Scenario I: A popular local actor brutally beats up his wife, burns her with cigarettes, and threatens her with a loaded gun. She lodges a police complaint. The entire film fraternity gather around him, pressuring the wife to take back her complaint. She does retract her statement, but the police has already lodged a case. The National Commission for Women (NCW) also get into the act. The wife alleges an affair with another starlet as the reason for the souring of relations. The “elders” promise the wife that this incident will not repeat??? So, the film industry promptly bans the actress for 3 years without asking her for explanation! Amazing! Even if she is having an affair, how is she to blame for the physical abuse of the wife? There is no action taken against the main perpetrator — the actor. The wife is asked to reconcile with a man who has physically abused her other times in the past too. This typical feature of our culture for the women to hide and suffer in the name of family “izzat” is totally deplorable.
Scenario II: My maid discusses this event with me. She says that lots of fans had gathered in the support of the actor asking for his release. I was telling her how wrong it is to support a wife-beater no matter how big a celebrity he is. Her response to this shocks me. She says, it is actually the fault of the wife. She must know how to handle her husband’s rage. Men by nature do these things when angry; it is for the women to prevent this behavior. That is just great! I said how can you even say that. So, women are the ones responsible for physical abuse! When I quizzed her, she said very matter-of-fact that her husband used to beat her when drunk. But, by God’s grace, he has given up his drinking and does not beat her anymore. How very considerate of him! I could not discuss with her any further because I was seriously horrified. But, I did wonder what kind of morals she must have passed on to her married daughter.
For those who think that physical abuse of women happens only among the very rich or the very poor, according to United Nation Population Fund Report, around two-third of married Indian women are victims of domestic violence and as many as 70 percent of married women in India between the age of 15 and 49 are victims of beating, rape or forced sex. We all have heard of honor killings and dowry deaths, haven’t we? If so many women are suffering, definitely the educated, independent and well-healed among us are tolerating abuse as well. This is really worrying.
We definitely need a huge mindset change in this country, a shifting of blame from the woman to the perpetrator, deep condemnation of the action, family and societal support for the victim. This tribal culture needs to change. The solution is not in sending the hapless victim back to the abuser in the name of maintaining family name and honor. Who is to guarantee what the next fit of rage will bring forth? At the very least, advise counseling and definitely punishment for the abuser.
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