Domestic Violence in the 21st century
Forms, Causes, Effects and Remedies
Domestic violence with its different forms has been a sort of ritual across the world. Throughout history, woman was seen as inferior to man. She was domesticated, objectified and kept only for man’s sexual pleasure and bringing up babies. The purpose of her existence through systemic sexism was limited to doing tiring domestic chores, giving birth to babies and rearing them. With her basic rights as a human snatched, she was physically battered and mentally traumatized. It was, then, thanks to feminist struggle in the mid-20th century that helped woman achieve a status of a human being. A lot of basic rights starting from suffrage were then rendered to woman, and laws were enforced to curb suffering of, and violence on, woman.
Nonetheless, disappointing fact is, in most countries even today, in the 21st century, woman is confined into four walls of the house with a man of her father’s choice, suffering through varied syndromes, without financial independence, and her expression of will in decision-making. Although the world has manoeuvred its way into the acme of human rights preservation, domestic violence has unfortunately been continuing relentlessly, to take a heavy toll on the frailty of woman.
In the wake of Covid-19, domestic violence reportedly increased in the face of social isolation and economic stress of working from home. In Europe, within the first two weeks of lockdown, exponential number of call made to domestic violence help lines were reported.
Forms of Violence and their Effects on Women
Domestic violence is broadly categorized into three forms: Psychological, sexual and physical. Psychological violence encompasses a range of acts such as name-calling, insulting and blackmailing that affect woman mentally and emotionally. From issuing threats to forcibly isolating her, man uses different bad tactics to control and dominate woman. Many a man uses disinformation tactics, distorts facts and withholds information to inflict torture on woman. Additionally, use of children such as snatching away and physically attacking them, by man is often used as a tool to drive woman into doing what she doesn’t want to. Economic dependence on man is yet another problem for woman. Man wields control over resources, e.g. food, shelter, clothing, transportation and money, implying that woman is forced to remain in an abusive relationship.
Physical violence is a severe form of domestic violence that calls for urgent redress. Beating, kicking, hair-grabbing and acid-throwing which cause physical damage to human body come in this category. Women in our society where there is a lack of awareness as to what a sense of freedom and self-worth is are often subjected to such violence to extract something of man’s interest. Or on trifles, without giving second thought to a problem, men get serious and find peace in inflicting physical violence on their women. According to statistics reported by the United Nations, one in three women has experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in life. Acid Survivor Foundation Pakistan, a non-governmental organization, reported 73 cases of acid attacks in the year of 2016 in Pakistan, 52% decline from 2014 when 153 cases of the same nature were reported. Such gravest situation, in the country where effective monitoring system, legislation against the violence of woman and provision of facilities to the survivors are lacking, depicts where we stand in terms of protection of women and their rights.
Causes of Domestic Violence
One of the most underlying reasons of domestic violence is patriarchy. A plethora of studies suggest that patriarchal mindset of people has led them to inflicting mental torture on women just to restrain her freedom of expression and choice. Owing to patriarchal structure of our society and because of unequal distribution of power between man and woman, a lot of women have to endure discriminatory behaviour, abusive language and violent acts at home.
Wide disparity between man and woman’s education is another prominent cause of domestic violence. Since inflicting of violence by man reeks of his power over resources, woman’s inability to earn a handsome amount of money holds her back from speaking against the oppression. Should woman be educated, have ability to do a job, and share of capital in running families, she would be independent in decision-making ergo unscathed from man’s violent actions. Parents seldom invest in girl’s education because they think she won’t be able to make the most of her education as she will soon be married off. According to the Global Gender Gap Index Report 2020, Pakistan ranked 151 out of 153 countries, particularly 143 in educational attainment, by which the worst situation that can later fuel domestic violence can be understood. Snatching away the right of female to education has repercussion as she continues facing domestic abuse.
Another reason of domestic violence is financial and economic instability that runs deep through the impoverished population of Third World countries. Especially in the Islamic world, quagmires of unemployment, inflation and overpopulation are prevalent. Working of a woman outside her house is considered a ‘dishonour’ but money that a man earns after a day’s work are insufficient to meet the expenditures of a family. Although woman with her man compromises on many issues like shopping, hygienic food, fruit, etc, when she sees her children hungry, she can’t bear that and hence starts fighting with her partner. Pangs of hunger and lack of job opportunities create a sense of frustration and discomfort in her, leading to clashes that often end up in divorces. In Pakistan, domestic violence is predominantly the bane of inequality between income and expenditure.
Domestic violence in Pakistan has increased so much that is now considered a normal activity. If violence is culturally supported, it will fuel more violence and will become a norm and would be reinforced in the society. If we peep into the past to know how woman was domesticated and snatched off her rights, we find that during the agrarian period, she was considered only a child-bearing machine, an important asset used for bringing up babies, readying them to work in the fields. When there came no resistance from her, she was enclosed into four walls of the house. First, their freedom of action was curbed; their activities and roles reduced to bringing up babies and domestic engagements; then restrictions in lashings came upon women. Since then, albeit with the help of feminist struggle, a lot of improvement has been noticed in the condition of women. Similar restrictions in most areas, however, continue taking heavy toll on the women without social censure and backlash.
