When you go to Google, scouring for the statistics for domestic violence on Men, you won’t find any for India. The reason for it may be the affixed stigma – A man and domestic violence? Is he even a man? The preconceived idea of a man being the strong one.
A man being subjected to domestic violence seems unbelievable to us as a society, primarily due to the extreme gender stereotypes that we have inherited for centuries.
In 2004 almost 16 years before, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) has found that about 1.8% or an estimated 60 lakh women have perpetrated physical violence against husbands without any provocation.
A figured 3 crore men are facing domestic violence in India. The condition in the United Kingdom is no better. A UK government survey indicated that 9% of males had suffered some facet of partner abuse, which amounts to approximately 1.4 million men. A survey from Canada reported equal proportions of men and women being sufferers of spousal violence during the preceding 5 years
The suicide rate in India is 16.4% per 100,000 for women which is 6th highest and 25.8% for men ranking 22nd in the world highest men suicide rate. Domestic violence is both psychological and physical. It can be inflicted by wives, by parents, by relatives or by anyone on anyone. Swarup Sarkar, the founder of Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF), has said that there is no legal provision for married men facing verbal or mental abuse.
Domestic violence comes fastened with the aggressors being male. The preconceived idea of men being violent and women always being the sufferers of violence at the hand of males is one of the vital reasons for male domestic violence being neglected, the other being toxic masculinity. There have been numerous cases in which the wife has pressed false charges of domestic violence and husbands being harassed by the wives’ family. Home is another example where domestic violence perpetuates. The pressure of career primarily on the boys with a restricted space provided to pour out their emotions should leave us in no surprise that in most of the countries, the male suicide rate is higher.
Violence appears in different forms and circumstances and involves distinct kinds of violent acts against children, women, and men and other defenceless persons. To get a more nuanced perspective on how different kind of gender violence and interfamily violence impact a sufferer and aggressor, we spoke to a male and a female respondent. On the condition of anonymity, the respondents agreed to reflect on their personal experiences of domestic abuses, manifested through physical, psychological and social aggressions and how they feel about it.
The girl reflects upon her experience as saying:
Being a girl has always been difficult. I was four or maybe younger when my father died in a car accident. With the male member being taken as the strong one in the society, we were left defenceless or that’s what my mother thought.
I was twelve when my mother told me about touches. There are bad touch and good touch. And apparently, men aren’t to be blamed for the bad touches, it depends on the women. And I would go and question my friends about the touches. Did your father ever touch you in the wrong way? And they would give me weird looks, except one of them. And a fraction of me still believes in that revelation.
It was around the time when I was a sophomore, I was coming from my friend’s house holding a Harry Potter novel. I noticed a man standing in front of the corridor of my home. As his face unblurs, I agnize him with utmost alacrity and familiarity. He was my neighbour. I casually greeted him, the way you would greet any neighbour my face beaming with a smile. While stepping in, I was stopped by him as he wanted to know where I was coming from. No sooner had I started answering him, his hand went to a bad touch. I never told my mother because I knew she would tell me to be silent about it.
The same day, I read in the newspaper the story of a man Jitendra Sachdev, a common man who was the victim of domestic violence. After the separation with his wife, Jitendra was in a turmoil when his wife and her family members started threatening him after she forcefully entered his house. A false domestic violence complaint was filed against him and after he again began to live separately, her demands started increasing. They held him by his neck trying to thrash him when he called the police, and the Police took Jitendra’s wife statement only mocking him for being so helpless and weak.
Coming to the bad touch. Yet, again, I was overwhelmed with this new niche of another door. Bad touches are connected to both the genders, I realised that day but with the shock of what had happened with me, I let the idea go as suddenly as it came. Earlier, every part of me believed that every man in the world comes with a bad touch.
The boy reflects upon his experience as saying:
When I was born, I was a regular, happy and sporty child. Those were the days when you believed the world is a happy place filled with kitties and rainbows.
When I turned ten, things changed. My mom started acting differently. At first, it was one insult like “I hate your laugh.” Or “your butt is too small.” Then it was other insults like “you’re so lazy.” Or “you’re so stupid.” I ignored it. It was just a few insults… right?
Then I was pressurised for my career, “You need to look after this house after us, don’t you worry about your future?” “If you go like this, you will never get a decent job, how will you manage”, ” don’t you have masculine interests, you are wasting whole day reading a book or drawing things.”
I wasn’t allowed to cry or I’d get screamed at. I wasn’t allowed to be angry or I’d get grounded. I was being turned into a robot. At school, I was being reminded again and again by my friends how I can’t breakdown, how if they fight, I need to fight back too, how I need to affix myself to the habits of a man without exceptions.
I slowly but surely turned into an explosive but emotionless individual. I began inflicting harm on myself, I felt lonely and misunderstood. All what my parents did to their fragile and vulnerable child was to convince that you can’t cry because these are not important enough reasons to.
And to this day, I know the reason why most of us sleep at night crying, while our parents are in another room distracted by something else entirely. Abusive parents insist on telling you what you’re allowed to think of them, of yourself, of every single action they do. You end up having to consider your every thought and action through their point of view, or you are brutally reminded that you should have done so, and you are in fact, heartless and cruel and selfish and ignorant of your poor parents if you stop considering their point of view for a second. This paves way for another affliction – Abusive relationships.
You stay quiet when you are in one of them. You stoop yourself low clutching the same notions of being strong even if you are breaking apart. When you are insulted, you stay silent and when you are told to do something you go to that trail without a second thought- slowly paving way for an individual who has lost all connections with emotions and who has learnt to mould himself according to the ideas of a society. When I’m punched, I will punch back, and I will curse when I have to.
Being raised like this can make you sink into desperation, never knowing what about you is not good enough and always fearing that it is your fault when a person abandons you without explanation. You could become a perfectionist who tries to find every flaw and mistake before narcissists could, and try to do the impossible in hope of reaching that evasive, distant approval and love. And you can be biased because I am a man.
You can misunderstand me because of your past or you can accept me because of my past. Either way, I have to clutch tightly to the traditions and manners I am entitled to. Since childhood, I have been told “mard ko dard nahi hota”, sometimes directly and most of the time in indirect ways. Either way, I have been reminded infinite times of my gender and its norms. It doesn’t matter even if men die by suicide three times more than women.
Domestic Violence – as we perceive it to be is not the case. It is limited not only to husband and wives or children and parents. It is concocted by the society we are brought up in-the delineated boundary of being strong, of bottling it up and of being quiet. Domestic Violence is structurally embedded in our environment.
We have poisoned the tree to its very root and complain about the poisonous fruit, poisoning the tree with a macho mentality even if the facts reveal a different reality.
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