Behind closed doors
Domestic Violence in India
Edited by Rinki Bhattacharya
Reviewed by sandhya
This is a collection of narratives by 17 women who are survivors of domestic violence, and who have been courageously come out with their stories, not only in print, but also in the documentary film Char Diwari. Both have been made by Rinki Bhattacharya, herself a domestic violence survivor. The heartrending narratives bring home to us how widespread the problem is, and how no privilege can save a woman from a violent situation.
‘Behind closed doors’ are the operative words- as these incidents were believed to be in the sacrosanct family, and as such not brought out in the public. They still aren’t, for the fear of social stigma. Even the apathy of the powers-that-be can be guaged by the fact that the documentary has been aired only twice, that too late at night, when its audience would not be very wide.
There are also essays by experts, feminists and workers in the field of domestic violence, who have tried to make sense of the phenomenon. How could women be marginalised like this in a country which worships the female form of Shakti, as the Goddess, or Devi? One essay argues that in certain communities, where the Devi is worshipped in the original form women still have a better position. As Sanskritisation took place, in the post-vedic period, a ‘spousification’ of this Devi took place, putting the husband above her, and fettering her feared unbridled sexuality. This is seen more in the upper classes, where the need for financial independence of the wife is not felt. There is also a busting of the myth that educated financially independent women do not face violence, and the reasoning behind that.
Further essays also talk about the Domestic Violence Bill and its loopholes, the introduction of a clause for ‘mandatory counselling’ that aims to preserve the family structure in its present form instead of redressal to the victim of violence. Police attitude towards women and their hand in the actual violence, lack of political will or even the attitude of politicians towards these issues play a big role in law-making, enforcement and any justice.
There is also a roadmap for support to victims at the end of the book. A must read for those working in the field and those seeking an understanding of and a way out of the mess.