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Women’s birth families are no different from marital families when it comes to being violent towards its women – violence by fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers… is common enough!
Trigger alert: Graphic description of violence against women
The story of Cinderella, a Disney princess, goes like this: she’d be suffering at the hands of her family who’d verbally abuse her, lock her from the outside world, making her to all the chores, and abuse her emotionally to a point that her day would not end wishing that she’d live like a princess, free of all the abuse and cruelty.
Once we finish the fairy tale, coming home to reality, we’d realize that there’s not just one real life Cinderella, but countless Cinderellas actually surround us, wanting to leave their birth families just to escape the abuse. Why? If we look into the mirror, we might appear as a Cinderella as well. But many Cinderella’s are conditioned in a such a way that, they think that abuse and violence is justified.
The data from the NFHS 2015-16 survey shows a piece of data where 47.7% girls aged between 15 and 19 agreed that with violence by husbands is justified.
Who are these girls aged between 15 and 19? Aren’t they the daughters, sisters, of men? They don’t just see that their mothers are routinely abused by their fathers, but also are conditioned to believe that the violence is justified.
A woman learns from several different kinds of abuse such as verbal, financial, emotional, physical violence, etc. to give into the abuse, accept the abuse, and to live a life like she deserves all of it. Before even getting into a marriage or leaving their parents’ home, these Cinderellas are made to believe that domestic violence is okay.
The data also showed that 41.2% men supported abuse against women. Who are these 41.2% men to women? Aren’t they their husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, friends, acquaintances, and strangers?
The male members in a woman’s life are okay with being violent towards women. The brothers, fathers, uncles, etc., are okay with their women being abused and violated. When the victims and the perpetrators agree with the violence, it’s no wonder that we barely talk about the violence in birth homes.
When we hear the term domestic violence, our mind automatically registers the violence women face in marital relationships, giving less or no thought to the fact that women suffer at the hands of their birth families as well.
Of course 20,000 women in the age group between 15 and 39 committing suicide every year would raise an alarm in marital domestic violence, but the violence, abuse, and exploitation that happens in birth homes shouldn’t be ignored just because it’s not as visible as marital violence.
Just because it’s not spoken about, doesn’t mean there are no women/girls suffering domestic abuse in their birth homes. Some Cinderellas did not even live to tell their stories.
A father beat his daughters with hammer and set them on fire. “Out of frustration,” the police believe.
Another father, kills his daughter because his wife took “too long to cook mutton”.
A brother kept his sister in captivity for 2 years because she was “mentally ill”.
A father raped her daughter in the absence of his wife, while he was “drunk.”
These are just few instances of violence against women and girls in birth families. These are extreme cases of violence. This doesn’t mean these are the only cases of violence. Many women have to suffer in silence.
The fact that men rape, kill, abuse their own daughters, sisters for not preparing food in time, out of frustration, after consuming alcohol, etc. just go to show the privilege that these men have. They should be fed on time, kept entertained, not have anything to worry about, otherwise the women have only the privilege of having their names in the news, or suffer in the darkness, blind to our eyes.
“Break its branches to grow a drumstick tree and grow a female child by beating her”
An Indian a proverb which propagates the idea that an ideal women is grown only if she’s beaten while growing up. Physical violence, verbal abuse can create a negative impact on a person and with the culture that treats women like they’re made to serve men and justifies the violence, the meaning of violence is almost invisible to us unless a woman ends up as a corpse or seriously injured.
Are birth home really safe from violence and abuse for women and girls?
The term ‘father’ is so powerful because a traditional family is designed to revolve around him. Head of the family – as we’d see in several government documents and forms. We’d get excited to see a woman having a loving father, because a loving father is a rare sight to see for many women who are abused by their fathers. The strict father, usually meant that either the father would explode in an array of verbal abuse or would get physically violent. The mother’s and the family’s role would be consoling the daughter to bear the abuse, as their father is “doing it for their own good.”
The daughters are expected to dress modestly, come home before it’s dark because their father wouldn’t like it otherwise. The daughters are expected to marry the man their father points his finger at because he’d not have it otherwise. A daughter should not do this or that, because her father would not like it. Like, is the daughter going to commit a mass murder or rob a bank that her father would not like it? No. The daughter just wants to do simple things in life that will not harm anybody, but isn’t doing simple things as a woman is a sin in patriarchal society?
If these women don’t accept the verbal abuse, the threatening, the physical violence, the expectation to work like a machine, and decide to put up a fight, the men would raise their hand against them. Aren’t movies and soaps a testimony, and a subtle reflection of what abusive men are in real life? First will come the abuse, the violence, then will come the, “I’m doing it for your good” drama, and then again the abuse will take over, forming a vicious cycle of abuse that way too many women are used to.
Some brothers aren’t exceptions from being an abuser as well. Exploiting their sisters because of their gender, taking away their basic rights, as well as their childhood, including the right to education. The brothers can live freely, controlling their sisters with the help of patriarchy. Because many brothers can be heirs to their parents properties, including the father’s abuse. Even if some laws say men and women are equal, the patriarchy would say otherwise.
Take the woman who had to give away her share of a meal because her brother needs to eat more because he was a ‘male’. Also the woman who had to stop going to school, because her brother has to continue his higher studies. And also the woman who had work every day, from morning to dusk, even if she’s sick because it’s an abomination to let a man work in the house if there’s a living, breathing woman to do those works.
89% of girls are asked to do chores at home despite them being enrolled in a school. Why aren’t boys asked to do chores? Everyone can do chores but why just put burden on girls? Because a girl’s education is not as important as boys? Isn’t depriving a girl of education an abuse?
99% of sexual assault cases go unreported because of the stigma that’s associated with reporting the incident of sexual assault. 42% Indian girls face sexual violence before even entering their teenage years. So is birth home really safe for women as it’s believed to be?
Their life just doesn’t seem to get better by the day. Maybe it would get better too, if we start recognizing birth home domestic violence that happens in one’s own homes; where they live with their fathers, brothers and every other male member whom they’re supposed to be safe with, but in reality, are not. Are fairy tale princess the only ones deserving a happy lives and our fellow girls and women are not?
Image source: a still from the movie Secret Superstar
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Reads a lot on anthropology, political and economic theories.
Domestic Violence — Why Do Women Suffer In Silence?
Gender Violence: We need Collective Action
When It’s ‘Normal’ For A Wife To Endure Her Husband’s Violence For The Sanctity Of Marriage
Despair And Hope In The Times Of Domestic Violence In India
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