Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Gender, Headlines, Human Rights, Poverty & SDGs

RIGHTS-INDIA: Kerala Women Are Battered Wives

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Oct 6 2009 (IPS) - Kerala, the south Indian state which has the highest literacy levels and excellent social development indicators, has an unsavoury side – a land of violent husbands.

K. Promudu: "Empowerment programmes have encouraged wives to file complaints" Credit: K.S. Harikrishnan/IPS

K. Promudu: "Empowerment programmes have encouraged wives to file complaints" Credit: K.S. Harikrishnan/IPS

An IPS analysis of the data of domestic violence which was recorded in the Kerala State Crimes Records Bureau (KSCRB), under the state government’s home department, has revealed a nearly 50 percent increase in wife-beating complaints registered at police stations in the state during the period 1998- 2008.

The number of incidents of crimes relating to spousal assaults on women was 2,333 in 1988 and reached up to 4,143 in 2008.

The analysis also disclosed a 50 percent increase in the incidence of violence against Kerala women in the same period, which has risen from 4,734 to 9,706.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has corroborated KSCRB statistics and stated that there was a steady increase in the incidents relating to wife torture by husbands and relatives in the past few years. It put the rate of cruelty by husbands at 9.8, which is almost double the national average of 5.3 in 2004, while the rate increased to 11.8 with the national average at 5.3 in 2007.

According to the third National Family Health Survey (NFHS), 16.4 percent of women who have married in Kerala have experienced spousal violence while the all-India percentage is 37.2.

Divorce and DeathThe records from family courts in Kerala showed that the institution of marriage was less protective of women. During the period 2005-08, 45,762 marital discord cases landed up in the divorce courts. Every day at least 37 people are seeking divorce due to different reasons such as wife-beating, extra marital affairs, tension with in-laws, dowry, and psychiatric disorders.

R. Anilkumar, Thiruvananthapuram-based lawyer who specialises in family matters, told IPS that there was a phenomenal increase in cases relating to dissolution of marriages in Ernakulam and Thiruvananthapuram districts.

He said, “There is a 50 percent increase in divorce over the last 15 years. Lack of strong bond of family values, change from joint family to nuclear family, greed for money, lack of effective communication and intolerance and extra marital affairs are main reasons behind husband-wife estranged relations that leads to divorce.”

The Kerala State Mental Health Authority (KSMHA) draws a poignant picture of the state which has an increasing trend in suicides among females between the ages 15-29 year. Marital stress is cited as a major reason.

Dr. D. Raju, secretary of the Thiruvananthapuram-based KSMHA said, “Contrary to the West, where the highest suicide was among un-married and separated women, 75.2 percent suicides in Kerala were married; 18 percent were un-married and 6.8 percent widows/ widowers.”

A study report prepared in association with International Council for Research in Women and the U.S.Agency for International Development, led by Shuba Kumar, Chennai-based social scientist, found a strong association between domestic spousal violence and poor mental health.

“Violence against domestic women has far reaching mental health implications. Women who were poor and those who were less educated were also found to be at increased risk of poor mental health,” the report added.

The study based on gender violence categorised four types of violence/abuse in spousal clashes – physical, sexual, psychological and economical.

While analysing the psychology behind the atrocities against wives and the increasing trend in domestic violence, Dr. K. Promodu, well known clinical psychologist and director of the Kochi-based Dr. Promodu’s Sexual and Marital Health told IPS that the thinking style of the husband was a crucial point in the origin of the conflict.

“Cognitive errors, paranoid nature, obsessive nature, hyper sensitive nature, mental illness and alcoholism-drug addiction are determinants in the wife-husband conflict.”

He said, “women empowerment programmes in Kerala have made a lot of improvement in the society that ultimately encourage house wives to come out from the domestic screen for filing complaints against their husbands. That is why there is an increase in the number of cases of crimes involving husbands and their relatives reported in police stations.”

Feminist Dr. Manju R. Pillai, also a well known scientist at the Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies, in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram, who is actively associated with a prominent women’s group ‘Sakhi’ (friend), says that violence by husbands basically stems from unequal power relations that exist between men and women within families, communities and societies, and leaves women the most vulnerable.

“Women mostly suffer from violence committed by their partners or family members within their own homes in contrast to the common perception that they are most likely to be attacked by strangers and outside home. Whether it happens at home or else it is a total violation of women’s rights and freedom,” she added.

NFHS has indicated that a major percentage of women in the age group of 15-49 years justify the wife-beating, which is surprising, considering the educational status of women in the state. During NFHS- 2 survey period 61 percent married women justified wife beating while NFHS-3 period their numbers increased to 65.7 percent.

According to the census report on Kerala, a state that the tourist industry promotes as “god’s own country”, women achieved 88 percent literacy compared to 54 percent in India as a whole.

Sociologists pointed out the deep rooted hegemony of Kerala patriarchal society which exhibits women only to be good wives and mothers.

Dr. Shyamala Nair, Kasargod-based independent sociologist, said that women were conditioned to accept the supremacy of men. “Really, Kerala house wives are locked in the four walls, and conditioned to believe that their husbands have every right to beat them or punish them. Knowingly or unknowingly, a good number of women fall into this line of thinking, and justify the wife-beating.”

World Studies of Abuse in the Family Environment (WorldSAFE) analysis, based on data collected from India (Thiruvananthapuram, Lucknow, Vellore), Philippines (Paco-Manila), Egypt (El -Sheik Zayal) and Chile (Santa Rosa), acknowledges that socio-economic status indicators are related to the presence of intimate partner violence.

“The employment status of woman was related to her experience of intimate partner violence, and her educational level and the family’s assets index were protective factors,” WorldSAFE said.

Pradeep Kumar Panda who has researched domestic violence against women in Kerala, at the Centre for Development Studies, a social science research institution in the Kerala capital, is of the view that women’s right to housing and right to property and inheritance are critical and most fundamental for any strategy of prevention of domestic violence.

“Empowerment of women is the key to prevent gender based violence. Access to, and control over, economic resources is the pre-condition to women’s empowerment. Social support networks are also a crucial factor in reducing domestic violence,” he explained.

To wipe out the cruelties done by husbands, Dr. Nair wanted the “law on Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005) be implemented strongly.”

Republish | | Print |

borderline personality disorder book