If it hurts it is not love #Violence Against Women Awareness Month #October


She was 23 when she married for “love”. As a girl she felt the lack of  “warmth” even though she wasn’t stereotyped for being born a girl. Caged and distraught by the environment she wanted an escape . Unfortunately that escape to freedom chained her for good, emotional and mental abuse, marital rape, seclusion from social life to an extent, discontent due to financial dependence, emotional blackmail, continuous verbal and emotional onslaught by in-laws and no support from her husband became a way of life with her. For years she “ADJUSTED ” and tried to ” mend the relationships” that actually had lost meaning. It weighed heavily on her mind and reflected in her deteriorating health until one day  she decided to break the shackles and face the consequences .

She knew that however life may treat her it wont be as bad as before. It was time to change, the path she carved for herself was rough but her spirit could not endure more indignity. This is the true story of Tara (name changed). One can ask hundreds of questions about WHY it took her so many years to take that much-needed step especially when she was aware of her rights and educated ( not just literate) . I guess sometimes there are no answers.

One may say , what crap, it is just a question of how badly you want your freedom and dignified life .  Sometimes it is easier said than done. Sometimes it takes more than just courage and will to do what is “right” .

Emotional abuse starts from the time you sense the first sign of contempt, rejection.It starts as birth and continues at every step where ever a girl is restricted, curbed, violated in any form, undermined, ridiculed or is wrapped in the blanket of ( “social sanctions/ moral norms/ duties/codes).

It starts when she is assigned to play roles that of a daughter, sister, wife , mother DIL and much more.

It starts when her own identity is pushed way back and get buried under the “socially accepted” way of life.When Her voice is muted.

In many cases of DV centuries of conditioning, controlling, traumatizes and intimidates the victim and the lack of support system forces her to either isolate herself into acceptance or drives her to take her life.

The deep-rooted sense of “guilt” of being born as a girl, of being “a burden” weighs heavily on her psyche and is continuously nurtured by the society saturated by Misogyny. Violated for “being born ” starts the emotional abuse.

October is VAWAmonth and let me share the  #VAWMonth and #VAWAM you can aslo add your voice HERE  and Here 

Emotional Abuse and marital rape are often not discussed and are pushed under the carpet.Despite the unwillingness to recognise marital rape as a crime, the fact remains that it is prevalent throughout society. Women’s bodies are outraged, regardless of their educational qualifications, class or status.  Even after the outcry and awareness of laws women seldom shed the inhibition and lodge a complaint or simply walk out of such abusive relationship. This is because cultures worldwide discourage their women from openly discussing sexual matters, let alone within marriage. Most women don’t even think of rape by their husbands as marital rape. Sex is considered obligatory and taboo. The bitter medicine called ” being a good wife ” is pushed down the throat of women, the code of conduct set by society;  to serve and never to “wash dirty linen” in public ; forces them to endure the pain, mental/emotional trauma,  sexual dysfunction, physical injuries and much more. { LINK }

It is a myth that only uneducated or rural women are the victims of abuse. I agree that many women are raising a voice against DV and talking that bold and much-needed step to walk out of such abusive marriages but still a lot more is needed to be done. I feel that forcing a girl to marry someone against her wishes or under the pretext of ” we know what’s good for our daughter ”  is also a form of abuse and should be stopped.

What has changed for Indian woman as she enters the second decade of the 21st century ? Violence against women is still widespread and is increasing day by day.

Do women lose human rights after marriage ?

If rape is a crime then why marital rape is still not considered as crime under IPC?

Is it not discriminatory to call an act “an offence”  merely because of the difference in person committing the act?

What is the justification of differentiating between women who are wives and other women as far as the offense of rape and violence goes ?

The 172nd Law Commission report had made the following recommendations for substantial change in the law with regard to rape.

