When she says she no longer wishes to stay with him, why isn’t her word enough?

“She called me on the very day she committed suicide. She said that she was being battered so badly by her husband that she no longer wished to stay with him. But I persuaded her to give the marriage some more time.”[Link]

(Thanks for the link Momofrs)
Juhi Nakawa’s post-mortem report has revealed signs of struggle and other internal injuries. Her husband and mother in law are absconding. Her mother could have saved her life, but like the mothers here and here, this mother too did not take her daughter seriously. That’s our culture.

I received Momofrs mail while writing about why our gender ratio will not improve until we start  ‘respecting’ women. Respecting women would mean we acknowledge that women are equal citizens, human or people. Just like the rest of the world.

Meaning, we don’t respect them because they brought us into this world (so if they don’t want to be mothers, they don’t deserve respect?)

We don’t respect them because they sacrificed for us or because they are stronger and more loving, ‘they make a house a home‘, ‘they complete men’ or they are beautiful ( 🙄 ), they are wiser etc. We respect them even if they are none of these things, just because they are people, just like everybody else.

Respecting women would mean we acknowledge that they are the best and only people who can decide if they should stay in a marriage. Their word would be enough.

Yes it comes as a shock to their parents who have thought of nothing but her marriage all her life, maybe spent all their savings as dowry in the hope that she is treated humanely by her in laws and spouse.

Yes there are other problems. The neighbour’s third cousin will point a finger at the upbringing. Why do the parents care? Because they fear she will not find another match. Why not stop seeing Getting-married-and-Staying-married as the only goal in her life? A huge number of a woman’s problems are solved once marriage becomes an option instead of being the only goal in her life.

This might just save her life. Not only from abusive spouse or in laws, but also from her parents before or soon after she is born.

And even if her life is not at risk (let’s assume) then doesn’t her happiness matter? She has one life, if she is unhappy why wait for her to get used to abuse and unhappiness and for her spirit to break? Yes, nobody is perfectly happy, yes her grandmother and mother suffered too, but that’s no reason for her to not be given every chance to lead a happy, fulfilled life.

If she is matured enough to be married, then she is matured enough to decide if and when she does not wish to stay married. Here we hold her responsible even for crimes against herself, but we don’t trust her to take that one of the decision that concerns her more than it concerns anybody else.

Why don’t we take it seriously when a woman says they do not want to live with their spouse? Why isn’t her word enough?

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45 thoughts on “When she says she no longer wishes to stay with him, why isn’t her word enough?

  1. i dont agree that her word is not enough. I think the law has made it abundantly clear for anyone even planning to mess with their wives, that they will not be spared.

    And as far as i know, the law is being used, as well as being abused.

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    • So if a woman says she does not wish to live with her husband, she should be forced to live with him?

      Edited to add: I missed the ‘no’ Ketan!
      Like in this case and the other two I have linked, women are sent back to live with their husbands and many die, some commit suicide. This happens in all strata of society.
      It’s really good that the law is in place, but we do need the family (and hence the society) to support and help women walk out of unhappy marriages. Don’t you think so?

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      • Why do women need their parents’ approval to leave their husbands? That is an equally big problem here! If they did not wait to get approval from their parents for things like this, many of them would not have to go through this abuse.

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        • Nish, though what you say is partially true, how many women are lucky enough to be empowered to walk away and make a life of their own? Most of the women are not economically strong enough to do that. They do need the support of their family, at least for sometime, till they are able to stand on their feet.

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      • I agree with nish. Why all these permissions? If she doesnt like to be with ehr husband, move out. The sad part is, that inspite of all the progress women have made, they still need *permissions*.

        What for?

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      • And for women not wanting to have thier parents permission is called an animal and arrogant. And for women not waiting for their husbands permssion is considered ” loose, narcissitic and careless ” ! Rise above the ways of the world . Create your own..you will see it is a better place . But you need one permssion – Yours – Say yes.

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    • The laws lay down a million guidelines and rules. But do we believe in them? eg: How many of us encourage family/friends going to police in case there has been domestic violence?

      me – We all know it’s just not done… 😦

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      • Forget going to the police, people always discourage a couple from filing for divorce without knowing anything about why they want to divorce in the first place. That needs to stop. Couples with marital problems should be encouraged to go for a divorce against social pressure, and perhaps incentives such as tax-breaks for the following year may help with this.

