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Purshottam Sharma’s Justification Of Domestic Violence: The Grim Reality Of Dependent Wives In India

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Senior IPS officer Purshottam Sharma’s video of brutally thrashing his wife went viral on social media today, following which he has reportedly been relieved of his duties. The only thing more abhorrent than the entire event itself is perhaps Sharma’s reaction to it all. Following his removal from the administrative post of Director-General, ANI reported him as saying, “We’ve been married for 32 years, in 2008 she had complained against me. But the point is, since 2008 she has been living in my house, enjoying all facilities & travelling abroad on my expenses.”

In the video, Sharma can be seen throwing his wife to the ground and pounding her after she allegedly attacked him first on grounds that he was cheating on her. However, looking at Sharma’s chest-thumping media statement gives the sense that he is hardly remorseful of having bashed his wife. Instead, he is making it a point to call out her supposed “ungratefulness” after all the wealth he endowed her with. This situation paints a grim picture of the condition of wives in India who are dependent on their husbands for material comfort, rendering them defenceless against any power patriarchy wields. Being financially dependant on their husbands, are wives expected to owe their lives to them?

Also Read: Rape Cases Show No Signs Of Stopping, Even As COVID-19 Cases Mount

(Trigger Warning) Here is the viral video:

The Urgent Issue Of Domestic Violence

On Sharma’s part, his comment is a reflection of the master-slave narrative that is still prevalent between many heterosexual marriages in India. This is exacerbated even more if the woman is dependent on the man for a home, travel, and other expenses. And even after 32 years of marriage, as seen in Sharma’s case, she can claim nothing as her own, expected to remain submissive and thankful to her husband for all he has given her. Why does money offer a husband immunity from being answerable to his wife? Is material comfort the only responsibility he holds in the relationship? Is he not answerable to his partner any further than the house and facilities she has been “enjoying” as per him?

A study published in the US National Bureau of Economic Research in June showed that complaints of domestic violence have gone up in the red zones of lockdown in India during COVID-19. It was found that there was a 131 percent increase in domestic violence complaints in May 2020 in red zones relative to green zone districts in May 2020.

Also Read: Man assaults wife with iron rod in Vadodara

And yet many women, like Sharma’s wife, continue living in hostile environments. Why? Because they lack self-respect? Or don’t mind the abuse? No. It’s because they simply don’t have the means of subsistence for themselves, since they have been wholly dependent on their partners for material provisions. Sharma has insinuated in his statement that his wife’s complaints of domestic violence aren’t to be taken seriously, since she has continued to live with him “on his expenses” despite her complaints from the past. Does it mean her pain and complaints are invalidated?

Most Women Don’t Have The Choice Of Leaving Homes

A wife’s endurance of abuse doesn’t raise a question on her dignity. It raises an objection to the husband’s morality and humanity. The argument that a woman must pack up and leave if abused is a privileged one. The film Thappad showed the plight of one such woman who was slapped by her husband but had the option of returning to her parents’ home until a legal solution was found in the matter. Do most women in India have that option? Visiting their parents’ house to stay after marriage, even for recreation, is a taboo in many parts of the country where the daughter is still the paraya dhan. Once delivered to her sasural, it is the only home she has. Keeping this in mind, what choice do many women have but to stay in their husbands’ homes and unfortunately deal with the violence coming their way? Moreover, when your husband is in the police himself, who do you consult for justice?

In the video, Sharma claims that his wife attacked him with scissors after which he responded physically. That too presents a questionable issue – of an individual resorting to violence instead of communication. Was the wife’s alleged attack, if true, acceptable? Was that not also a degree of intent to harm? But overall, was it still enough to justify Sharma’s brazen attack on her? These are just some of the many questions this incident must provoke us to ask. And then act on change.

Views expressed are the author’s own.