  1. ‘Rape’ should be replaced by the term ‘sexual assault’.
  2. ‘Sexual intercourse as contained in section 375 of IPC should include all forms of penetration such as penile/vaginal, penile/oral, finger/vaginal, finger/anal and object/vaginal.
  3. In the light of Sakshi v. Union of India and Others [2004 (5) SCC 518], ‘sexual assault on any part of the body should be construed as rape.
  4. Rape laws should be made gender neutral as custodial rape of young boys has been neglected by law.
  5. A new offence, namely section 376E with the title ‘unlawful sexual conduct’ should be created.
  6. Section 509 of the IPC was also sought to be amended, providing higher punishment where the offence set out in the said section is committed with sexual intent.
  7. Marital rape: explanation (2) of section 375 of IPC should be deleted. Forced sexual intercourse by a husband with his wife should be treated equally as an offence just as any physical violence by a husband against the wife is treated as an offence. On the same reasoning, section 376 A was to be deleted.
  8. Under the Indian Evidence Act (IEA), when alleged that a victim consented to the sexual act and it is denied, the court shall presume it to be so.
We are still waiting for the change.
I often read this reports and wonder that in a country like ours where minds are governed by skewed traditions, orthodox norms etc, does having a legal provision really help?
The refusal to acknowledge of the extent of violence women suffer within their homes, or the insurmountable hurdles they face when they try to use laws that contradict each other, their implementation and their inefficiency  is something on needs to think about .
There are trillions of reports, articles, cases that one can quote but  an average Indian woman’s story of abuse (Physical/metal/ emotional) continues and those who step out (with exception of few ) find themselves hanging in an abyss due to lack of proper support system.
Tara took some bold steps.
She refused to have any physical relationship with her husband without HER consent.
She refused to be treated like a slave or a property though it stirred a hornets nest in her marital home and created further discord.
She made it clear that she would not be party to any forced ” duty/ order that she is “expected to do / obey” as a DIL / Wife .
She realized that she had not only lost her voice but also her self-esteem and confidence in self. Born in an open-minded, educated family she had never heard or seen such stone age behavior and after giving her best to them and shedding her skin to “Adopt” their ways , she could not bend any further. The man she married in the name of ” love ” gave her wounds which scaled her soul. Being tied to the Apron strings of his mom He could never stand up for her. The  time had come to decided whether to break or to stand up straight and walk out with what ever was remaining. She decided to do the second.
The first reaction she got was ” why after so many years ? It took you more than 20 years to realize that you were being reduced to dust  and you can’t take it ? Well, IT IS NEVER TOO LATE.
After earnest attempts to ” make things work” ( a Utopian dream) , She decided to Give Up and Not Give in . She left.
She is termed as deserter having no respect for “social moral values”. Mental and Emotional violence can extend beyond the  abused when abusers accuse family of girl of”ruining her marriage n keeping her “against” social norms. Her family is labelled as ” conspirators to her foolishness” and looked down upon by in-laws for ” supporting her when her ideal place is in her husband’s home “no matter what” .  Her husband feels she has abandoned her children for some vague notion of ” dignity” fueled by feminists and friends.
The in-laws  feel that if “her wings were chopped timely” she would not have “dared to do” such an outrageous thing but for the sake of society and their heartbroken son  they would shut their mouth and abide by her wishes IF she returns “Home” . Husband agrees.
They feel her it is improper and shameful to act in this fashion. A woman needs to learn to keep everything inside her and “adjust” no questions asked.
She should serve her husband and look after “HIS parents ( not hers of course ) for it is her duty to do so.
Social seclusion is essential because too much mingling with ” advanced women/men”  poisons the mind as in her case.
To keep a woman from going ” astray ‘  she needs to be broken financially so No Job and No Friends esp Males.
Rules, traditions, customs , sanctions , code of conduct , religion , rituals are to be followed without a word.
Mother in law IS  Law .
She has no other identity than her husband so she should be  gracious and be condescending.
All this and more applies because this is not America , this is India and this is in our culture so abide by it.
  TARA Disagreed. 
She was fortunate to have a supporting family and friends who were ready to help But how many women have this considerate,caring system to help them fight the injustice ?
Many women are not living their dreams because they are living their fears.
Isolation, restriction, guilt, humiliation, denial, continuous controlling and criticism, lack of empathy, love, companionship, shattering of a dream of ” a life long relationship based on mutual respect” breaks the victim. Emotional, mental tortured is hard to explain due to lack of  ” solid evidence” .
Emotional Abuse comes silently most of d times camouflaged as “love,betterment,moral duty,guilt,emo.blackmail,marital rape. Silence helps it breed and dig its claws deeper.
In our country ‘thinking’ for oneself is not encouraged. It’s always conformity&herd mentality. The  moment a woman begins to voice her thoughts she is condemned, ridiculed & told to shut up. If she rebels , her condition is even worse.
Does that mean we keep suffering ?
NO, trust me it is better to raise your voice and make your life worthy than suffer and reinforce the fact that women can be used as objects and treated like an old newspaper.
This is not an essay on Domestic violence it is cry of a muted heart which has found its voice .
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Girlhood Dreams Or Nightmares ?- In Conversation


She is fifteen years of age. A Muslim by birth and a “girl” by accident of birth. Youngest daughter among ten siblings , she had four younger brothers and three elder married sisters. One sister died when she fell from the terrace.