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  2. Sometimes I feel that the real issue is people not understanding the real meaning of ‘respect’. Giving respect to someone doesn’t mean accepting/praising/tolerating even the unfair practices. The same goes for the term ‘equality’. To have a woman considered equal to a man, she need not be given special attention, or rights, or privileges. She only needs the ‘same’ right to live with dignity as men do.
    Is it the fear of role-reversal? Because if it is then perhaps only education(or can it??) can teach them that equality means “equal” and not lesser status than women…

    Me – Great points Puja, I think there is some fear of role reversal… and it is unfounded.

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    • great point made by puja thakur..respect is relative-means different things to different people, it is demonstrated in different ways, which is fine but the basic understanding is lacking here, the fact that treating people equally also denotes respect.
      a lot of this feeds into our social conditioning as well.. since day one, daughters are taught that subservience is the key to happiness, endure whatever comes your way-for if you dont, you damage our(parents) reputation, society will condone us.
      everytime i read headlines like this one, i cringe.
      india as a nation, may be turning into this economic superpower but whats the point in all of it when a basic right of people (women in this case) of living life with dignity is violated. i am quick to blame the mom in this situation and in the others cases you highlighted, but then again, they too were fed the same crap of – ‘seh lo-its your marriage after all, take whatever abuse comes along your way, thats what you should do now that you are a wife and a daughterinlaw, and remember one of your basic duties as a daughter is to protect and save our family ‘izzat’! oh boy!

      IHM, nothing like education -its the best cure for such ignorance. and its a pity that we are losing lives because of it. i am also acutely aware that it is easier said than done.

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  3. That’s what our society is all about. People do not take a woman seriously,for ours is a male dominated society. I think it will take ages for that mindset to change. Any woman ,who tries to utter a word against it ,is labelled and surprisingly by women, too. She becomes a laughing stock for all and all this in an attempt to lower her self esteem. Politics in gender game…

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    • Salma, in a Patriarchal society, the older men are the most powerful, younger men are often exploited, they can’t choose who to marry, they can’t take up the jobs they might wish to, and often they are not encouraged to have a healthy relationship with their wives.

      Mindsets will change when each one of us starts questioning set norms. Compared to our grandmothers, most of us are leading happier, more comfortable lives.

      I feel it is not really politics in gender games – there is no men versus women. Patriarchy is simply some powerful community members (can be an older woman also) controlling the choices of all the other members in the name family values, custom, tradition etc.

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  4. Absolutely , we need to respect for being a human being, just like her male counterparts. Her words are considered immature when expresses a desire to separate, she is treated like a child who doesn’t know what’s good for him but she is expected to be strong enough to endure the situation she doesn’t even deserve to be in the first place. Parenting needs to become a mandatory course before anyone gets married…and no parenting doesn’t mean learning how to change diapers but how to create an environment in which parents give their kids a place to grow up to be self sufficient in their thought process, so they are able to trust when their child says that it is not working out and they need to get their priorities straight that a life matters while what will mausi and chachi say can just be thrown down the drain.

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  5. My father, who is a lawyer, blogged about the misuse of domestic violence laws here

    I did my bit in the comments section to punch some holes into that 🙂 Just reading statements made by judges on these issues makes my skin crawl.

    Me- Let me go through the post and the comments 🙂

    Read your comments, well said GB.

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  6. Ironically, the day when women are seen as just ordinary will be the day when they are truly empowered.

    I personally find it very hard to understand the concept of sanctity of marriage. What is so sacred about it? What is so special about it that you tolerate some insecure, misogynistic prick beating up your daughter, just to preserve this institution?

    I feel like puking every time I hear the phrase “give it some more time”. It is a perfectly valid phrase in itself. But in my mind, it has become a symbol of oppression. My heart goes out to this woman. This was not suicide. This was murder, plain and simple. She was murdered by society. And sooner rather than later, society must pay the price for it’s tyranny.

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    • “I personally find it very hard to understand the concept of sanctity of marriage. What is so sacred about it? What is so special about it that you tolerate some insecure, misogynistic prick beating up your daughter, just to preserve this institution?”

      Couldn’t have put it any better.

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    • @PT,
      …“give it some more time”…

      This phrase actually means your abusers need little more time to break you into their coral. Once your spirit is broken you’ll find ways to survive in those circumstances. Not only survive but even find ways to be happy and thankful in that mess.

      Peace,
      Desi Girl

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  7. The big question here is why did she not call the cops when her mother chickened out on her? She may still have been alive had she done that!

