Domestic Abuse in India

Domestic Violence during quarantine. silhouette of Male fist over scared woman through house keyhole

By Manya Dhupar

India, especially is a country wherein domestic violence and abuse is largely prevalent. Reasons for this include, the staunch system of patriarchy in the country, which has created an environment propagating the oppression of women and superiority of men. This mentality is expressed through behaviours such as these, wherein control and superiority is asserted over the ‘weaker’ sections of society. This form of oppression is especially seen amongst the lower stratas of society in India. This is because as one moves lower down in the ranks of society, it can be found that historically oppressive practices against women becomes increasingly apparent. Lack of female education, child marriage, denial of inheritance, lack of income earning opportunities, resentment toward the girl child and other such social issues make escaping such a situation especially difficult.

Domestic violence/abuse can be described as the physical or emotional abuse inflicted upon a person in relationship in an effort to control the victim. Partners in an abusive relationship may or may not be married and can be of any sexuality (heterosexual, gay, lesbian, etc.)

Victims of Domestic Abuse may be of any age, sex, race, culture, religion, education, employment or marital status. Although both men and women can be abused, most victims are women. Children in homes where there is domestic violence are more likely to be abused and/or neglected. Most children in these homes know about the violence. Even if a child is not physically harmed, they may have emotional and behavioural problems.

Some examples of abuse include:

  • ▪  name-calling or putdowns
  • ▪  keeping a partner from contacting their family or friends
  • ▪  withholding money
  • ▪  stopping a partner from getting or keeping a job
  • ▪  actual or threatened physical harm
  • ▪  sexual assault
  • ▪  stalking
  • ▪  intimidation

Statistics of Domestic Violence in India

Statistical data used here was taken from surveys conducted by the National Family Health Survey (NHFS-4) released and by the Union health ministry. The survey indicated that every third woman, from the age of 15, has experienced domestic violence in some form or another India. Statistical findings from the survey are as follows:

  • 27% of women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 in India. This is more common in rural areas than in urban areas. Physical Domestic abuse cases reported in urban areas: 29%. Physical Domestic abuse cases reported in rural areas: 23%
  • Most of the times perpetrators of of domestic violence are husbands. 31% of married women have experienced physical, emotional or sexual violence by spouses- Most common type spousal violence: Physical Violence (27%) – Followed by: Emotional Violence (13%)

– 83% of married women reported that their husbands were present as

perpetrators of violence.

  • For unmarried women, physical violence can stem from common andknown perpetrators: mothers or step-mothers (56%), fathers or step-fathers (33%), sisters or brothers (27%), and teachers (15%)
  • Perhaps the most unnerving aspect of the domestic violence researchfindings indicate that of almost every third married woman experiencingdomestic violence, only 14% have reported it.
  • Another shocking finding of the survey was that of women beingsupporters of domestic violence in India. The most supportive women were from the age bracket of 40-49 (54.8%). Younger girls between ages of 15-19 were only marginally less in agreement with domestic violence (47.7%). Differences in agreement with domestic violence also lie between women from rural (54.8%) and urban (46.8%) areas.
  • As quoted from the survey: “Sexual violence is most often committed byindividuals with whom women have an intimate relationship. Physical violence and sexual violence may not occur in isolation; rather, women may experience a combination of different types of violence”. The report highlighted that most common perpetrators of sexual violence on unmarried women were other relatives (27%), followed by a current or former boyfriend (18%), their own friend or acquaintance (17%) and a family friend (11%).
  • The UN Global Database for women in India indicate following statistics:
    -Lifetime Physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence: 29 %
    -Physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence in the last 12 months: 22%
    – Child Marriage: 27%

Causes of Domestic Violence

Most domestic violence cases have one common underlying factor, which is that the abusers want to exert complete control and superiority over their victims. The causes for this may be due to both internal and external factors. However it is important to note that such behaviour is learnt and is a choice, and not an innate behaviour. The causes for domestic abuse are explored below:

Psychological Factors:

1. Studies suggest that violent behaviour often may be caused by an interaction of situational and individual factors. This means that abusers learn violent behaviour from their surroundings- family, people in their community and other cultural influences as they grow up. They may have been witness to violence or experienced it firsthand. Some abusers acknowledge growing up having been abused as a child.

Children who witness or are the victims of violence may learn to believe that violence is a reasonable way to resolve conflict between people. Boys who learn that women are not to be valued or respected and who see violence directed against women are more likely to abuse women when they grow up. Girls who witness domestic violence in their families of origin are more likely to be victimised by their own husbands. Although women are most often the victim of domestic violence, the gender roles can and are reversed sometimes.

2. Abusers may feel a need to control their partner as a result of low self- esteem, extreme jealousy, difficulties in regulating anger and other strong emotions, or when they feel inferior to the other partner in education and socioeconomic background.

