The Battered Half
Condoning domestic violence is also a form of abuse
A couple of years ago, I directed a stage play about two affluent urban couples, one married and the other courting. The courting couple has a highly tempestuous relationship and in one disturbing scene, the man strikes the woman in anger. This financially independent, single woman is then confronted with a dilemma to either stay or walk out. The play ends with her eventually electing to make a go of the relationship, forgiving the man this one act of physical violence.
A few weeks later, at a dinner party, I met a highly successful industrialist, who had recently remarried. He introduced me as the director of this play to his lovely and sophisticated wife. I was taken aback when she launched a vitriolic attack on not only the production but also on me, personally, for having been a part of it. Her husband took me aside and tried to apologise for her tirade, explaining she had been a victim of domestic abuse in her previous marriage.
Jolted out of complacency, I decided to learn more about this malaise, which exists in every strata of society.
I started by getting involved with the Bell Bajao campaign (www.bellbajao.org) initiated by Mallika Dutta at Breakthrough, an organisation that has done remarkable work in not only creating awareness on domestic abuse but also giving hope to millions of battered women across India.
Most of us have heard of maidservants who are beaten regularly by their alcoholic husbands. Emasculated cowards, who are frustrated at their own inability to hold a job and resentful of the fact that a woman has become the family breadwinner.
What is now becoming well known but is still not so openly discussed, is the domestic abuse perpetrated on and tolerated by a large number of educated, affluent women.
Domestic abuse goes beyond just physical violence and also includes sexual, psychological, verbal or financial violation of a spouse or partner.
Statistics compiled by Bell Bajao reveal that 45 per cent of Indian women have suffered at least one incident of physical or psychological violence in their lifetime, which indicates just how widespread this problem is.
A staggering 55 per cent of women in our country think spousal abuse is warranted as they are conditioned to accept domestic violence as an intrinsic part of married life.
What we need to understand is that domestic violence is not just a woman’s issue. In order to effectively counter this problem, both sexes have to work in tandem to change cultural norms.
It is vital for each one of us to not only provide every kind of support to the victims but also to hold abusers accountable by outing them in society, shaming them and reporting them to the authorities.
It is high time we realised that condoning an act of domestic violence is also a form of abuse. And by that definition, we are all complicit in this crime.
Fahad Samar is a filmmaker, inveterate traveller and intrepid chronicler of society