Dr. Kavita Suri
Violence against women is not a new phenomenon. Women have to bear the brunt of domestic, physical as well as emotional and mental violence against them which affect their status in the society at the larger extent. The statistics of increasing crimes against women is shocking where women are subjected to violence attacks i.e. foeticide, infanticide, child marriages, bride burning, sexual abuse of girl child, forced marriages, rapes, prostitution, sexual harassment at home as well as work places, honour killings etc.
The term ‘Domestic Violence” is used to define the violence taking place within our homes which involves any family member including wife, husband, son, daughter, mother, father, grandparents etc. It can be a male’s or a female’s atrocities towards another male or a female. Anyone can be a victim and a victimizer. Domestic violence against women is a serious issue but domestic violence is directed at various other members in the family too. Domestic violence against men is also increasing gradually in India. Battering of men by their spouse and family members has become an issue. Children and teenagers in our society are not spared from the evil of domestic violence. Besides, the elders in the family are also not beyond domestic violence and have been subjected to violence by their relatives, mostly, sons, daughter-in-laws and daughters etc. These categories of domestic violence which are relatives less than the domestic violence against women largely go under-reported in India. Broadly ‘Domestic Violence’ is directed at a woman which endangers her health, safety, well being etc.
Different forms of domestic violence
Domestic violence has different forms including physical violence, sexual violence, emotional violence etc. When the perpetrator, mostly husband or in-laws push, slap, hit, shake, punch or throw something at the victim, it takes the shape of physical violence. It also includes twisted arm or pulled hair, punching the victim, kicking, dragging or beating up the victim, trying to choke or burn her, threatening her or attacked her with a weapon, holding, tying down or restraining the victim or strangling the victim
Sexual violence includes making the victim perform sexual acts against her will, pursing sexual activity when the victim cannot fully consent, such as being intoxicated or physically hurting the victim during sex. Emotional or psychological abuse includes threats of harm, physical and social isolation, extreme jealousy and possessiveness, deprivation of resources to meet basic needs, intimidation, degradation and humiliation, saying or doing something to humiliate her in front of others, threatening to hurt or harm her or someone close to her, insulting her to made her feel bad about herself, isolation from friends, family and society, punishments, name calling etc.
Problems faced by women due to domestic violence
Women who are victims of domestic violence face a number of issues some of which are even life-threatening. Some of the major issues faced by the women victims of domestic violence include fear, shame, stigma, lack of resources etc. They are ashamed of social stigma about a failed marriage and thus choose to continue being battered by their husbands than leaving then. Such women are also hopeful that their abusers will change one day and their own action will make the abuser realize his mistake and the violence will stop. Besides, these women lack resources as the abuser controls finances and most of the women are jobless and have no access to bank accounts or credit cards.
Women who have been the victims of domestic violence also think in terms of their children and their safety in the house as the batterer may threaten to abuse or kill children. Besides, if the victim leaves the abuser, she has the fear of losing the custody of her children. She can be charged with the failure to protect the children as she may not have resources to provide food, clothing, shelter, etc.
Global evidence suggest that the experience of partner violence, both physical and sexual, can have adverse short and longer term consequences for women’s health, including gynecological and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV-AIDS. Serious health problems due to domestic violence may include Injury (from lacerations to fractures and internal organs injury), unwanted pregnancy, STDs including HIV, miscarriage, Pelvic inflammatory disease, chronic pelvic pain, headaches, permanent disabilities, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, self-injurious behaviors (smoking, unprotected sex) etc. Mental health effects can include depression, fear, anxiety, low self-esteem, sexual dysfunction, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or post traumatic stress disorder. Fatal effects can include suicide, homicide, maternal mortality etc.
Domestic violence has lot of impact on the children also. The children may develop anxiety, temper tantrums, eating disorders, bed-wetting, stomach aches, sleeplessness, withdrawal, dissociation etc. There are instances of Juveniles being charged with murder for killing an abusive father, step-father or mother’s live-in boyfriend in an attempt to protect their mother. Abuse or neglect as a child increases the risk of arrest as a juvenile. Children who witness assaultive behavior are more likely to assault their siblings and parents, commit violent crimes, assault their own intimate partners and more likely to be hit themselves.
Domestic violence in Jammu and Kashmir
Domestic violence is increasing alarmingly in the Jammu and Kashmir especially in Kashmir Valley since past few years. Over 40 percent of women in Kashmir are physically or mentally abused by the husbands or by the in-laws. In most of the cases of domestic violence, the reasons are dowry, interference from in-laws, misunderstandings, giving birth to female babies etc. As per the official data released in 2015, as many as 2,009 cases have been registered and 4,157 persons have been booked during the past five years under provision of the Domestic Violence Act. The J&K State Commission for Women, which has been functioning to safeguard women under constitution and law in J&K receives 1600-1700 domestic violence cases every year. Domestic violence by in-laws is the most increasing cases under RPC that are being filed by victims before the Commission. Demand of dowry is one of the main reasons behind domestic violence by in-laws. There is also an alarming rate of females who commits suicide because of the harassment they faces by the in-laws. Few suicide cases by women were also reported in Kashmir and the reasons found were domestic violence. Though J&K has protective laws already established in the State for women but the laws are weak and have some loopholes.
Challenges to check domestic violence
There are many challenges to check domestic violence. A large proportion of women continue to justify wife beating. Women rarely seek help and when they do, they do so mainly from family members and not from institutions like police.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the Domestic Violence Act is in force. The J&K government notified it from July 12, 2011 but it has hit a roadblock. The J&K government does not have financial resources to make its implementation effective. The Law provides for appointment of the Protection Officers (PO) to ensure justice to the victims but government says it has no funds for creation of key positions under the law to make its implementation effective. Under the law framing up of rules and other requirements have been completed but the Act has not been implemented till date. Tragically, women who suffer such abuse have no legal recourse because the J&K’s Domestic Violence Act is virtually defunct. Due to the non-availability of Protection Officers, women from the rural areas of J&K hesitate to lodge complaint against domestic violence.
To check domestic violence, there is a need to create a coordinated community response. It can be in the form of a Community Task Force or developing community partners or involving the Faith Community.
There is a need for social change and need to address the root causes of violence against women. Educating and organizing community awareness programmes is must besides public-policy advocacy on the issue. The J&K government, through its Department of Social Welfare organizes workshops on Jammu and Kashmir Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act-2010 which aims at imparting training to Child Development Project Officers regarding protection of women from domestic violence. There is a need to broaden its sphere and it should target rural communities also. Women also need to be aware about their rights within marriage.
The women of J&K need to made aware about Domestic Violence Act both from Urban to Panchayat Level. Rural people can also be made aware using more creative and traditional methods like story-telling, short plays, Nukkad Nataks, folk theatre etc. Besides, the J&K government needs to take up this issue seriously and appoint protection officers under the Domestic Violence Act. But even this Act cannot be considered as a panacea for checking domestic violence as societal mindset requires a rational makeover.
(The author is working as Associate Professor, Department of Lifelong Learning, University of Jammu)
Dr. Kavita Suri