Unsafe as houses: The family is a site of violence against women
Of the 87,000 female homicides in 2017, 58 per cent were perpetrated by intimate partners and family members
The most dangerous place for women, according to a United Nations report on gender-related killing of women and girls, is their home. Of the 87,000 female homicides in 2017, 58 per cent were perpetrated by intimate partners — past or present — and family members. This throws the cold light of day on that hallowed institution called the family. That the female body invites violence — it is meant to be either sexually devoured or destroyed, and be subjected to abuse in between — is not a revelation. Killing women, the UN report finds, is just “a continuum of gender-based discrimination and abuse”. The use of sexual violence against women as a weapon of war or to force her family or community into subjugation is well recorded. In fact, the idea that danger lurks in every corner for the woman outside her home has long been employed to keep her confined within the domestic set up. The report exposes this argument as sham.
It is within the purported safe haven of home that women are most vulnerable. One of the most common forms of violence against women is that perpetrated by a male partner. It need not always amount to a killing that gets reported. For every case of reported homicide, there must be hundreds of cases of physical abuse — in the form of slaps, kicks or assault with a weapon — that are either borne quietly or hushed up. But habitual male violence within marriage is normalized — what else explains India’s refusal to acknowledge the possibility of marital rape? — by a patriarchal society, and governments or law enforcement agencies that are a product of this culture.
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