A tight slap by the husband to "correct" his wife has for long been seen as not only acceptable but even a sign of love. Therefore, it's not surprising that though the Domestic Violence Act has been in existence for over a decade, it is still not considered a crime in many homes.
In Tamil Nadu, two out of five women face domestic violence, according to the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4).
NFHS-4 fieldwork for Tamil Nadu was conducted from 23 February, 2015 to 29 June, 2015 by EHI International Pvt. Ltd. The survey gathered information from 26,033 households, 28,820 women, and 4,794 men.
According to the survey, married women who have experienced spousal violence has fallen marginally from 41.9 per cent in 2005-2006 to 40.6 per cent in 2015-2016. Activists, however, say that these figures do not reflect reality.
Speaking to The News Minute, R Suganthi, Tamil Nadu General Secretary of AIDWA (All India Democratic Womenâ€™s Association), said, â€śThere must be close to 90 per cent of domestic violence cases. Beating alone is not domestic violence, even verbal abuse such as mocking the wife in front of the children can be considered as domestic violence."
Asked about why domestic violence occurs, she said, â€śIt has been a patriarchal society for ages and even now, women are asked to follow whatever men say. Lack of education and financial dependence are also reasons.â€ť
Suganthi believes that the mindset of men and women needs to change: â€śAndhra Pradeshâ€™s Assembly Speaker said that violence against women has increased because women go out more these and that if women are kept inside their house, there won't be as many cases! When women go to the police station to file a case, police will say that husbands have the right to hit as they are men. The thinking of men needs to change and women need to be educated to stop the violence against them."
Patriarchal norms are the underlying cause for domestic violence, said Nagaraj Karkada, Professor of Rural and Urban Development Studies, MIDS, Chennai.
â€śThere have been specific reasons at different times like increase in levels of insecurity, informalisation of the work force and also an increase in violence in general. I still feel informalisation of work force is a major factor,â€ť he said.
He added that there is always an error of two to three percent in the survey because many women do not report domestic violence due to fear.
In 2010, 11,718 cases were registered under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act while in 2009, 7,803, cases were registered. According to 2014 National Crime Records Bureau, Tamil Nadu reported the highest number of such cases against women with 3,983 cases, followed by Gujarat at 3,266 and West Bengal at 1,661.