The term “domestic violence” refers to all the violent acts coming from one family member against another.Besides physical abuse, its ambit also extends to verbal, psychological, and sexual abuse. A huge misconception that prevails in India is that domestic violence is always directed towards women. However, men also suffer from domestic violence. Due to gender-stereotypical assumptions, society is unable to believe that a woman can inflict violence on a man. Suffocated by the socio-cultural norms, men are unable to speak of this violence against them.
A GLANCE AT THE PROBLEM
According to the latest Indian study, almost 51.5% of couples have been into domestic violence. Society always thinks of domestic violence against women. Scarce research data on domestic violence against men are available in the scientific literature. Men are always believed to be the perpetrators. However, domestic violence is not limited to women only. Men are also subject to verbal, physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse. Usually, men do not raise their voices against this abuse and are silent victims of the torture.
According to a recent study, 51.5% of men have experienced domestic violence at least once in their lifetime and 10.5% in the last 12 months. Considering physical violence and threats against men by wife’s relatives almost 30 million Indian men face domestic violence. The laws in our society usually see women as victims. In such a case, men become helpless and do not get justice easily. Men are declared as culprits even before the actual decision. In the past, society has been male-dominated and we have seen heinous crimes against women. However, that does not entitle us to perceive that men can never be sufferers.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
Domestic violence can affect a person’s life physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. It violates basic human rights. There are many types of domestic violence.
Physical violence refers to physical torture leading to bodily harm or injury. It includes slapping, pushing, hitting or throwing objects. In physical violence, slapping was identified as the most common form (98.3%). Physical violence is the most common type of violence after emotional violence. Society often pictures men to have physical strength and women to be physically weaker. Therefore it is a common misbelief that men never face physical violence.
Psychological violence exerts adverse effects on mental health. It causes emotional harm to the person. A recent study reported 85% abuse against the men by criticism, 29.7% by insult, and 3.5% by threats. It can also be exerted through constant threats to the husband under false allegations of dowry, marital rape or domestic violence.
WHY DON’T MEN RAISE VOICE?
In a patriarchal society, men are often ashamed to be beaten by a woman. Family pressure also prevents men to report the torture. The reasons for this are societal status and the fear of false accusations of dowry or marital. Also even when men report domestic abuse, people do not believe them. Additionally, when they try to complain, no one takes them seriously. Majorly men are ashamed of saying that they are beaten by their wives. A false hope that things would get better, fear of losing social respect, love toward their children stop men from raising voices. Also the fear of false accusations scares men to the core. Unfortunately, even when men complain it is perceived as “feminine behaviour” in the patriarchal society.
THE ADVERSE IMPACT OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ON MEN
Violence adversely affects life physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. Violence is a violation of human rights. Unreported and unnoticed violence against men deteriorates mental health, can cause depression, anxiety or even suicide in extreme cases. It has been observed that suicide rates were more in married men as compared to separated or unmarried men. Besides depression men also have to live in constant fear of false allegations against them and their families. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), violence can increase the risk of getting addicted to smoking, alcohol, and drug abuse; it can also cause mental illness and suicidal tendencies. It can also cause chronic diseases like heart diseases, diabetes, and cancer; and social problems such as crime and further violence.
GENDER NEUTRAL LAWS
Adultery sees man as the ultimate culprit. We don’t have a law where a man can complain to his wife or in-laws. Divorce and child custody laws, look at women with a more sympathetic vision and consider them as a victim. The same is true in the case of maintenance after divorce. The number of false allegations on men regarding marital rape is also increasing.
We need gender-neutral laws that address the issue of false allegations. Human rights and gender equality ought to include both men and women. Domestic violence should be seen as spousal violence. It shall not be differentiated due to gender stereotypes. The domestic violence act in India pertains to women only. Studies clearly show that men are also the victims of domestic violence at the hand of women. Hence, necessary amendments addressing violence against men are required.
Society is changing, and so are the norms and values regarding domestic violence. We need to understand that men can also be physically and mentally harassed by their spouses and in-laws. Hence, their problems must be recognized and appropriate strategies and interventions should be implemented. We cannot deny that the society that we are inhabiting is male-dominated and patriarchal. However, this does not mean that every time a man is wrong and a woman is right. Real equality does not see women as the weaker sex. Rather it recognises domestic violence as spousal violence. It gives men the courage to raise their voice against violence and society, the humility to understand it.
Laws and legislation must include domestic violence against men as a punishable offence. If we need men who understand and respect women then we also need women who do the same for men. In the end, we need to be more considerate towards both men and women. Like all women are not victims similarly all men are also not the perpetrators. Men and women are the pillars of both society and their families. Hence, laws are needed to protect both. We can flourish only when we understand gender equality in the true sense.