Being Born a Girl - A Big Domestic Struggle?
Being born a girl is a serious struggle in India. No woman is not fearful when she steps outside her home. It has become so common that they have learned to live with that existential anxiety. They are made victims of acid attack if they refuse a man’s proposal, are beaten to death for dowry, are emotionally and sexually abused on a daily basis. Weren’t we fighting the same issue in the 1980s? It has been literally decades and women are still fighting.
India has been named the most dangerous country in the world for women in a recent Thomas Reuters Foundation survey. Every third woman in India suffers physical and sexual violence at home since the age of 15 as reported by the National Family Health Survey. Despite having laws like Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act and the Dowry Prohibition Act, crimes like marital rape still remain decriminalized in our country. Indian women are in a constant state of terror like a state on red alert just about to get terrorized.
The most common type of spousal violence is physical violence (27%) followed by emotional violence (13%). This comes at the cost of physical injuries like eye injuries, sprains, dislocations, burns, deep wounds, broken bones and broken teeth. The violence against women is so normalized in this patriarchal society that women don’t report the abuse. Most often women don’t even realize that they are being abused because their upbringing has been done that way: to give no reaction to abuse, to suffer in silence because speaking out would be disrespectful. Only 14% of the women seek help to stop the violence. Women who survive rape and other sexual violence suffer humiliation at police stations and hospitals as well.
The emotional manipulation in the name of ‘culture’ of setting barriers in a woman’s life starts at such a young age that most of her childhood disappears. Specific goals are set for her by default the moment she is born. They are expected to cook, bear children, settle with a family and serve the family for the rest of their lives. Most wives are still treated as servants and not allowed to earn in numerous parts of our country.
On top of not earning, they are financially abused and are given a very less allowance to spend on themselves. They are beaten by their in-laws and husbands for dowry. Men take out their anger by beating their wives and children. They brutally rape their wives and their own daughters. Will the women ever find a safe and stable environment? What is the point of being the largest democratic country when the majority of the population lives in constant fear?
Quoting Purva Tekkar, An Applied Psychology graduate on gender abuse, “What I have learned about abuse: physical or mental in our country, in mostly rural areas, the sort of thinking that persists is that if the husband doesn't abuse her wife, he doesn't love her. That’s the most shocking truth that I heard in the villages of Rajasthan. This is a way through which the patriarchy has been maintaining their domination over the other kind by changing the way they perceive the behavior that the men impose on them.
Even in the urban residencies, the issue of violence and abuse is a common one. While many fail to report it because of the two main reasons:
1. They do not want to end their family over this because it’s what their life is dependent on an otherwise they perceive themselves as helpless
2. They're too scared to do anything about it and living in fear seems better than rebelling only to realize that the corrupt system in India allows any criminal to get away with all sorts of crime and then they would come after the abused for causing them trouble”
In a country where goddesses are worshipped with such revelry, why can’t people treat an actual woman with the same respect?
This experience of violence is more common in rural areas than among urban areas. According to a recent report, the experience of domestic violence decreases sharply with schooling and education. The violence can be controlled by empowering and educating women about their rights. If more women come up and speak about their struggle, it can inspire millions of women to get out of the toxic abuse.
Apart from empowering women and teaching women how to be “safe” in and outside their homes, maybe if we could educate men to respect women, it would make a huge difference. Women are not their punch bags or sex machines. Women are not objects. Women are human beings and should be treated like one.
Quoting Mahnoor Fatima, a Media Science student, Pakistan, “Some days I wish I was deaf, as if blocking out all sound, all your voices come easier because isolation is the closest to liberation that I will ever get. Abuse isn’t as straightforward as it is perceived. I don’t live in agonizing trauma every moment of my life but I do get overwhelmed every now and then, in the midst of a fine day I think of what you said last night and it stays, it stays till it hurts, till I cry, till every corner of my stone cold body has ignited in anger and in sadness but I shut it down, kick it under my bedside like yesterday’s laundry I don’t have the energy to clean out. You always tell me that what you’re doing to me is right for me and I believe you. I’m conditioned to believe you, till the age of 18 I put all my faith in the idea that this is what tough love is, that you’re harder on the people you love the most but I realized you weren’t harder you were just hateful.
Abuse isn’t as straightforward as it is perceived, the abuser knows what it’s doing is wrong; otherwise, tell me why do you behave and think differently around your friends? Around my friend? Why is your voice softer? You smile at me more, why is my opinion suddenly valid? Why are you masking yourself from the person you actually are behind these closed doors? Because you know how wrong and socially unacceptable it is to be how you are with me. Being a woman is hard, but being a woman around you is a punishment. My life if your playground. Being a protector and a captor is walking on thin glass sometimes I can’t tell which is which. I’ve spent most of my years trying to gain validation from you, your approval used to define my worth as a human being but today here I am, in my most deviance form in attempts to be happy, this is the closure I get from your abuse. You hate it, you hate my voice, my ability to perceive things for my own self, to care about myself more than I did about you, finally. And I see how it bothers you but I do not care anymore. Yet again, here you are, at a yearly celebrations eve, asking about how the hell I am and that’s all it takes, a simple “how are you?” to knock down my defenses and let you in again. You have all my heart and none of it at the same time and I’m still trying to figure out how that works.”