3. Alcohol and drugs may contribute to violent behaviour. A drunk or high person will be less likely to control his or her violent impulses toward their partners.
4. Common triggers for domestic violence include but are not limited to: Disagreement with their intimate partner, long periods of unemployment, financial issues, desperation when partner threatens to leave, anger escalation, humiliation stemming from problems at work or other perceived failures, jealousy and envy

Social Factors:

  1. Gender Role Identity: Limited definitions of what is considered as appropriate masculine behaviour glorify attitudes of aggression, violence and dominance. Thus creating ideas of superiority and control which abusers feel the need to assert through abuse.
  2. Family: Families may enforce through upbringing messages that are supposed to have the power and control over household and intimate relation decisions.
  3. Media: Portrayal of women as objects and sex symbols, glorification of violence, coerced and non consensual sex through the media, numb the consciences of abusers as well as drastically influence their behaviour.
  4. Peer group: Social pressure to conform to a limited definition of masculinity, which centres on devaluing women.
  5. Sports; Competition, aggression, and dominance are qualities that are praised and respected in sports. In addition, players and teammates that demonstrate sexist and/or abusive behaviour are not held accountable.
  6. Ideas of Impunity – Many perpetrators do not face any negative repercussions for their sexist attitudes and abusive behaviours. If they are challenged, their excuses are accepted (e.g. blaming the behaviour on alcohol use, stress, or being provoked by the victim)

Causes of Domestic Abuse in an Indian Context:

Professor Naila Kabeer studied the attitudes of Indian Society on domestic violence through a lens of ‘relational vulnerability.’ In her paper she studies how women’s relational vulnerability is a reflection of her subordinate status within hierarchical gender relations in society. In countries like India women are seen as liabilities and are recognised socially as someone’s :
• Daughter
• Wife

• Mother
• Sister
Thus, dependencies and nature of relationships is a result of identification itself. By not having identities of their own, women are simply identified by their associations and/or in subordination to their male counterparts.

Next she analyses the question of “Where do women face violence the most?”
Her study observes that men mostly face violence in public sphere and that too in street fights, brawls, riots, homicides and other forms of violence, largely at the hands of casual acquaintances and sometimes complete strangers. Women, on the other hand mostly face violence in the private sphere (e.g. domestic violence, marital rape), within their families and at the hands of intimate partners or relatives of their partners. Violence against women is found mostly in their private sphere, stemming from the very relations that tend to define her identity.

Psychological Effects of Domestic Violence

The effects of Domestic Violence go well beyond the physical injury of it victims. Victims of domestic violence are also subjected social and mental abuse, leaving them feeling alone, worthless,broken and ashamed. Such violence also leaves a lasting impact on children born into violent homes. Victims tend to be made isolated from friends, work, family or any form of social support, as a method for the abuser to maintain control of the victims life. Abuse victims are robbed of their own lives and controlled by fear. Their lives lie sole in the whims of they abusers. Victims find it difficult to function in their daily lives. A common result of domestic abuse is unemployment, thus furthering the victims’ incapability of escaping the situation. Their feelings of shame, low self worth, and view that they are unworthy of love also diminish their will to seek help and social support.

Child abuse and domestic abuse are usually found hand in hand. Studies show that 50-70% that frequently assault their wives also tend to abuse their children. Domestic violence may result in physical injury, psychological harm or neglect of children. There is a definite relationship between family violence and juvenile delinquency. These children have a six times greater chance of committing suicide, 24 percent greater chance committing sexual assault crimes and a 50 percent greater likelihood of abusing drugs and alcohol. They may even grow up to be violent themselves. Are prone to anxiety and depression, may harm themselves (eg: cutting), have poor social skills or even develop eating disorders.
Some other common longterm effects of domestic abuse include: anxiety, death, dissociative states, drug and alcohol dependence, eating disorders, emotional “over-reactions” to stimuli, general emotional numbing, malnutrition, panic attacks, poor adherence to medical recommendations, poverty, self neglect, sexual dysfunction, strained family relationships, suicide attempts, an inability to adequately respond to the needs of their children

Legislations and Remedial Measures Against Domestic Violence

  1. In 1983, domestic violence was recognised as a specific criminal offence by the introduction of section 498-A into the Indian Penal Code. This section deals with cruelty by a husband or his family towards a married woman.
  2. The Government of India passed a Domestic Violence Bill, 2001, “To protect the rights of women who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”
  3. In addition, An act called Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 [ DVA, 2005 ] also has been passed”. This Act ensures the reporting of cases of domestic violence against women to a ‘Protection Officer’ who then prepares a Domestic Incident Report to the Magistrate “and forward copies thereof to the police officer in charge of the police station within the local limits of jurisdiction.
  4. Education makes a Difference.he main distinguishing factor in acceptance of domestic violence is education, much more than income, or even age. The report stated that experience of domestic violence, including physical and sexual violence decreases sharply with schooling and education. By schooling, the percentage of women who report physical violence declined from 38 per cent among women with no schooling to 16 per cent among women with 12 or more years of formal education.
  5. Similarly, experience of sexual violence decreases sharply with schooling from eight per cent among women with no schooling to three per cent among women with 12 or more years of schooling.


Thus in conclusion, it becomes increasingly apparent that domestic violence is a huge and unfortunate problem that is rampant not only in India but around the world. Though it is a problem that does occur amongst both men and women, women who are more commonly victims. The issue is not limited to a single sexuality, sex, race, or culture but rather it is a universal problem and should carry the same weight amongst victims belonging to any class or section of society. Social awareness and education is important. In addition, independence of women must be practised and protected as a virtue of society. Equality should replace the patriarchal structure of society, thereby giving way to broad and individual identities. Eliminating feelings of superiority and control of one section of society over another is also important. Women and children must be informed of their rights and protections in order to avoid being trapped in a cycle of torment. Easy and quality access for domestic abuse victims must be kept available. Respect for all genders and sections of societies must become a moral code across the society.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Collective Consciousness in any way.

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