The onus is on whom?

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The breakfast conversations in our families have mostly been about COVID-19. But certain unfortunate recent events have changed the course of these discussions for many people towards the issues faced by a woman in wedlock. Be it being set ablaze by in-laws to bearing silently the atrocities of the husband, these narratives have rekindled the debate of who’s responsible for these kinds of events and begs the question of after all on whom lies the onus of such dismal state of affairs of women? The Kafkaesque of this unanswered question needs to be faced upfront if things are to change for the good in our society, especially for women.

Crime against women is deeply entrenched and widely prevalent in India. Moreover, a large chunk of these crimes is related with domestic violence. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2019 reports that a majority (30.9%) of all the 4.05 lakh cases under crimes against women are registered under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The section deals with ‘cruelty by husband or his relatives’. Enough statistics are known to people and the cruelty committed against women in the garb of marital life is well known through newspaper reporting, social media etc.

The concern here is not to show that crimes against women are being committed but to delve into the even more deeper thought of one aspect of this crime by questioning as to why in first place domestic violence is committed against women.

Talking about Kashmir valley, it is predominantly a patriarchal society. It has evolved its social customs and norms in a manner that domestic violence in many cases has become a part of marital life and is acceptable as something that comes with the marriage, the brunt of which is to be borne in silence by women. Even if a women wants to move out of such abusive and traumatic relationship, the stigma of being divorced and her non-acceptance even by her own family makes the situation even worse. Moreover, the financial dependence of a woman on her husband takes away her power of independent decision making. Without having a source of income and a place to take shelter, the domestic violence becomes acceptable and normalized to the extent that in the end such women either take away their lives or live a depressed life.

Many factors play a part in shaping the ideology and conduct of individuals in society. One of the most important factor is religion. Unfortunately, the religion has been misused as a tool by people to justify the miserable life a women lives. The protagonist of religion have mostly emphasized the rights of men in general life and of husbands in married life. Such has become the thought that a women talking about her own rights in any aspect of life is being seen as aggressive and misfit for the role of wife! Nowhere any religion gives a submissive role to women, not to talk about tolerating abuse. On hearing of the abuse, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) called the community to the mosque for a meeting. Whenever there was something he felt all Muslims needed to know about or discuss, he would have Bilal ibn Rabah, may Allah be pleased with him, give the call to prayer, even if it was not time for it. Then, when people came to the mosque, he would lead them in prayer. This would be followed by a special sermon about a topic of concern or discussion about a particular situation. This time when he called the Muslims, it was to order an end to domestic violence. According to one report, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) mentioned that 70 women had approached his family regarding domestic violence. He criticized these husbands, saying this behavior was unacceptable from those who seek to live by Islam’s ideals. This community meeting is reported by two of the best Hadith collections of the Prophet, Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah.

Charity begins at home. The lack of awareness amongst the women themselves regarding their own rights in the capacity of married life has also prevented women from seeking help and to speak out openly about the abuse. The parochial approach towards this issue by women themselves and brushing it aside as one of the events in their life has made the abusers so much vocal that the voice of victims has lost in gallows. The “chalta hai” attitude by women themselves regarding domestic violence has made abused women unnecessarily and over magnanimous leading to normalization of abuse. We have seen rallies by women against things believed to be against religion. But how many rallies we have witnessed where main concern has been domestic violence?

Who’s to blame for all this and where should reforms begin? Do we need to go one step at a time or considering the depth of the problem, do we need to involve and activate all stakeholders? These questions are left for the reader to answer.

“They are your garments & ye are their garments.” (Quran 2:187) Men & women are each other’s garments: i.e., they are of mutual support, mutual comfort, & mutual protection, fitting into each other as a garment fits the body. But only if we understood!