The Culture of Silence that Breeds Intimate Partner Violence

In India, certain issues are shrouded in the garb of ‘maintaining’ the cultural norm; one that silences decades of violence against women and ensures it stays within closed doors. The dominant patriarchal narrative in the country provides open ground for predators to carry out acts of physical, psychological and sexual abuse with judicial leniency.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)  is one such form of psychological, physical and sexual violence against women by current or former intimate partners that is often underreported due to the backlash for speaking up against this injustice.

What is Intimate Partner Violence?

IPV can take many forms including acts of physical violence such as beating and hitting, sexual violence with forced intercourse or other forms of sexual coercion, and emotional abuse with threats of harm[1]. Abusive partners exhibit coercive control by curbing access to finances, legal and health care and may further isolate a woman from her support network. IPV is a long-term public health issue with severe mental and physical health consequences for the victims and survivors.

domestic violence

Why Should We Care?

In a culture where young girls and women are lauded for silently bearing violence and abuse from intimate partners, do we pay adequate attention to the gross injustice and human rights violations that occur from abuse? Is it a man’s right to demand sexual intercourse from an unwilling partner or to silence her for her ‘undesirable’ behavior? Victims and survivors of IPV can experience physical injuries, functional disorders, mental health issues including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol and drug abuse and abuse during pregnancy with miscarriages and fetal injury. IPV is linked with homicide and suicide rates and is known to have a negative outcome for children of victims and survivors. This brings us to the next question: Have we created an environment for women to speak about the issue?

Why Don’t Women Speak Up?

While movements on online platforms are gearing momentum, has there been effective change on the ground? Today, we are still debating whether marital rape should be criminalized in the country with petty justifications to ‘protect’ culture and religion and evading the fact that such weak legal protection mechanisms expose women to abuse.

When women speak up, their statements are mere toys to promote political propaganda or considered as whims that can be silenced with time and power.

Let us ask ourselves whether movements are creating real change? Are they calling on us to change the way our institutions operate and strengthening our reporting mechanisms or are they a momentary distraction before we continue to revictimize survivors that speak up at home, in police stations and courts, or even on the internet? When will women and young girls stop being stigmatized for talking about and coming out of situations of abuse and speak without the fear of retaliation and social ostracisation?

In a country where women and young girls are exposed to extreme vulnerabilities due to poverty, lack of educational and financial access, or simply a lack of knowledge of their civil rights, it is not a man’s or woman’s personal right to discipline the other and neither should any deflection be protected on legal grounds.

[1] WHO- Understanding and addressing violence against women

By Satvika Khera 

Satvika Khera is a human rights researcher and activist based in India. She has previously worked in the prevention of human trafficking with organizations in Thailand and India.

satvikakhera2016@u.northwestern.edu


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