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Emotional abuse is often masked, and quite often the women do not even realise that they are victims of a traditional and patriarchal mindset.
A few days back, I read this article on Women’s Web,a really well written write up on this forum, where the author clearly put forth scenarios where domestic violence can exist without raising a finger but scar the victim’s mental strength.
This write up left me wondering about a scenario, where there is no physical or mental abuse involved. However, the victim does feel emotionally abused, because no one is really bothered about her. She is only needed to facilitate the smooth functioning of the household, but as an individual nobody in the house cares about her. Sounds shocking? Let me present a real life example.
Ragini is a woman in her 30’s, works with a corporate house and is a mother to a 7 year old. She stays in a joint family which includes her parents in law, her husband and son. When she mentions her in laws staying with them, she always gets envious glances about how lucky she is to have a support system at home. But only she knows the truth.
Her family being super ‘traditional’, she is expected to do all the household chores by herself, and hiring a maid or cook is considered a taboo. But this family in no way pitches in to help her.
Her mother in law strongly believes that men working in the house is demeaning for them, and her husband conveniently doesn’t want change this ridiculous belief of his mother. His excuse – why hurt my mom at this age?
Her in laws cannot or rather do not want to help because all this work is a lot of strain for them at this age. Even errands outside the house like paying utility bills or buying groceries have to be handled by her. Her husband claims to be already too occupied with his office work and cannot afford to waste time on all these household affairs.
As for the parenting responsibilities, the major share is on Ragini; again her husand’s excuse is that he is too busy with work commitments. Strangely, his wife’s work does not seem to be visible for him. After being stretched from every end, she dutifully hands over her salary every month to her husband. Her explanation – that’s how it’s at home and one person handling the finances keeps it organised. When she is told that she has a right over the money she earns, she is quick to reply, “he informs me where it is being spent, and anyways he never refuses me the money when I want.” Neither will she accept that her husband is being selfish. She claims he’s over worked, he does care for her, takes the family out, buys them gifts “what more can I ask?”
Shouldn’t Ragini’s case be considered one of domestic abuse? Where in the name of tradition, a woman is made to work like a dog. Her husband here may not be physically or even verbally abusive with her, but isn’t his behavior still abusive nevertheless? He conveniently ignores the fact that his wife has too much on her plate, he is just bothered about his needs being taken care of and his house functioning smoothly. Where is the partnership in the marriage or the support system he is expected to provide as a spouse? Depriving your partner of financial freedom, does that also not amount to abuse?
We all have come across a lot Raginis in our lives, and we are quick to dismiss their plight as a result of their indoctrinated submissiveness and the repercussions of a traditional joint family. Women like Ragini might seem submissive, but their excuse is “after a grueling day at least my mental peace is intact.” But are they mentally peaceful? If they were to look deeply in their heart, the answer definitely would be no. But women in such scenarios do not even want to risk soul searching.
Coming to second conclusion that we would normally arrive at in a scenario like Ragini’s: that her troubles are the result of a repressive joint family. Her plight wouldn’t have been any better if it was a nuclear family. Quite often I hear women in my apartment complex discuss about how, their husbands have to be served everything in hand, including their lunch boxes, which if not handed over to them would remain there on the dining table. These women would be shocked if somebody suggested distribution of household work to their husbands.
When the men are broached on this subject, they have just one answer “after a hard day at work, I can’t be coming back home and working, I need to relax.” But what about the poor wife, who seems to be running around all day, does she not need relaxing. These are people living in nuclear families, which might even appear modern on the surface.
The above scenarios clearly highlight just one aspect of the marriage, its inequality. Where one spouse is overburdened and somewhere bound by the shackles of a thought process where she alone feels answerable for the smooth functioning of their everyday lives. Then why should this not be considered an abuse by the spouse in a position of power who feels entitled to be served to?
Abuse need not be physical or verbal, treating your spouse as someone existing to just serve you, is according her an inferior status. This definitely should be termed abuse as marriage is a relationship of equals, which requires contribution from both partners.
Header image is a still from the movie English Vinglish
A dreamer by passion and an Advocate by profession. Mother to an ever energetic and
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