Meena Kandasamy emphasizes the physical abuse and even marital rape that occurs regularly around the world – but at an alarming rate in India. Domestic violence is the largest crime against females in India. In 2014 there was a recorded 122,877 cases of domestic violence which, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, gets worse over the years.
According to some readers, Meena Kandasamy’s book has been a mission to stomach, especially because it’s a fictionalized account of her own abusive relationship. However, to turn away from it would be the same as a neighbor turning away from your cry for help. The mess, the despair, and the facts about abuse have to be faced before we can expect a change.
Oftentimes, physical abuse either includes or later leads to rape. According to the narrator of the book: “The man who rapes me is not a stranger who runs away,” and defines marital rape as: “the rape whose aim is to make me understand that my husband can do with my body as he pleases. This is rape as ownership.”
According to Meena, men think “rape is rape only when it’s gory: when your intestines are pulled out”. But “the idea that rape is sex without consent is something they have a very hard time acknowledging. To these men, the consent of the wife is a given, it is already there.
In their minds, it is not possible to be someone’s wife and refuse to sleep with him, even for a night—it is seen as a right that a male immediately acquires after his marriage—the right to fuck his wife at will. Sadly, this kind of abusive, misogynist view—where the female consent does not matter—is not the view of men alone, but also that of the state and the judiciary.”
But why not just leave an abusive marriage? There are a plethora of reasons. However, first and foremost is the fear of “What will people say?” and then is the voice of a father begging you to protect his “honor” and after that is the sound of a mother consoling you that it’ll get better after you have a child.
Above it all, though, is your inner hope peaking through, waiting to see if he changes.
However, the most troublesome reason for it all is that the police don’t interfere in domestic violence cases and so many women are turned away empty-handed.
Meena put this forth in her novel alongside all the other challenges she faced. As a feminist and a strong-willed woman, it would have been harder for people to believe she had been abused.
“The idea that strong women cannot be abused within their marriages is a big myth,” said Kandasamy in response to a question asked to her by another journalist, “I believed that no man, no husband could lay a hand on me. I was fierce and feminist and no-nonsense. Then, within an abusive marriage, I actually realized that your strength is also what makes you a perfect target for an abuser.”
While Meena made it out hurting but alive, most women do not. That needs to change.
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