Telangana: To get women to speak up, act now

They fear fallout after reporting about abusive husbands.

Hyderabad: Domestic violence is still prevalent all over the country, says the National Family Health Survey (NFHS). Statistics show that about 45 per cent of women in Telangana aged between 15 and 49 years have experienced physical or sexual violence. But, a mere 2 per cent seek the help of the law or even think of approaching the police.

The survey paints a dismal picture where women welfare officials say that despite extensive awareness campaigns, it is difficult to get women to speak up about domestic violence for fear of embarrassment among peers.

Padmavati P, in-charge of a hospital for women, said, “The number of women who come in with bruises on their faces yet covering up for their husbands by saying it was an accident is alarming. It is still a harsh reality, which becomes even more shocking when these women say that they will not complain against their husbands because it is a matter of family pride.”

Ms Padmavati said that women continue to harbour fear of society because currently we are focussing only on reporting of complaints, when the need is to focus on how the complaint will be processed. “Some women are scared that a complaint will lead to more violence at home. They must be made to realise that beating them is a crime and their husband will be behind the bars for that.”

Activists also say that physical violence takes a toll on the mental state of the spouse which prevents them from complaining. R. Venkat Reddy, national convener of MV Foundation, said, “More often than not, the bride is also subjected to mental violence, which means she is not allowed to feel bold enough to complain against her husband. The fear of not being accepted back in her household if she leaves her husband is also real. The state has to create a conducive environment for these women to put forth their grievances.”

Experts say that the gender attitudes in Telangana also portray a grim scenario. Some 84 percent women and 75 percent men think that it is justifiable for husbands to beat their wives. “Our awareness campaigns aim at ending spousal violence. According to our reports, even women who are employed or well-educated do not find anything wrong with being beaten by their husbands. Such a thought should be rectified and it should be seen as a criminal act and nothing less,” said an official from the Telangana State Women’s Commission.

Alcohol still the major cause of domestic violence

The NFHS report also states that while the lack of education is one of the causes of domestic violence, the history of domestic violence in families cannot be ignored. Alcohol continues to be leading cause of domestic violence as victims in over 70 per cent of the cases have said that their spouse was drunk at the time of the assault.

Police officials say that counselling is held for men but many turn back to alcohol after a period. “Alcohol plays a major role in domestic violence, and during our surveys we noticed that labourers who work long hours and whose work takes a toll on their body turn to alcohol. Although intoxication cannot be the sole reason for domestic violence, a lot of women tend to forgive their husbands saying that they were under the influence of it. This wrong,” said R. Venkat Reddy.

Varsha Bhargavi, member of the State Women’s Commission said, “Domestic violence cuts across caste, community, literacy and even economic status. The government is yet to correctly define domestic violence. It is not just about spouse beating you, but public humiliation, denying the spouse nutritional food, making them dependent on you are all different types of violence. We are trying hard to segregate each element and ensure that it is punishable.”

Many victims have continued to fight for divorce without the laws being very rational. Victims complain of never-ending court proceedings and their spouse walking away scot-free due to loopholes in the law. Officials also said that they will try to see that single women, who are often denied apartments in the city, get accommodation. “How can we expect women to walk out of an abusive marriage if the society does not accept them?” said Varsha.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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