Patriarchal mindset silences abuse victims

A study carried out in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab and Haryana reveals shocking levels of intimate partner violence.

Of the men surveyed for the study, 60 per cent admitted to inflicting violence on their wife/ partner, with this figure soaring to 75 per cent in Odisha and UP.

Around 52 per cent of women respondents reported suffering some form of physical, emotional or sexual violence in their lifetime.

This included being punched, kicked, chocked and burned.

In addition to providing insights into the prevalence of domestic violence, the study shows that violent patriarchal values are deeply entrenched in the mindsets of both men and women.

Consider this: 51 per cent of males and 57 per cent of females surveyed believe that a woman should tolerate domestic violence to keep the family together.

Worse, the idea equating masculinity with being tough, even violent, is shared by 93 per cent of men and 85 per cent of women respondents.

A significant majority of women surveyed were of the view that women who disobeyed their husbands deserved punishment.

India has depended on legislation to tackle gender violence. Strong laws have been put in place in recent years to prevent and punish domestic violence.

The wide prevalence of domestic violence indicates that this approach has failed by and large.

Besides poor implementation and lack of awareness of the laws, our reluctance to dismantle patriarchal mindsets is responsible for domestic violence persisting in India.

These mindsets are preventing women victims of abuse from speaking up against the horrific violence they suffer.

We teach girl children to be submissive and boys to be tough. Gentleness is not encouraged in a boy, just as assertiveness is punished when displayed by a girl.

It is this assigning of gender roles and values during childhood that is displayed in what society considers gender appropriate behaviour during adulthood.

To appear manly, men seek to control ‘their’ women – whether wives, daughters, sisters or mothers – by restricting their choices, decision-making, dressing and movement, often enforcing these violently.

This equating of manliness with control and violence, and femininity with submission to such violence, must be broken.

Children need to be taught that real men don’t beat up women (or men).

Such teaching must be done early in the life of a child when his/her identity is being formed.

School curriculums should encourage discussions on gender violence, and teachers need to be trained to guide such conversations with maturity and sensitivity.

We must find imaginative and effective ways to convey these messages.

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