Last month, police in India arrested a 46-year-old man for reportedly murdering his wife due to an excess salt in his breakfast. Witnessing the assault, the couple’s 12-year-old son informed police that his father followed his mother, Nirmala, into the bedroom, yelling about salt, and began hitting her. In some other recent cases, a man was detained in Noida, a suburb of Delhi, in January for reportedly murdering his wife because she refused to serve him food. Another man was arrested in Uttar Pradesh in June 2021 after reportedly murdering his wife for not serving a salad with his lunch.
Gender-Based Violence statistics
Domestic abuse has continually been the most recorded violent crime against women in India year after year, mostly under the legal term “cruelty by husband or his relatives.” In 2020, the most recent year for which crime data is available, police received 112,292 complaints from women or nearly one every five minutes.
India is not the only country where such violence exists. According to the World Health Organization, one out of every three women in the world is subjected to gender-based violence, the majority of which is perpetrated by intimate partners. India’s figures are comparable.
Social Approval of Gender-Based Violence
The gender-based violence is difficult to combat mainly because of the sort-of acceptance it gets from society. The most recent results from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS5), the government’s most thorough household survey on Indian society, are eye-opening.
More than over 40% of women and 38% of men said it was OK for a man to beat his wife if she mistreated her in-laws, ignored her home or children, went out without notifying him, rejected sex, or didn’t cook adequately, according to government pollsters. More than 77 percent of women in four states justified hitting their wives.
More women than men justified wife beating in most states, and more women than men thought it was acceptable for a man to beat his wife if she didn’t cook correctly in every state except Karnataka.
Although the statistics have decreased since the previous poll five years ago, when 52 percent of women and 42 percent of men justified wife beating, the attitudes have not, according to Amita Pitre, who heads Oxfam India’s gender justice programme. According to her, patriarchy is at the foundation of violence against women, as well as its justification. Because women are regarded the inferior gender in India, there is widespread acceptance of gender-based violence. There are social expectations on how a woman should act, such that she should always be subordinate to the male, defer in decision-making, serve him, and earn less than him, among other things. And there is a low level of acceptance for the opposite. So, if a woman raises an objection, the husband is free to show her ‘her place.’
“Patriarchy enforces gender norms, and women internalise the same views, their beliefs get formed by the family and society,” she says, explaining why more women excuse wife abuse.
The need for change in Attitudes
Marriage is considered to be sacrosanct in India. The parents often tell their daughters from a young age, that a virtuous woman leave the fathers house in a palanquin and return in the funeral bier. Amid such pressure, the women suffering from abuse at their in-laws do not report and accept it as their fate. Even if they do, they often do not receive any support even from their families because of the stigma. In order to change this behaviour, it is important to empower the women, and educate them that they do not need to put up with such abuse, and that they deserve to feel safe and happy.
For information and support on domestic abuse, contact:
Police helpline: 1091/ 1291
The National Commission for Women’s WhatsApp helpline: 72177-35372
Helpline for Shakti Shalini, a Delhi-based NGO: 10920
Crisis helpline for Sneha, a Mumbai-based NGO: 98330-52684 / 91675-35765