Staying in abusive marriages: We live in a society where domestic violence tops the rate of crime against women. And yet the divorce rate in our country is less than 1 per cent. Last year, as per a report, housewives accounted for the second-largest number of deaths by suicide after regular harassment at the hands of husbands and in-laws.
These statistics clearly reflect the truth that women in our society are forced to stay in abusive marriages. But is it right to blame women for it? Do women in our society have much options? Aren’t women bred to believe that marriage is the only source of safety and security in society?
Girls in our society are always taught that marriage is an inevitable reality. That marriage is the purpose of their existence. It is only through marriage that girls can expect respect and reputation in society. Amidst these indoctrinations, when a girl gets married, she gives away all her choices and desires in an attempt to keep her husband and in-laws happy. Because if they are not happy, how will they provide for and protect her?
The major reason behind this mindset of women is the idea that once a daughter gets married, she belongs to her husband and in-laws and not to her parental family. She is raised as a paraya dhan and is almost excommunicated by her parental family after her marriage.
Women staying in abusive marriages: what is the reason behind it?
But when the marriage becomes abusive- physically or emotionally- women do not have much option than to adjust. With no support from the parental family that firmly believes in the idea of paraya dhan, women are left alone to deal with an unequal, unhappy and abusive marriage.
Moreover, if women decide to walk out of marriage, where will they get financial and social support? Who will help them understand the complications of the legal divorce? because women are rarely taught about their legal rights. Even if a woman is financially independent and can lead her life on her own, we cannot forget the criticism that divorced women in our patriarchal society. It is always women who are shamed for a failed marriage. They are expected to adjust, forgive and move on because without a man’s name, a woman’s identity is seen as incomplete.
Men are rarely questioned because their deeds are often blanketed by problematic concepts like mard aise hi hote hai.
And, it’s hard to forget that society reminds us often that a single woman in our society becomes prey to ideas like “used goods”, “khuli tijori” which make her safety and security a question.
In such situations, is it easy for a woman to walk out of a marriage in our society? Can a divorced woman feel safe and secured in our society? Then how is it right to blame women for being silent and staying in abusive marriages? Yes, there are patriarchal internalisations that force women to identify their worth through their marriage and husband. But still it is not right to blame women for it.
Change that we need
Rather, we need to change the way we raise our girls and boys. Rather than asking girls to get married early, let them achieve a secured job and success in their careers. Rather than raising them as paraya dhan, parents must be their daughter’s strong support throughout her life. Instill the ideas of independence, freedom and agency in girls so that they can never be forced to do something they don’t want to. Men on the other hand should be taught to respect women within their families and beyond. Violence, control and compulsion should be portrayed as unjust ways to deal with other humans.
Furthermore, we as a society need to be more accepting of the idea of divorce and failed marriages. We need to stop making marriage a sacred concept, a bond defined by God. And we need to respect women irrespective of their marital status.
Views expressed are author’s own