right to abuse their wives in order to keep them in their place. Against this background is the tradition of dowry, an expectation of gifts and cash from the bride's family, one can imagine the anxiety these expectations may cause to a woman and the consequences she has to face if it is inadequate.

Women's physical and mental health is often permanently damaged or impaired and in some cases violence can have fatal consequences as in the case of dowry deaths in India. Physical torture as well as mental torture usually occurs on a regular basis causing suffering and inflicting deep scars on the psyche of the victims and their families. Many assault incidents result in injuries ranging from bruises and fractures to chronic disabilities.

Domestic violence has devastating repercussions on the family. Mothers are unable to care for their children properly. Often they transmit to them their own feelings of low self-esteem, helplessness and inadequacy. Violence against women is the most pervasive human rights violation in world today. We need to think and ponder as how this form of degradation of women can be stopped. It needs support from all quarters be it government, NGOs and women themselves. There is also a need to improve women's economic capacities that include access to and control of income and assets and also share in the family's property. The government should strengthen and expand training and sensitization programs.

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