    In my opinion, in addition to arresting her husband and mother-in-law, they should also charge her mother for indirectly being a party to her harassment by coercing her to continue living with her abusers.

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    • Nish,

      She may not have approached the police because she must have been emotionally and physically drained of her strength. Also, girls are expected to uphold their families honor and are stopped from going to the police due to family and social pressures. If her own mother did not support her, who will support her once she goes to the police?

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    • Nish: make that “DIRECTLY” responsible please. Honestly, i think that every parent who marries off their daughter (any wonder its called marrying OFF!) knowing that they will be abused, any parent that tells their daughter to “kindly adjust” in the face of brutal abuse – physical or mental, any parent like that is party to crime – DIRECTLY.

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  8. Is it a civilized society ?
    And what culture we talk about ?
    We Indians always take pride in our ‘sone ki chidiya bharat’ … a fairytale story and just want to bask in the glory of the past .
    Do we want to grow and learn ?

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  9. If we take the marriage out of it for a bit, say this was a situation of harassment at work….what do you think her parents would say? Or if it was something that she said, a different view from what they hold, would they not have said the same thing? To me the mentality of a woman having to adjust is the crux of the issue. If that is fixed, it will not matter if the context is a relationship gone abusive or something less dangerous. Respect of the woman’s individuality and her opinion has to be irrespective of situation and that requires a collective mindset change.

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  10. I feel marriage should be seen as an ‘option’ for better happiness and not a necessity. My mom made it abundantly clear to me when I got married that marriage should *always* be for better happiness. Be in the marriage because you *want* to be in, and not because you *have* to be in it for the sake of someone (neighbor’s 3rd cousin )

    Women should be seen as just individuals and not relative to any person. Women are not moms, wives, DILs, daughters, managers at work.. they are just individuals. And they should be seen as individuals especially by her own parents. Parents are supposed to be the rock solid supports of their children. It is unfortunate that in so many cases its the girl’s parents who force her to stay married (even if it is unhappy).

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  11. Loved this bit – If she is matured enough to be married, then she is matured enough to decide if and when she does not wish to stay married.
    The problem with respect in our country is that people demand respect, based on their age, experience, work, profile, money, power, relationship et al
    Respect hence is very forced and the same goes for women, this entire concept is forced on them, but the irony is that though they are the “respect” of every darned household, they have no respect of their own and no one respects them.
    Mothers, daughters, DILs, aunts, sisters are all taken for granted. And most times, treated like doormats, and we let them do it.
    I also think, we feel guilty asking for our rights, and its all social conditioning.
    Every death due to domestic violence should be treated as murder, because thats what it is. Its murder in cold-blood.

    me – Completely agree. Internal injuries! What kind of family values permit someone to hurt their life partner like this?

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  12. From Buzz:

    Bikramjit Mann – Thats because We are too bothred about what the STUPID society will say.. rather then how our daughter – sister is going through.. We are hypocrite people .. we take actions according to others or how it personally helps us .. thats the truth6:15 pm

    Girl Desi – Marriage is injurious to women’s health scientific studies have proved it. DG has posted links in previous posts. Why not eliminate this dysfunctional system or change it. It won’t happen because 50% stakeholders benefit from it and they also control the resources that make possible to live without marriage, namely financial, social and political.7:11 pm

    Indian Homemaker – I agree the system needs a major overhaul. Those who live in happy marriages have already made atleast the bare minimum changes… like no dowry, sharing of chores etc 7:20 pm

    Ruchira Shukla – Two words – Bloody Society7:31 pm

    Girl Desi
    @Ruchira Shukla,
    We make this society. Yes, it was here before us but we sustain and perpetuate it. Lets stepup and seek accountability from the parent who refused to take a suicide from a distressed offspring seriously and report it to law enforcement.

    Denying and minimizing someone’s fear of violence, threat of violence or self endangerment are all legal offenses.

    But now the same society will have a sympathy wave for these parents. It is high time we stopped sympathizing but start asking tough questions.

    AS A PARENT WHAT DID YOU DO TO PROTECT YOUR CHILD FROM HARMS WAY??? 7:37 pm

    Shail MohanEven as a quite young kid I have been flummoxed by the ‘You do whatever you want AFTER marriage” This seemed to imply that parents were just bringing you (daughters) up and keeping you ready to be ‘fit’ for the marriage market. Once the girls were successfully dumped on others, parents did not care what happened to them
    I fail to understand parents who wash their hands of their children (only female ones) once they are married. What is the use of crying for a dead daughter when you won’t help her when she is alive and in need of support?!
    7:47 pm

    Indian Homemaker – I am copy-pasting this conversation on my blog – as a comment.