Nabila’s  (name changed) story is not just hers but  reflection of many who are caught between the life of their dreams and the bitter reality life has put them in. Forced to work as domestic help the girl never went to school. The harsh conditions and subjugation at home has made her bitter about her community, gender and society at large.

She does have a mind of her own but that is not enough for her to stand up against the  discrimination inflicted against her.

” I am beaten up for the slightest mistakes while my brothers get away with whatever they do. My married sisters are like furniture at home , they have legs but they can’t dare step out of the house on their own. Elder brother, eldest among the  siblings, decided not to step away from the family after marriage  and is frowned upon and called “joru ka gulam“. He hardly visits us. ” She was in a mood to rant and I probed her by some questions to hear her inner voice.

“Are you ill-treated because of your gender ?”

“Yes, My brothers get the best of food. I cook all meals and work in the house and in three houses here. I am beaten up if I protest. I am the last to eat. When I ask for some pieces of mutton etc. I am abused and told to eat whatever is given as boys need more nutrition and energy. Don’t I need it ?” She looked at me.

“Of course, you do and it is very wrong on their part to do this.”

” I am told not to dress up nicely, apply bindi or henna or any make up. The Hindu girls do it and no one stops them. How am I different?”

“You are not different it is just the attitude of your parents even Hindu girls are treated like you in many houses.It is because you are a girl that you go through this.” I had no other explanation coming to my mind at that moment.
‘” It is about religion too”, she insisted. I did not want to go there and put ideas in her head to voice at home and get beaten again. I had to tread softly.

“Have you ever asked your parents about it ” , I asked.

“Yes, they say I am a Muslim and I must follow rules. I don’t like being a Muslim. The Hindu girls are not treated so badly as us. In just one or two years I will get married and then all will end. ” Her face clouded with the very thought. All men are rascals. My father drinks and both parents hit me with whatever comes in their hands. ( I saw the wounds on her arms the day she was hit by brick by her mother. The reason –  she forgot to put salt in vegetable because of her attention was diverted towards TV serial.) No one loves me. Parents love two of my sisters and the middle one is neglected too. She is beaten up by her in-laws and hardly comes here.”

“Why is that ? Your parents should intervene.” I asked.

“I don’t know. She is nice but has T.B.” she said matter-of- factly.

” I wanted to study in madarsa but wasn’t allowed. A tutor was assigned to teach me Urdu so I could read Quran. I won’t be able to get married if I can’t read Quran. He used to hit me a lot and told abba I was useless in learning and slow. I had just begun to understand but he was paid off and told not to come. In the village I am supposed to lie about my education and say that I study. I got fed up and told my jija ( Brother in law) the truth and was beaten up and kept hungry for two days by my parents.”

I made sure she colored the drawing books and wrote her name and numbers etc taught her to greet in English ( it was her ardent wish to learn the right phrases and how /when to use what ). I noticed that she used a lot of English words correctly even though the pronunciation may not be correct at times.

I also found she was having a lot of difficulty in learning as she was past the age for the basics and was too distracted.

Her dreamy eyes glued to TV she kept asking questions about the latest Bollywood gossip and what attracted her most were the advertising.

She was dissatisfied with the shape of her nose and knew it could be retouched by some procedure. I was aghast.

“Who told you that?”

” I heard somewhere. Priety Zinta got it done.”

“Arrrrrrg , I said ” do not get carried away by all this, it is just an eye wash I tried to explained. She was surprised but not convinced. Lured by the beauty products and the screen Gods and Goddesses she wanted to  change everything about her from clothes, hair color and length to features. The only thing that made her glad was her fair skin. I made sure to educate her on how the advts. are air brushed and natural beauty is what matters , that too inner beauty. The talk was lost on her. With one sentence she silenced me.

” All that is alright but it is my outer beauty which will get me a loving husband and good home. My sisters are not that fortunate but they are good home makers. See how unhappy they are. ” Looks Matter”. That ended the matter. A devout follower of her screen  idols she went back to her dream land.

I tried to persuade her to learn to write more but she didst want to do it at the cost of leaving a movie or a serial  mid way. I told ma she could be a great film critic and columnist if she knew how to write.

With a sigh I went back to my work but she was wired and switched off the TV.

“We will do to the temple and do Puja one day.” She suddenly became animated and I realized what a brilliant smile she had. I smiled.

“Why would we do that? I don’t believe in God.” I wanted to get  reaction from her.

” Why don’t you believe in God? Your Gods are so colorful and plenty. Choose any one you like. It is fun to visit temples. you get Prasad and the atmosphere is so lively and the pujas are so creative.” She went on with various descriptions and incidents while I searched for something to burst the bubble.
“Our Allah lives in a book. At least your Gods are real . You know how they look and there are female Gods too.” She stressed on this a lot.
“We have a male God that too formless.” She very strongly showed the disapproval.

