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“It’s Like Women Get Used to Living a Stifled Life”

Community Correspondent Shanti Baraik reports on cases of domestic violence and abuse and on the structures of power and everyday practices that lead to such violence. Through her videos, she hopes to give more power to survivors.

Binod, a resident of Gumla, Jharkhand, repeatedly subjected his wife, Usha, to physical assault because he had some “doubts” about her behaviour. These doubts, or assumptions about her character, were based on her use of her cellphone and because she mingled freely with fellow village residents.

The reasons behind Binod’s anger and violence might seem baseless but unfortunately, women stepping out of their homes and interacting freely with people, especially with men, are almost always seen as a threat, even today in both rural and urban areas. Also, women who use technology - even something as ubiquitous as a cellphone or a smartphone are seen as a threat. From families snatching their phones away to khap panchayats and educational institutes calling for bans on phones for women to government leaders blaming phones (especially when used by women) for rapes; we’ve heard it all.

Usha has now been living separately, in her natal home, for almost a year. Her natal family wants to press charges against her husband under the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act of 2005 but she is not willing to do so. When asked why, Usha says that she does not want him to be behind bars as it will be difficult for him to get bail, and he will get caught up in long-winding legal procedures.

Crimes against women, including domestic violence, are amongst the most underreported crimes. Many women are financially dependent on the men who subject them to violence and abuse and so they seek reconciliation rather than punishment as the latter only makes their situation worse in many ways. Women are also shamed for speaking up against violence, accused of washing their dirty linen in public.

Community Correspondent Shanti Baraik who reported on the case says that she knew, from the very beginning, that Usha was reluctant to go to the police or to the Women’s Commission or Helpline. “I knew that I could not go to officials and the police with this video because Usha did not want to, but I made this video nevertheless to show how women are conditioned to be quiet and tolerate all kinds of injustices while men go without retribution or remorse. It’s like women get used to living a stifled life.”

When Jahanara Ansari, a Community Correspondent from Gwalior, had spoke to police officers about the frequency with which they receive domestic violence complaints from women, the official responded saying, “Women will get a bad name if they come here to complain, they should settle their domestic matters at home. That is how educated people deal with such issues.”

Both Shanti and Jahanara have been part of Video Volunteers’ campaign to dismantle patriarchy, under which they have been documenting stories of everyday symbols of patriarchy and of violence and abuse. And they hope that her videos on gender issues can encourage women to break the spiral of silence that society pushes them into.

Video by Community Correspondent Shanti Baraik

Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV Editorial Team

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