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Beaten by the system

A majority of Indian men believe that domestic violence is all right. This is a slap in the face for women's rights.

opinion Updated: Nov 11, 2014 23:57 IST
Hindustan Times
India,women,domestic violence

Hell is a place called home for millions of Indian women who face domestic violence at the hands of their partners or husbands.

This has been borne out by a recent study released by the United Nations Population Fund and the Washington-based International Centre for Research on Women which reveals that six out of 10 men in India have acted violently against their wives or partners at some point of time.

Those facing economic deprivation are more likely to perpetrate violence against women. Worse, the idea of domestic violence is so ingrained that one in two men believes that a woman must endure domestic violence to keep her family together.

That women are not safe at home despite being legally protected under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act clearly suggests that we have failed women as a society.

Domestic violence is a serious problem around the world but in India discrimination and violence against women start even before birth.

From blithe acceptance that domestic violence is a 'family' or 'private matter' and the marriage must saved just for the sake of it to blaming catalysts like alcohol, our cultural attitudes and the system are weighted against women.

Why domestic violence is called 'the most pervasive yet least recognised human rights abuse in the world' is clear from a Karnataka high court judge's callous observation during a hearing in a domestic violence case that "it was all right for a husband to beat up his wife as long he was taking good care of her".

One cannot emphasise enough the need to change society's mindset towards women and their rights, but there's an urgent need to put in place a zero tolerance policy towards domestic violence.

The change should start from our police stations, which are the first port of call when a person is in peril.

For a woman, it takes a lot of courage to report violence to the police. And if the police do not take action, she's is forced to return to the house where she co-habits with the abuser. And our judges should not let their patriarchal and moralistic personal beliefs cloud their judgment.

Domestic violence hinders not just gender equality but also denies a woman the dignity she deserves.

To continue to tolerate this abuse is a slap in the face of civilised society, not just of women.

First Published: Nov 11, 2014 23:48 IST