I laughed and told her all these Gods were creations of our imagination and none is real.

She refused to believe. “You can not imagine and create, there has to be someone , some model, you see”, she explained.

“I don’t get jobs because of my religion. My sister had to change her name to Hindu one to work in the houses as domestic help. People think we are trouble makers. Very few treat us nicely.”

I saw her point. I had a domestic help who called herself Seema. Her real name was Najma. She faced the same problem. People are prejudiced against Muslims. A sorry state of affairs but it is true in many fields. I knew a couple who refused a PG accommodation to a Muslim student just because of her religion. People do not rent out places to Muslim tenants at many places.

I told her my reason for being non religious. Told her about the ugliness of ritualistic religion and how God has just become a mode to spread hatred and how religion has become a puppet in the hands of few.

She nodded her head in agreement and quoted something she had heard on TV about Hindu Muslim clashes and about terrorist attacks.

“All Muslims are not terrorists” she said looking straight into my eyes.

“Agree with you completely” , I replied. “Terrorists ,fanatics can be in any religion even Hindus are utter fanatics.”

Confused about t he identity of “her” non visible God and “our” unreal Gods she concluded that a God who creates disparity, division, discrimination and much more. I explained that some self-centered men with an agenda of their own use religion as a tool to do all that she is talking about and people blindly follow because of fear and ignorance. The problem is bigger than what she is facing and seeing around her.

To Nabila all that mattered was the unjust behavior of her parents and the close-knit community she was part of. I watched the girl fidget with her duppatta with down cast eyes full of sorrow, pain and deprivation.

“You get such nice clothes to wear and the bangles, ear-rings etc. ” “Your father does stitch nice fashionable stuff for you. ” I wanted to get away from the topic of religion.

“I pay for my clothes. It all comes from my salary. Only during festivals or marriages etc. my father spends.  I give all my earnings to mother but now I have learned to keep some for myself and buy things I like. She beats me at times but abba says it is her money at least she is not asking us for it. Mother is the root of all evil”, she said with anger in her voice.

Who told them to have ten children? Their first-born was a boy then could have stopped after next child who was a girl. Why brings so many mouths to feed? She is fat and useless. Only sells roasted corns and hits me. Always irritated about something or other. She is greedy too. ”

I agreed as I had once spoken to the mother at length and knew exactly what Nabila was referring too.

It was a difficult life she was living. Precariously suspended between her girlhood dreams and reality. Dreams which will make her a misfit in her community due to many reasons including the socio-economic ones.

Exposure to electronic and print media ( she is supposed to look up the newspapers( Hindi and English ) everyday even if she can not read) is making her aware , discussions with people like me make her think again about what  has been instilled into her.  I wonder if her dreams will prove to be nightmares for her as she grows up. I have watched her trying to copy the hair style or pull her dress off shoulder when no one is looking . Many times she has asked me questions about various cosmetics, clothes. Questions about the page 3 pictures in newspaper, smoking ,drinking by women and sometimes about the various places around the world whose names she has gathered from somewhere or the other. It is beyond her imagination to measure distances between places. To her the world consists of her village and a few more places in and around that  and distance is what lies between the village and Delhi which is her home now.

Working at different places has opened some windows of her mind and it scares me to think what may be the result of it. I already see a rebel in her. A spark which may either make or break her. Naive and happy-go-lucky girl of fifteen she is maturing quickly for her age ( physically and emotionally). She is aware of her fair skin and good looks, aware of her body and the exposure to TV is doing no good to her. She is exploring life outside of her cramped living. Her aspirations to be like her favorite heroines or the girls whom she sees in advt. is taking a grip on her psyche and do her more harm than good. I feel for her and try to educate her as much as I can so that she doesn’t get waylaid.

A fear always looms large in my mind. What will be her fate eventually? Will she keep turning under layers and layers of social norms, customs, rituals, duties, obligations, adjustments ? Will she find strength to at least break  some of this chains and make a place for herself?  What is the future of this girl who has dared to dream?

It was time for her to go home.

I watched her as she brushed her hair, washed her face and gathered her things.

” Do you sometimes feel it would have been better if you were a boy?” I asked

She looked at her shimmering bangles, her new salwar kammez and henna on her hands.  Caressing her freshly brushed hair she said ,” I don’t think so. I love to dress up.Though by birth and by religion I am cursed. ”

The lift doors opened and she was gone before I could say anything.