Well, the girl in my last post said there was no problem and they were both fine. Chapter closed.
I got a feeling, from some of the comments on that post, that some bloggers feel, that under certain circumstances, some amount of domestic violence is tolerable.
Others feared that the wife was beating the husband. I have not witnessed or heard of any such case, but, even if violence against men by their wives is not as common as violence against women by their husbands, abused men need justice just like abused women do.
It’s not men verses women. It’s abuser versus victim.
I have heard of, and witnessed countless cases of women being physically abused. Mainly domestic helpers, living in servants’ quarters, the proximity exposes you to their lives, like nothing can. Women of all ages are beaten and bruised. It is not uncommon to hear of a woman being beaten in our society.
I wanted to know why violence was acceptable and under what kind of circumstances. I am very clear that I don’t think any kind of domestic violence is acceptable, under any circumstances. And I quite admire Renuka Chaudhury for the Domestic Violence Act 2005.(I am aware of the criticism.)
So I’d like to know this: Under what circumstances is it okay for a man to beat his wife?
I started with asking my domestic maids.
Maid 1 Age 34, looks 50, hollow cheeks, has three school going kids. When she saw our weighing scales she requested to check her weight, I still remember it was 34 kgs.She cleans my house for 800/- per month.
Maid 2 Claims she is 25, born two years before Mrs Gandhi was killed (1984). Looks eighteen, has three small kids. She cooks and does kitchen work, for 1300/- pm.
IHM: Under what circumstances is it okay for a man to beat his wife?
Maid 1 Such things happen in jhopad patti, not in decent families.
Maid 2 He should not hit her, but if he is angry, she can keep quiet until his temper has cooled down, then there won’t be so much violence.
IHM: So would you blame the woman?
Both: Only if she talks back.
IHM: So if he talks back can she also beat him?
Maid 1 Giggles…what kind of stuff does didi talk!!
Maid 2 Looks like she thinks I have come from another planet. Which I have… in so many ways? Sigh.
IHM: Fine. So it is okay if he beats her when she answers back?
Maid 1 Not okay, it’s not good, but what can she do? Why invite trouble?
Maid 2 If we go straight, then there is no problem; if we walk ikde tikde then he will beat us.
IHM: If he walks ikde tikde you can also beat him?
Maid 1: My niece had such problems, her parents went to Mahila Mandal, they kept the husband inside (locked up) for two days, they called and questioned her in-laws, now they are all fine. She has two daughters. He doesn’t abuse her anymore. Don’t write our names!!
(I wanted to know more about this Mahila Mandal, but she had no idea.)
Maid 2 – No, how can a wife beat her husband? The Police should beat him.
IHM: But you do think it’s okay for a man to beat his wife?
Maid 1 It’s not okay didi, but this happens when the girl is from a weaker or poorer, family, then her parents say, ‘We can’t feed ourselves, how will we feed you? You just adjust with your husband.’ Boy’s family knows she has nowhere to go…
Maid 2 says nothing then, but after Maid 1 has gone, she confides: My husband works only when he wants to, but can I watch my kids starving? When he is sitting idle at home he creates trouble, but I keep quiet, to maintain peace. Maid 1’s husband drinks…but don’t tell her I said so…
And I am thinking maybe I am wrong to ask them such questions. The cruelest thing is they can’t even talk about it. It is something they are so ashamed of! Alcoholism and violence at home are called ‘family matters’.
IHM: When you vote, can’t you demand that the liquor bars be closed, if someone gets liquor banned in your area will you vote for him/her? Can’t you women demand that?
Both the maids brightened, they have no doubt that liquor is the root of most of their troubles.
Liquor is as dangerous an addiction as drugs, we take drugs so seriously, then why is alcohol not taken seriously? Go to any slum, ask any women there and they will say everything was fine until liquor ruined their husbands and then the whole family.
IHM: If it’s your child, your son, beating his wife, what would you do?
Maid 1 Usko galee degi! (I will curse him)
IHM: If it’s your daughter being beaten, will you bring her back home to you?
Maid 1’s face falls. This is a cruel question, she has two daughters. I add, It will never happen. I know you will never let such a thing happen, but imagine any other girl dear to you, if it happens to someone you know…
Maid 1 (Looking determined and stronger suddenly) I will bring my daughter back. A mother can manage anything if she has to, but what can I say about her brother? Will he take care of her after me?
IHM: What if she is earning? You earn as much as your husband, don’t you?
Maid 1 If she earns she will be able to manage.
Edited to add : This post found mention in the F word, an online magazine dedicated to talking about and sharing ideas on contemporary UK feminism.