Anshu Singh for BeyondHeadlines
This 8th March brought forth the tokenism of the women’s day in my everyday life. While receiving texts and calls from male and female colleagues I faced a suicidal mother telling her daughter that if she (the daughter) does not marry and stopped going out any place other than her college then she will slit her wrists. They fought, cried and made peace with the fact that there is not much that women’s movement has done for the everyday life of women in urban Delhi. The questions of security that dominates this kind of discussion at home have stretched their arms as a form of everyday domestic violence that is perpetuated by everyone who claims authority over a woman’s life. This is physical, mental, emotional torture that young women face regularly in their homes in the name of security.
Domestic violence is mundane, an everyday of life where you gasp for air but get nothing except for rotten smell of eggs-every time. For long domestic violence is associated with married woman but let your conscience tell you if this is even half a truth. Have you not seen other women and young children in your family going through domestic violence every day? Their abuse is normalized by calling it care or affection that can only be expressed by walking all over their self esteem and freedom.
Imagine getting up to the voices of shouting and fighting every morning, your alarm since you started recognizing voices. The commotion however is not random but very personal, you are not listening to an unrecognizable sub-text but about how you talked yesterday that was wrong or walked past somebody three weeks ago that was disrespectful. Not just you, the fight goes on about how women ruin the life of men by being a part of it. About how great Ram was and Buddha was because they shunned the women in their lives, their greatness being a function of absence of women, and not being a proof of their cowardice or utter stupidity.
This article is about everyday of violence, because not every war is fought on the borders, not every martyr is a soldier, and not every sacrifice is compensated with a national flag. Violence is a way of life that women around me have accepted as the only way. Sitting in a car with her father, she just knows that the journey will not be punctuated by music or innocent stories but endless name calling because her father thinks the tea in the morning was tad too hot. It will not stop until her mother’s parents, brothers, friends, whole mother side of kin is not belittled by using every possible insult in the world. The fact that most of the abuses in Hindi language are about assaulting women in various ways make her sisters and mother more prone to this endless bashing in comparison to the male relatives. But we accept that, it is okay to abuse relatives of a woman, especially female relatives, so why to draw a line there?
Taking a leaf from the great Gods, the everyday of this domestic violence rests on the ultimate weapon- renunciation. Everyday this abusive man takes shelter in the shadows of the giants- he deny the existence of wife and daughter- the woman, their children, the world and the marriage. Terms like ‘your children or you have made me look bad’ and that ‘I have nothing to do with you or this marriage or you or your children’ are so common in our lives that most of us do not even recognize if it is happening at all. It does happen, every day in so many households, while our mother accepts it as their fate trying not to leave the household to save the family. They get their satisfaction by not leaving, while the abuser- though not brave enough to leave-knows that he can always get his way by hanging this sheath over everyone’s heads. The mother then not becomes a sacrificial lamb but a perpetuator of the everyday violence to her children.
The everyday of violence is a series of dialogues from rotten old Bollywood movies where the male protagonist blackmails, stalks, threatens and still become a hero of the movie. The Ashok Kumar of Gumrah, Pradeep Kumar of Bahu Begum and the likes. In the movies Udaan the protagonist moves out of the violent household, taking his half brother with him. Imagine if he was not able to do so, what a life is for all those who are not able to find any respite from everyday trauma. What if the child is a daughter what kind of violence she will face? The daughters and sons every day listen to the abuses that the man of the house lay on the women which then do the same to the children. By denying food, sleep, peace and freedom the children are moulded into the environment of domestic violence where blackmail and harassment are part of their growing up. Children of these violent households do not have any platform to express their long term multi-faceted harassment; they have no place to complaint.
The parents in these situations live in an illusion of being the only authority in the life of a child. They place themselves next to the God while taking up a natural job of raising and nurturing a child. The fact that the society and their personal expectations paint their natural instincts of standing up for their child is far removed from the minds of these parents. Forcing a child for good grades, lecturing girls about proper conduct and morals, cutting play time or peer groups to force the children to join karate class or music class are just few ‘assumed correct’ ways of parenting that take no account of the undemocratic nature of parenting.
A child suffers along with her mother or father in any act of violence, also they have their own Pandora box of every day violence that shapes their personalities. A physically beaten, emotionally tortured and mentally blackmailed child is the legacy of modern Indian nation that ignores the rights of young children and adults in the domestic set-up. Even after Criminal Amendment Act it is easy to see people ignore cries of woman coming from any home, imagine what happens when the neighbours hear howling of a daughter of a house or a young child or when they become a part of a social violence by pointing out the ways this child is not growing up correctly. Let us ask ourselves if we consider hitting or blackmailing a child a form of violence? What action can be taken against a parent who makes a daughter sit at home just because he or she can? Public shaming a child, is this a form of mental torture or an accepted way of parenting. Development psychologists believe that every action of shame and violence influence the personality development of children. In a culture that do not even question the form of violence we need to analyze the kind of adults we are producing by providing them environment punctuated by all forms of violence as justified ways of growing up.
(Author is Research Associate at Centre for Women’s Development Studies, Delhi.)