Why Do Desi Parents Normalise Domestic Violence?

parents normalise domestic violence, thappad, domestic violence, taapsee pannu
Why do Indian parents normalise domestic violence? I have often asked myself this question. I look back at conversations with my mother and it’s so easy to see how hitting a wife is considered a part of a marriage. Society expects women to forget this abuse and continue with the relationship as if nothing ever happened.

Me: Ma, will you support me if my husband is abusive?
Ma: (thinks for a second, stares blankly): Beta, 1-2 thappad toh bardasht karne padte hai. I faced it because I did a mistake. Tum kuch galat na karna.
Me: No! How can you think like that, Ma? How can any “mistake” justify domestic violence?

This a snippet from a conservation with my mother who not only normalised domestic violence in her life but also took the blame on herself, absolving her partner of any crime.

And now when I am approaching the marriageable age, she asked me to normalise spousal abuse and adjust because divorce is not an option. But why? Why do Indian parents (not all) normalise domestic violence?

Rate of domestic violence in India

India reports the highest number of domestic violence cases among other crimes in the world, while divorce rates are less than one percent. This points out the normalisation of domestic violence in Indian society where it is not considered grave enough to end a marriage or a relationship. It is counted under “small disputes” that happen in every marriage. For our culture, domestic violence is normal but raising a voice against it is viewed with sceptical eyes. Like every other sexist issue, normalisation 0f domestic violence roots from gendered upbringing. There are many daughters like me whose parents have normalised domestic violence as a part of marriage, by never telling them about the wrong in domestic violence or by portraying it in their relationship.

Why do Indian parents normalise domestic violence for both sons and daughters?

Why do Indian parents instil silence and tolerance in their daughters to survive in a bad marriage? Why do they force them to adjust with a spouse who commits a criminal act of abusing the partner? Why don’t parents rather encourage their daughters to speak up against injustice?

This is true not only for daughters but sons too who are indoctrinated with the ideas of dominance and male ego which if threatened calls for violent action. Also there are many men who suffer domestic abuse in silence as their parents never taught them how to speak against it. Yes. Anyone can suffer spousal violence irrespective of gender or identity. In a research of around 1000 men of different age group, 51.5 per cent of male participants admitted to suffering torture at the hands of their wives or intimate partners. Parents still raise boys to be “strong” in our society, and by their logic a man who suffers abuse is weak, and thus worthy of being looked down upon. This is the reason why parents never tell men that if ever they face domestic violence they need to speak up about it, rather than suffering in silence.

In the case of daughters, parents do not tell them to oppose domestic violence because it will mean being estranged or divorced from marriage. And divorced or estranged women and their families are subjected to cruel criticisms of the patriarchal society. Moreover, parents link marriage with the financial and social security of their daughters which will be taken away if she raises voice against domestic violence.

Stop normalising domestic violence, dear parents

But dear parents, you need to know that opposing domestic violence is a woman’s legal right. Laws against domestic violence or divorce have the provision of alimony/maintenance for estranged wife. Moreover, she can reclaim her stree dhan from her husband too. Then why should you crib about the financial security of your daughter if she condemns her husband for domestic violence?

Although, it cannot be ignored that there are certain loopholes or red-tapism in court procedures and not everyone gets through it easily. But wouldn’t it be better if you educate and empower your daughters so that she never has to worry about financial security after marriage? And as far as social security is concerned, if you support your daughter in her fight for her self-respect and happiness, nothing can matter or bother anymore.

As far as sons are concerned, they are never taught about equal dynamics in a relationship. Terms like “joru ka ghulam” are used to shame them for being supportive to their wives. I have personally witnessed how parents or relatives teach their sons to keep their wives in control. As a result, they carry forward the legacy of normalising domestic violence. And when men suffer from it, they are disillusioned because they have been taught to dominate and never be dominated.

Why do men and women get different upbringings? Why are daughters taught to be submissive and sons to be dominating? Why is domestic violence normalised by parents when it is a punishable crime? Why can’t marriages and relationships be about equality and love?

Parents who themselves face domestic violence remain quiet and pretend as if nothing happened. And when children question it, mothers take the responsibility of committing a “mistake” while fathers change the topic by squinted their eyes that is bulged with anger and male ego. But can any “mistake” justify domestic violence? Can being silent or pretending to be normal erase the memory of domestic violence that the child witnessed? How will the image or incident affect the child’s mind and psychology? Would they normalise it or learn to question it? 

So dear parents, whether it is a daughter or a son, normalising domestic violence in their minds is equivalent to sowing seeds of a ruptured generation that is enmeshed in the same gendered battles that we are persistently fighting today.

Views expressed are the author’s own.