I want you to visualize this: you are a newlywed woman with expectations from her married life. You have been taught to cook and clean for everyone in the family since childhood. You love your husband and are ready to change your life for him and his family. The initial days are great. Everyone treats you like a queen. But then, one day, you say ‘no’ to some of your husband’s demands. Or you are talking about something important and want to tell your husband he’s wrong. You feel like doing the essential things in life, such as visiting your parents whenever you want to, going out with your friends occasionally, or returning home late from the office because you were caught up with work. You feel like wearing a dress of your choice. You don’t want to dress like your husband wants you to.
You try to be independent. You feel sick when the weather changes or you have much work to do.
What happens, then?
You get a slap right across your face. Sometimes cigarette burns. Sometimes a kick or two. Sometimes you get thrown out of the house. Sometimes your parents are told that you are a mistake.
And that’s the reality of many households. Women are not allowed to live peaceful lives.
In 2022, the National Commission for Women (NCW) received over 30,000 complaints from women regarding domestic violence. The National Family Health Survey-4 states that 30% of women have experienced domestic violence at least once from the age of 15 years, and around 4% of women have experienced spousal violence during pregnancy. As much as we’d like to think otherwise, these are real women and girls who have endured injuries and trauma from their loved ones. Domestic violence doesn’t only mean physical violence. Depriving her of her basic needs, such as food, water, clothes, and money, also amounts to domestic violence. Emotional or psychological abuse from husbands or in-laws also amounts to domestic violence. A report by the World Health Organization speaks volumes about the plight of society. Domestic violence can also be sexual. Due to the stigma attached to reporting crimes and internalized misogyny, these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. We have no idea how many women must be suffering from physical and sexual abuse from their husbands daily.
Nowadays, men want educated wives. Some men don’t like women who are more qualified than them. They want women to earn, contribute to the family expenses, and cook after coming home from the office. This is nowhere near being a supportive husband or family member. Ironically, men’s ego gets hurt if she happens to earn more. They want her to make money so that they can control her finances, which SHE earns, but they don’t want her to earn more than them; this is also one of the significant factors behind intimate partner violence.
They want her to earn so that they can control her finances.
According to an article published by Forbes and The Hindu Business Line, working women are more likely to be subjected to domestic violence. Men know that financial independence would make women free. He knows that her economic dependence on him gives him the authority to misbehave. The solution to this problem is to hold men accountable, make them face the consequences, and not prohibit women from being financially independent.
Working women are more likely to be subjected to domestic violence. The solution to this problem is to hold men accountable and make them face the consequences, and not prohibit women from being financially independent.
Before marriage, many women are told that their husbands will allow them to do whatever they like. Only then they can do all those things, like traveling, going out with friends, and wearing fancy clothes. Since childhood, girls are taught that their husbands will “allow” or “disallow” them to do certain things, implying that they will have authority over them. These girls grow up waiting for their wedding day, hoping that they’ll get to live life like a queen, only to find out that their husbands are monsters.
Our patriarchal society has normalized violence against women to an extent where women find it almost impossible to ask for help. They are sent away from police stations. They are told to adjust. When they don’t receive support from their parents, they don’t have anywhere to go. Why? Because a daughter’s real home is her husband’s home, not her parents’. No matter how her in-laws treat her, she must “adjust,” “apologize,” and live with them till her last breath. She is made to believe that her boundaries and rights being violated are her faults. It’s all on her. What is her fault? None. But domestic violence is the punishment she gets for marrying a man. Her parents have enabled this punishment for her by forcing her to marry or by sugarcoating and glorifying marriage for her since childhood. Her parents work day and night, only to “give her away” to a potential abuser.
Domestic violence is the punishment she gets for marrying a man.
Marriage doesn’t change a son’s status. Then why does it change a daughter’s status in society? A man is a son even after marriage. But a daughter is ‘paraaya dhan’ (loosely translated as a treasure that doesn’t belong to parents). What I find surprising is that women with internalized misogyny also suffer from domestic violence or other serious marital problems. Still, they expect their daughters or the young women around them to get married. They still think that marriage is a way to keep their daughters safe. Safe from who? This is one of the worst ways to pass on misogyny from one generation to the next.
A man is a son even after marriage. But a daughter is ‘paraaya dhan’
Domestic violence is a violation of women’s rights, and it hampers her potential to achieve significant milestones in life. Domestic violence can be abolished entirely if each one of us feels responsible for taking action. You might not have experienced or witnessed domestic violence. But every effort you make to make this world safer for women matters. Every step makes a difference. To reduce the number of domestic violence cases, start with raising your son with an unshakeable belief that women are humans and he does not have the right to hit his wife even if she makes a mistake. Domestic violence exists even today because men know their wives won’t leave them regardless of their behavior. They know that society won’t point the finger at them even if they misbehave. That is what we need to change.
Start with raising your son with an unshakeable belief that women are humans and he does not have the right to hit his wife even if she makes a mistake.
Support your daughters. Let them know that they can reach out to you for help if they are not happy. Don’t raise them to be perfect and submissive, but imperfect yet confident enough to take a stand for themselves.