Is #MeToo Any Different For Homemakers? I’ve Been Fighting For Justice

Posted: January 21, 2019

As a married woman, I’ve faced domestic violence and stopped from having a career. I’m still looking for justice, which is elusive for homemakers. 

Memories of the abuse my mother faced when I was about 6 years old, still loom large in my mind. I became aware of what abuse was all about, yet unaware about how to deal with it, since my childhood.

Growing up in a house where my mother worked round the clock, tending to the family and being treated worse than an animal, I watched how she became silent with time. The illegitimate relations my father had got utmost support from everyone, and his actions were justified as he was the only well earning member of the family.

This was in the 1970’s.

For me, abuse and #MeToo started at a young age!

When cousins tried to molest me and I tried to kick them back.

When my father gave the best of education to his sons and not me.

When I was pulled out of convent school because my father didn’t want me to wear skirts.

When while walking on the roads, I had to save myself from eve-teasers by covering myself in a dupatta.

When I had to beg for a bicycle to use as mode of transport to high school so that I can get away quickly.

When despite topping the district in the science section, I had to fight my way to get admitted into an Engineering Institute.

When despite being a national scholarship holder, I was never acknowledged.

When I was mocked and made fun of while doing Engineering, as my male peers told me that I was wasting my time.

And when I faced #MeToo after marriage!

When my mother-in-law (MIL) asked me to wear a ‘pointed bra’ to seduce her son.

When my mother-in-law told me to have sex with her son (my legally wedded husband) on the fourth day after delivery.

When my MIL asked me to shut my mouth and tolerate the daily beatings of her son on many occasions.

When my Father-in-law (FIL) told me not to cry over the miscarriage caused by his son’s beatings.

When my FIL told me to let go of his son who is sleeping around just because he is financing the family. I was, constantly, verbally and physically abused for protesting against his illicit affairs.

When my Sister-in-law (SIL) repeatedly asked me to keep silent against his wrong-doings.

When my brother-in-law told me that his brother sleeps around because he is ‘not physically satisfied with me’.

When I was named an ‘insane woman’ for speaking out and discarded, dealing with a severe nervous breakdown, and abandoned by my own family and in-laws.

When I tried to stop my husband from molesting maids, I was branded as mad. My husband claims his right to do what he wishes to and physically abuses me constantly.

My several complaints reached deaf ears. Including the lady lawyer, who instead of helping me, asks me to accept this as a norm. Some lawyers even fleeced me in the name of justice.

When police asked me to compromise and not file an FIR.

When my son supports the wrongdoing of his father.

A patriarchal mindset

As a homemaker, I was never treated as a professional. I was always treated as an uneducated woman, with no respite from the pain I went through. I was working round the clock, with no break even during my pregnancy. There are no guidelines for women like me, who fight for years to get justice, often gagged not to speak and expected to suffer in silence.

With time I noticed that my mindset was my biggest enemy, given to me by my parents, society, so called in-laws….perpetuated by everybody. I realized that my personal journey of dealing with infidelity, emotionally and practically, was not mine alone. There were thousands of others. But hardly anyone was getting justice.

With time I realized that you cannot fix a marriage where the other person is always justifying his illicit relationships and putting the onus on you. This so-called civilized social system in which we grow up has nothing to do with the education we receive from schools or colleges.

No recourse from the law

We are nation where celebrities are given seats in the parliament and are adored adorned with a halo over their head. We have been dealing with archaic adultery laws, and we just talk about women empowerment and gender equality.

Over the years, I have been writing letters to prominent people and nobody has an answer. Or probably no time to give heed to such issues. Most people endorse it.

The courts are full of these kind of cases though it is only a fraction of what finally reaches the court.

Through my journey, I had also met various lawyers and was horrified to know and later understand that having laws in place is just an eyewash, and justice comes after decades of running around. Law is only for people who adhere to it and crooks with money get away.

Fighting for myself and other women

I have lived through a sordid saga of survival, fighting for years to lead a life of dignity and self-respect.

There is only one side of infidelity — devastation and death of all kind of relationships. I tried finding solutions by studying various forms of predictive sciences, to save my marriage, but could not.

A 1983 Chemical Engineering graduate, I was forced to leave my job about 35 years ago to fulfil the demands of a patriarchal family. Prevented from continuing my Engineering career, I have been volunteering with various NGO in different roles, finishing my PG in Development Management in 2017 at the age of 55.

In the meantime, I became a certified counsellor, (ironically) offering support to women victims of domestic abuse dealing with mental issues/taboos. Mostly are not even aware of the symptoms. While doing my PGPDM, I often thought, can management principals be taught in some module for homemakers?

