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Dec 2, 2014

Let’s Help End Domestic Violence!

Gina Dias

Posted Dec 2, 2014 by Gina Dias

So now that we’ve begun talking about domestic violence and breaking the silence around it, we are faced with another, presumably larger challenge. How do we end domestic violence? In a previous post, I touched upon the importance of extending support to those facing violence. Here, I would like to discuss the structural and systemic issues that we need to tackle in order to end violence against women and girls.

Let’s start by acknowledging the complexity of the issue. The perpetrators of domestic violence are not merely criminals. They are often those we know and love- our friends, partners, brothers, fathers, relatives, and colleagues- who have been socialized and conditioned into believing that it is acceptable to be violent towards women and girls. Similarly, the women and girls experiencing violence on a daily basis are all around us. They have to be, considering that more than one in three married women in India face domestic violence![1]

It is important not to distance ourselves from the pervasiveness of an issue that cuts across all socio-economic boundaries- this is something that happens to women and girls of all ages, castes, income groups, education levels, religions, and communities. The sooner we learn to accept that this is something that could happen (or is happening) to anyone of us, the easier it will be to fight and put an end to it. Additionally, each survivor’s circumstances and experiences are different, and patriarchy is so deeply entrenched in us all, that there can no blanket or quick-fix solutions to end violence against women.

While acknowledging the complexity of the issue, we also need to acknowledge that there are some basic systems and processes that need to be in place if we are to put an end to domestic violence. A progressive law, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) 2006, can only make a difference if it is backed by real political commitment and adequate resources. Oxfam India, together with other civil society organizations, has been calling for an increase in the budget allocations under the Act as well as the release of funds on time along with a clear specified purpose.

We need dedicated, competent, and sensitized personnel such as protection officers, police, judges, lawyers, healthcare professionals, and other service providers who are backed by adequate resources and infrastructure to be able to effectively implement the law. We also need convergence and coordination amongst different departments and ministries at the State and Centre, and time-bound processes for grievance redress and effective justice delivery, to ensure that a woman can easily get help at the time she needs it most. Let us continue to put pressure on our government to genuinely commit to ending violence against women and girls, and deliver on their promises instead of merely paying lip service to the issue.

Along with extending support to those experiencing domestic violence and calling for government action, we also need to address the structural causes of violence by increasing our focus on its prevention. We need to ensure that the youngest are able to understand and deal with what is happening around them. Any child who has been exposed to violence should have a support structure to be able to receive help at the right time.

It is disturbing that more than 72% of women and 68% of men believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife for reasons such as going out without informing him, neglecting the house or children, refusing to have sexual intercourse, not cooking food properly, disrespecting her in-laws, and under suspicion of being unfaithful.[2] To challenge this social conditioning, we need to create programs in schools and communities to equip young boys and girls with healthy relationship tools.

Let’s talk to our children openly about gender inequality and violence against women and girls. Let’s set an example for them and intervene in a situation of violence that we know of or are witness to. Let us not reduce gender-based violence to a ‘women’s issue’, but instead make a conscious effort to draw more boys and men into our struggles. Let’s keep the home a safe, secure, comforting, and happy place by ending domestic violence against women and girls for good!

The author is with programmes and advocacy, Oxfam India

[1] National Family Health Survey (NHFS), 2005

[2] Oxfam India, IPAP Program Baseline Survey Report, 2010. Covers 3200 men and women across the states of Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh

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