70-Year-Old Woman Locked In Toilet: Why Are We Silent About Elder Abuse In India?

A counsellor at the senior citizens' helpline Mahima Bhandary, said that Girija was in a critical state and had not seen daylight during the two years she was trapped. Neighbours observed that the elder woman had not left the house and inquired the couple about her whereabouts.

Ritika Joshi
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The horrific news that an elderly woman was being abused and locked up in a toilet by her son and daughter-in-law for two years has once again brought to light the issue of elder abuse in India. Unfortunately, this incident only marks one of many cases of elder abuse in India. Stories of vulnerable sections of our society being abused are all too common. While there is a large public outcry after such incidents, have steps been taken to ensure the safety of elders? Do people only remember the plight of elder abuse only after cases go viral?

A  70-year-old woman was locked up by her son and daughter-in-law in a toilet in their home in Karnataka for two years. She was finally rescued with the help of the police and an NGO. The woman Girija had suffered from a fall on January 1, 2020, but rather than providing the elderly woman with help, her son and daughter-in-law locked her in the toilet and neglected her.

While the couple should have responded to her injuries by providing treatment for her injuries and helping the elderly woman, she was neglected, denied proper food, and locked up.

After being trapped for two years, Girija was rescued after a neighbour became suspicious of the couple’s treatment of the elderly woman. The neighbour reportedly informed the Senior Citizens’ Helpline in the district.

A counsellor at the senior citizens' helpline Mahima Bhandary, said that Girija was in a critical state and had not seen daylight during the two years she was trapped. Allegedly,neighbours observed that the elder woman had not left the house and inquired the couple about her whereabouts.

Bhandary said, “The couple dumped her in the toilet without giving her any first aid and she remained in the same state for two years.”

According to the police, Girija was allegedly abused by her daughter-in-law Pooja who used to abuse her and barely gave her food. Girija’s son Hariram is a daily wage worker and did not question Pooja’s behaviour with his mother.


After Hariram came to the hospital and insisted on taking his mother home, she requested that the counsellors shift her to an ashram and refused to return to her son’s home, as per reports.

Elder Abuse In India

India is often perceived as a family-centred nation due to the joint-family style of living and the emphasis placed on family, respect, and serving your elders. However, even with society’s mindset that it is the duty of children to look after their parents when they grow old, elder abuse in India is common.

Elder abuse can consist of physical abuse, financial abuse, emotional abuse, and abandonment of an elderly person.

In 2017, the veteran actor Geeta Kapoor was abandoned in a hospital by her son. To avoid having to take care of his ailing mother and the medical expenses, Kapoor’s son abandoned her in the hospital. Her daughter also decided that looking after her mother and her expenses were more trouble than she was worth and avoided the hospital’s calls.

In 2020, a video of an elderly woman being abused by her daughter-in-law had gone viral on social media. These are just two of the many incidences of elder abuse in India.


Suggested Reading: Veteran Actor's Abandonment Highlights Rampant Abuse Of Elders

HelpAge India has conducted surveys to understand elder abuse in India and found that in 2014, half of the elderly surveyed reported experiencing abuse. 77 percent of the elderly people that reported they had experienced abuse resided with their families.

While the expectation was that the son and the daughter-in-law would be the primary caregivers, sons and daughters-in-law turned out to be the primary abusers of the elderly.

The survey also asked youths whether they would be willing to intervene if they saw a case of abuse and found that nearly 60 percent of the youth claimed they would take direct action. The youth said they would take direct action by either talking to the abuser in an effort to change their behaviour or speaking with the abuse survivor and asking them to fight back.


The percentage of people willing to intervene in cases of abuse was dismal at nearly 60 percent as it showed that around 40 percent of people would not intervene if they saw cases of abuse.

Why Remain Silent About Elder Abuse?

The mindset that abuse and harassment in a family is a “family matter” and that people should not intervene allows citizens to turn a blind eye toward the atrocities being faced by others.

The need to protect the elderly from abuse and harassment should outweigh the norm of letting families deal with their internal matters on their own.

Girija could only be rescued because concerned neighbours and citizens found her absence suspicious and contacted the Senior Citizens’ Helpline. If they had labelled her absence as a “family matter” and hadn’t contacted others for help, Girija would still be trapped in the abusive household.

Their decision ensured the safety of the elderly woman from her abusive family. If people continue to put the needs and safety of others above maintaining social decorum, then survivors of abusive relationships would be find an escape.

The belief that elderly people are not worth the costs incurred in looking after them such as medical bills has led to the rise of elder abuse in India. Even if an elderly person cannot contribute to a family financially, does that mean they no longer deserve to be treated with dignity and respect? Rather than treating the elderly as human beings, they are treated as burdens on a family and on society. People should be treated with kindness and respect regardless of their medical bill costs and financial contributions.

Views expressed are the author's own.

crimes against elderly elder abuse