Witnessing or suffering violence also gives rise to domestic violence. In big nuclear families and densely-populated areas, male children are often involved in quarrels and bad activities. Being frustrated with them, their parents use harsh behaviour such as beating to control them. This causes a fateful effect on their behaviour in their married life. According to Nancy Choodrow, an imminent feminist and author of the ‘Reproduction of Mothering’, boys and girls learn their gender roles from infancy, as boys imitate their fathers having social power and dominance, and girls imitate their mothers being submissive and vulnerable to attacks. In similar vein, parents’ strategy to control their children’s behaviour through coercive measures results into their using oppressive behaviour; witnessing and suffering family violence turns out to be the bane of using violence. Through this vicious cycle, domestic violence becomes rampant.
Strategies to Eliminate Domestic Violence
Amidst a steep rise in domestic violence, most females are unable to get legal representation as it has become expensive and difficult; therefore, the perpetrators of domestic violence are no more fearful of going through the trial and being legally tried for the crime. In order to eliminate domestic abuse, every victim should have easy access to legal counsel to redress an injustice in case of divorce from unhealthy relationship. Legal counsels should be available for the victims on state expense. Domestic violence help lines, shelter homes and protection officers for legal, medical and social aid are supposed to be available at the victims’ earliest convenience, as they are at a premium in most of the developing countries like Pakistan. In this way, survivors of violence at the hands of their male partners can be encouraged to raise voice against and fight injustice done to them, and this crime can be reduced to low.
As in educational institutions, there is wide discrepancy regarding the gender roles; girls are taught and chosen for the roles that show their vulnerability and the roles boys are taught aim at their strength and dominance. Preference to boys over girls can result in dominating behaviour of boys, which then turns out to be the reason of domestic violence. If sense of gender equality is bred into students, it will create a sense of equality everywhere, man would give respect to woman, and woman in case of violence would be able to give a befitting response to man. Promotion of gender equality can give way to improvement in deteriorating conditions of woman, as is evident from urban areas.
Along with this, the factor that exacerbates the situation is the prevailing ignorance in the society. Man isn’t well switched on to woman rights, thus inflicting damage on her life seems to him a normal activity. Similarly, woman is not aware of her rights being snatched off by society. Had man been educated, he could have awareness concerning rights of woman. That a plenty of male partners don’t have realization of their woman’s sufferings and how merely an abusive, daunting remark can hurt her as she leaves her father’s luxurious home where she has everything available on demand, creates a problem in the society. If a boy is socialised about the ways he should behave with her woman, it can bring improvement in woman’s mental health and result in decline of domestic abuse cases. For this, onus lies on the incumbent government of that particular state, to introduce educational programs for man particularly, as they are perpetrators, in order that importance of woman as human beings can be induced in their minds and that woman is not only married for seeing to babies and doing tiring chores, confined into four walls of home with monotony and boredom.
One of the most prominent strategies to end domestic abuse is to formulate laws that put a ban on early marriages and premature pregnancies and that prevent men from wreaking violence at women. Early marriages of girls imply that they are susceptible to violence, and forcible, premature pregnancy is the leading cause of death of woman. Although such laws exist, implementation in true sense is missing; there is an urgent need for reforms. Once a woman after dealing with constraints becomes able to lodge a complaint against her man, she is unable to bring him behind bars due to legal and social constraints. In the first instance, she is not taken seriously, her problem considered as domestic issue is blown off. Later she is confronted with pursuing her case, for which she requires money to keep a legal counsel and time as our social justice system is in shambles. Moreover she is disparaged in the society for going against her man’s will. Such situation necessitates the laws being formulated to criminalise the domestic violence and show seriousness to the issue, setting heavy penalty in terms of imprisonment and fine for abusers.
Domestic violence has long been prevalent in the world; every part of it is full of cases of violence done to woman by her intimate partner. It is an ill practice to reduce woman to a mere object who they think doesn’t need a word of sympathy and has no feelings. Although awareness has reached in most urban areas, woman has realized that she is born equal to man in almost all respects, and that she is not only made to measure always up to man’s expectations, in exchange of financial support of man yet in rural areas, woman continues worrying about whether doing a particular act would make her male partner content.
At this critical situation, woman needs awareness of every kind of thing by which she can be exploited by her intimate partner. Once woman knows that she is being exploited, she should be helped in every way possible to help her escape mental trauma. In this way, man’s obsession to control and dominate woman’s behaviour and activities can be belittled and woman can have sense of freedom which implies a sign of being a human.