Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express 25 November 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on February 28, 2012

Editorial ]

The veil of apathy

Today, the world celebrates the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Another day for governments and NGOs to organise activities designed to raise public awareness of the problem; for ministers to read out well- written and well- rehearsed speeches; for women’s associations to organise some symbolic activities which, we must admit, are better than nothing; for women from all sections of society to think about how much violence they can continue to put up with. Another opportunity for them to go back to their drunkard, drug- addicted or sadistic husbands; for them to examine their options and come to the harsh realisation that these are, most of the time, next to nil. They know it, the husbands know it and society knows it and keeps quiet about it.

Yes, we have made incredible strides in terms of laws and we have some very powerful pieces of legislation. Yet, the epidemic proportions of violence against women are alarming. What is even more so is that the breadth and frequency of domestic violence against women in our society are impossible to measure. Most of the time, we fi nd out that our women are beaten only when they are taken to hospital as a result of their injuries. The rest of the time, they suffer in silence. Violence against women, like rape, is a crime which, instead of drawing shame on the perpetrator rather tends to stigmatise the victims. And the law of silence therefore prevails.

This is, however, only part of the problem. The real reason why women suffer in silence is that they are not economically empowered enough to stand on their own two feet. Dependent on abusive husbands for their economic survival and shackled with children, their options are limited.

Services for victims being insuffi cient and generally of poor quality, the agony of sitting at home dreading the return of the husband and sticking it out becomes the only option.

This is compounded by a misogynistic mentality which responds negatively to women reporting abuse. They are treated in a way that almost suggests to them to go home and be a “ good” wife. Domestic violence continues to be seen as a private family matter.

There is of course no silver bullet to eliminate violence. There is no vaccine.

And, nobody expects a change of the deeply entrenched values and behaviours to happen overnight. However, doing the same things year in and year out is not going to help women move forward. There comes a point when we have to take stock of the whole situation and evaluate the effectiveness of the measures we have been taking to fi nd out what works and what doesn’t and invest more in the measures which have given positive results.

Violence against women is not just a “ women’s issue.” We need to look beyond this narrow frame to see that it is also a public health issue, a human rights issue and an issue which takes a toll on whole families and therefore on the development of the country as a whole. We have to stop treating women who report abuse with scorn, counsel them out of abusive relationships, inculcate the notion that there is nothing which justifi es violence and that there is no degree of violence which is acceptable.

More than anything, we need to economically empower women so that they can be game- changers in our society. That is the only way not only for women but for society as a whole to move forward.

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