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  13. Simply because we tend to infantalize women. This reflects in everything we do. Take the case of rules preventing women from participating in some jobs- mining or armed combat for instance. The argument is “they are not strong enough for that”. Or even being the recipients of bad news about heir family. I remember when my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor, in 1997, which was the secondary metastasis of his lung cancer, a lot of the attending physicians were reluctant to tell my mother or me what exactly was wrong. They preferred to talk to my uncles. My mother had to actually browbeat the chief doctor into telling her- without the usual”he will get better”. i remeber her saying,” why do you think I cannot take the news, I have to live with this, not my brothers or brother in-laws, I will have to deal with it. ”
    But this is all part of the “fairer sex” fallacy. It translates to the “parents permission” part for anything a grown adult woman has to do- rent a house, buy a car, sign papers, or even in extreme cases strip at her will ( see the furore over Poonam Pandey’s little publicity stunt- what do her parents say, – clearly she can vote but cannot do what she wants unless her folks permit her to).

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    • I think the answer is to point out of men that if we are strong enough to go through the pain of hours and hours of labour, we can definitely take on whatever bad news/job they might think we cannot handle.

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  14. Do not mean to discourage anyone…but walking out of an unhappy marriage is just a beginning…to many more battles, n a life long stigma that a woman has to be VERY STRONG to not let bother her. Every time a kid doesnt do well in school, or in life…the woman is blamed for walking out, for disturbing a favorable environment for the child’s growth. Every time life throws at her any kind of hardship that effects her kids…the woman is blamed for walking out. Every time she feels depressed/worn out, it’s suggested…things might’ve been different if she still had a companion, that a known devil is better living with than fighting it all alone.

    But none of the above is any excuse for not saying ‘NO’ to abuse…
    Walking out is an option, just not the only one…certainly not for everyone.
    What if a girl is abused by her own brother/s, father, uncles, aunts, grandmother, grandfather and is not financially independent, worse is still a minor? What option does she have?
    More than financial wealth, a girl needs to foster self confidence, a fighter’s spirit, a no non-sense attitude, and has to work towards maintaining her emotional well-being alongwith getting an education, learning skills to support herself financially.

    When every girlchild right from the beginning, will be given the liberty to say ‘NO’…to abuse, to unfair treatments within her own family…where most mothers, grandmothers favor/pamper sons n grandsons over daughters/granddaughters…I will say we truly respect women.

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    • That’s why at least financial importance is crucial for women. If we cannot count on our own families, then at least we should be able to count on ourselves. Not saying it’s easy, but it’s better than being beaten up every day.

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  15. You know, this thing beats me – we assume that there are only 2 ways to deal with abuse – accept, or flee. there is a third way. A more potent, more often used way. Its called “Fighting back” and/or “saying no!”. And contrary to what people think, a LOT of women do just that.

    They tell their marital families that they will not accept certain behavior. The family council is often called, and the in laws are “counseled”. Yes, such a setup has the obvious disadvantage of “sanskar”, but it works.

    In one case, the mama of the girl said to the FIL : “You have a married daughter, and i know her father in law. Should i call him and tell him how you treat your Daughter in law? Should i tell him to treat your daughter the same way? If you say one more time that you are treating your DIL well, i promise i will do just that. And let me promise you this – one more complaint about you, one more, and your samdhees will know exactly what is happening in your house. ” It worked.

    Another case, the family council sat and told the in laws “If you ever hit this girl again, we promise you that all of you will be behind bars, under the dowry act. Never mind that you did not take any dowry. We will do it. Promise.”

    In both the cases, the girl was not abused again. In the first case, social pressure was applied, and the second was a case of pure threat, but it worked.

    Food for thot, that?

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  16. Apart from the in-laws obviously been murderers (wonder why the father-in-law and brother stuck around while the husband and mother fled?) the girl’s mother’s statement was also odd. If someone told me my daughter had committed suicide, even if I thought they were joking (!) I’d go there right away. Why wait a day? This is assuming they were in the same city.

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  17. Being married and staying married is such a huge status quotient in our country…it’s not even funny 😐 The question needs to be turned on its head and asked: why they need to be married?

    Because:
    1) the society wants them to be married
    2) they themselves want to be married
    ….OR……..
    3) they met the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with…happy and content??

    Like

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