Not a ‘private matter’

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By Rahul Thekdi

An abundant amount of written content, a robust set of laws and several promising media campaigns have all been unable to combat the problem of domestic violence at its root cause. Mostly shrugged off as a ‘private matter’ by men, the victims who in most cases are women, are yet to speak openly about the ill treatment faced by them behind closed doors.

The social evil, which affects both rich and poor equally, has denied many women the basic human values of respect and freedom of individuality thus restricting them to caged framework of conduct laid out by the society. Not only do these women succumb to physical injuries but also face long lasting negative impact on their mental health as a direct consequence of the abuse.

Women who are victims of domestic violence are more vulnerable to depression and anxiety among other psychological consequences. Domestic violence is also associated with a thread of fatal consequences such as chronic pain disorder, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, unwanted pregnancy, miscarriage, complications during pregnancy which may also lead to substance abuse and suicide.

There have been relatively very few studies in India throwing light on the men’s perceptions as to why they inflict violence on their spouses. In this backdrop, to engage men in bringing a positive change in their behavior towards nonviolence, a study conducted by SNEHA in which it interviewed 13 male participants revealed that primary cause of violence lies in the notion of male superiority and authority over his spouse’s conduct. The deeply ingrained patriarchal social system is to be blamed; it creates a permissive environment for spousal abuse.

In order to sooth the male ego, any act of disobedience or mistake by the woman, form the basis of his right to use force in order maintain his dominance within his marriage.

Another very important parameter is societal pressure, which causes instances of abuse by men so as to keep intact their image in the society. Men justify these acts by simply labeling it as social norm and any act of outsider’s/natal family’s intervention or contact with the police is considered as a threat to the marriage.

The study found out that a section of these men who accepted the blame cited stress and frustration as the primary reason to resort to violence. In fact, according to the study, men who undergo stress are more likely to be abusive than those who do not undergo stress. Stress is caused mainly due to economic hardships, difficulty of coping with urban lifestyle and lack of personal space. The study found that men hesitate to share any of these stressors with their friends or family for fear of being labeled ‘weak’.

The need for the hour is to break the societal barriers and create an environment for men to openly discuss their problems. Counseling these men to help stop the violent behavior and build a nature of acceptance rather than denial is the key. This could only be done through opening up and letting the partners share their feelings and as an intervention, provide a helping hand through effective communication, self-control, anger and stress management workshops.

Simply labeling the men as violent partners is not the answer to solve the problem; an intervention is required to bring about an effective communication model and to provide them a platform to voice their concerns which will in turn help change their outlook towards domestic violence.

What needs to be understood are the reasons for the aggressive nature and their source of frustration in order to deconstruct their existing concept of masculinity.

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