Flawed notions of marriage need to change. We only talk about the problem but what is the solution? When will this mindset change? Will the stigma and taboo that looms large ever be destroyed?

‘Women empowerment’ is a joke!

As much as we talk about women empowerment, barely even a part of it is workable in reality. A façade. A cover-up. Fake shouts to show that our society is concerned about the rights of a woman when in actuality it is not.

BETI BACHAO, BETI PADHAO – ‘Save girl child, educate a girl child’ is a campaign of the Government of India that aims to generate awareness and improve the welfare for girls, but hardly makes any difference even today. The campaign starts with a noble initiative and ends with women succumbing at the hands of the society, justice and even their family.

Only a minor percentage of women know what to do when crisis strikes them. Homemakers are the unsung leaders (they are unglorified managers, maids, cooks, financiers at home, with no say), who, most often are left to suffer on their own.

Vishakha guidelines are for women at the workplace who can use the rights given to them for addressing their grievance. Corporate organizations are only bothered about numbers and business profits. The definition of CSR in corporate organizations is flawed because homemakers are the major stakeholders.

Plight of homemakers

My education has nothing to do with my upbringing. As a small town girl, who topped her science section in the district during the ‘70’s would have not suffered had I not been forced to be a submissive woman. But eventually, I did not submit to the evils of the society.

After finishing my PG, I joined organizations to sustain myself with dignity while fighting court cases to claim my rights. All through I wanted to know how a homemaker’s contribution is quantified. Why does our law mostly address the issues of working women? Was domestic sexual abuse not a part of the harassment women faced all around? Was all that many women faced like me, not a punishable crime?

Who is responsible for the situation of these homemakers?

As per ILO report any homemaker who works for more than 5 hours is a professional. However she has to fight for her identity and dignified maintenance with no financial support for years. Digging deep into the law and various Acts, I found out that we are still governed by 100 year old laws.

One has to spend a lifetime to get justice.

I wish to get some answers

This is just tip of the iceberg. For most of the women, it is the norm to get cheated by men. Whether one is married or unmarried, working or or a homemaker.

These married men who lure women with varied favours, ironically are given seats in parliament, the highest bench of country. This, of course, is perpetuated by the so called civilized society.

These respected men change religion, get married, and are respected in the society in the name of love. Nobody cares about what these women face back home, who are fooled again and again by men.

“One has to be hero at home before they are hero outside”.

Power, position, money plays the game when it comes to women seeking justice for their rights. The Law, unfortunately, is for people who are morally scrupulous, and crooks with money and power get away. Media covers them on front pages, they wear the mask of good Samaritans, which pampers their inflated ego with high social positions.

I think it is high time that women are taught law and finance subject which must be made mandatory along with other subjects. Having gender neutral laws is the need of the hour where everybody is accountable.

You will find these kind of real life incidents everywhere. Women getting fleeced of their self, dignity, money, trust and from their own people, and nothing changes. In some cases, even if she is strong enough to fight for her rights, she has severe challenges to face and her life is under threats.

Your story will also become a story of past… and after sometime there will be again one more story, but nothing will change. There will be some hue and cry, and then it will be shoved under a cover after a while.
Homemakers are misused and cheated and robbed of their sanity by husbands, lawyers, courts, police etc. Can anyone be accountable for her rights, for the uncountable hours of pain she is suffering? Can anyone give a solution to her problems for which she has to fight for decades?

Let’s try removing the rotten stigmas and taboos in the society, and who better can start this than you? Each individual matters. Each voice counts.

The wait has been long, but I have not given up. Asking for justice and the right to live with dignity from courts, I hope to get justice in this lifetime.

Trying to be the change.

Image source: shutterstock

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Archana Mittal. Currently working as consultant, Govt. Liaison with NGO working for maternal and child health, based out of Mumbai. Originally from small town in UP, topped her district in high school in science, did her graduation in chemical engineering, 1983, had to drop masters for family reasons, started her career with engineering consultancy firm. Things changed however after marriage, when she had to withdraw from an active career because of family demands and pressure, and immersed herself in raising two beautiful children, fulfilling her duties as homemaker. All along, She remained connected to various NGOS as volunteer in various capacities and became certified REBT practitioner. To work in development sector in more informed and structured way Archana finished her PG in development Management in flying colours. Whether as homemaker or as a development professional, with all her courage and heart at right place, mantra given by her alma mater (SPJIMR), her warmth and passion is what makes her a valuable resource to any place and people around her.

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