Monday, 5 January 2009

Credit crisis sparks surge of domestic violence in the home

I just read an article about how the credit crisis has caused a surge in domestic violence. Apparently the National Centre for Domestic Violence(UK) saw a 40% increase in victims seeking support last month.

The statistics sounds very scary. 40% is after all a huge amount. This sudden increase is attributed to the credit crunch, which is making a lot of people stay at home in an effort to save money. The stress of the credit crunch, along with is being the holiday season, must also be taking a huge toll, for the figures to jump so much. One in four women, apparently, will experience domestic violence in their lifetime - and this may be more as a lot of cases are not disclosed.

That set me thinking about the statistics in India. If it is so bad in Britain - it must be much worse in India. In the UK - there has been a lot of campaign in an effort to reduce domestic violence. When I was pregnant - I was surprised on being asked by the midwife if I am being subjected to domestic violence. It was a routine question as apparently a lot of women report increased domestic violence when they are pregnant, so the government tries to take pro-active steps to curtail it.

Surprisingly, I could not find much updated data about statistics in India. Some of the information I found was surveys done in 2003! According to the UN , around two thirds of married women in India are subjected to domestic violence. The only countries with higher percentages are Egypt and Zambia. The UN report indicates that ' women with tangible economic assets were less likely to be victims of domestic violence than those who lack them, the report cited Kerala as an example.
"In Kerala, a survey found that 49 per cent women without property reported domestic violence compared with only seven per cent who owned property," it said '. So it does look like financial freedom has helped in reducing domestic violence - according to this survey. However, I did read other reports, which indicate that violence has increased with women's education! Alternatively, it might just mean that women are more aware, so they tend to report abuse than just accept it as their fate.

I was reading the other day about how, many women actually think they are to blame for the violence they are subject to and in India, especially where the a lot of women live with their in-laws, this is further compounded. Furthermore, they hardly have the freedom, to step outside their houses, leave alone report the abuse. I have even heard of instances where the police has refused to 'interfere' as it is a 'domestic matter' between the spouses..

According to studies done on the effect of domestic violence on children indicate that the damaging influences could lead to adjustment problems as well as undermining the mother-child relations. I had once read a true-life account of a woman who had been abused, she used to see her mother abused , so she grew up thinking that it was 'normal' and 'to be expected'! Her expectations were based on what she saw and experienced as a child, making her a prime target for marital abuse. It took her a long time, before she came to realise that she was being abused and that she could stand up against it!

In this post, I have just touched upon physical domestic violence, mental domestic violence is also equally prevalent and equally damaging - but far more difficult to report and address, especially in nations like ours where men culturally have the upper hand.


Vinod_Sharma said...

Smitha, domestic violence is a serious issue here in India, as you have brought out...what happens in the villages is perhaps worse, and what happens in certain communities unspeakable.

In the UK, I suppose this surge has taken place because the stresses and tensions generated by the crisis have led some men to vent their frustration and helplessness on their physically weaker partners. I wonder whether we will soon see similar reports coming out of the US too, as the hard times begin to bite hard.

Perhaps domestic violence is an extension of the basic nature of man to inflict it, individually as well as collectively, on those who are weaker or appear to be easy answers, I suppose.

Smitha said...

Yes Vinod, you are probably right when you say - Perhaps domestic violence is an extension of the basic nature of man to inflict it, individually as well as collectively, on those who are weaker or appear to be so.' However I just read another article on TOI about how men are also increasingly becoming victims of abuse - I was quite surprised to read the stats.

Vinod_Sharma said...

That reverse violence is also a reflection of the same human trait. Education and financial empowerment, assisted by laws hopelessly skewed against men, have made men relatively weaker in many cases. The facts are again probably worse than the have nowhere to go and many suffer quietly.

Smitha said...

@Vinod, The sad thing is that though we have laws to help women, these are not being utilized by the women who need it most - instead they are being misused by people for their own means.. The condition of men, however is definitely not as bad as that of women, mainly because men normally have financial freedom, which women, even today, in India seldom have.

Vinod_Sharma said...

I fully agree with you. The overall condition of women is infinitely far worse. But in some cases where the women are financially independent and secure/educated and well-informed and supported, there is reverse violence, even blackmail, due misuse of the laws which are meant to protect women who are actually suffering helplessly.

Mavin said...

Domestic violence is a widespread phenomenon in India and elsewhere.

Increase in domestic violence due to credit crisis may be unique to UK but other reasons exist for it in India.

We normally equate dom violence with physical assault and battery but the growing and worse manifestation is emotional / mental / verbal violence. Much of this is prevalent amongst the well educated.

Modern day stress and inability to cope with these pressures, lack of mature and comforting family support are the prime reasons. There is also extreme emphasis on performance and achievement.

We need to go back to basics and learn how to live our lives.

manju said...

Since in India, women are for the most part, socially weaker than men, domestic abuse of women does take place. And in recent years there have been new laws in the effort to reduce this abuse.

Re: the much publicised IPC section 498 A- "Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine."

There is no penalty for false filing of claim. Reports are that this has resulted in much misuse of this provision.

Smitha said...

@Manju, It is sad isn't it that even though we have laws for the protection of women - eventually corruption reaches everywhere and even these are misused! There should be some kind of penalties for this kind of misuse of laws..