The Plight of Men and Women in an Abusive Relationship

By: Rachel Leann D’Souza

A toxic relationship is characterized by insecurity, self-centeredness, dominance, control. They can be emotionally draining and can affect the victim’s physical and mental health. The relationship leaves the person stressed, and in a state of anxiety, and takes a long time to heal from.

If all this is true, why do women stay in abusive relationships?

Indian women feel compelled to stay in abusive relationships for several reasons. For married women, there is a social stigma around divorcees. People find the title shameful and many women would rather endure the abuse than to face this public humiliation. Economic stability also plays an important role. Women have become more independent, getting their education and working, though many women choose to stay at home after having children. Many women are also discouraged from keeping a job after marriage, in more traditional families. This leaves the woman helpless as she is financially unable to fend for herself if she leaves her abuser.

Fear and manipulation are also key tools used by abusers to keep their victims from seeking help. They impose threats and the fear of what would happen to them if they tried to disobey often keeps them from getting away from that toxic relationship.

Another way for an abuser to hold power over their victim is revenge porn, which has been a rising trend in the last few years. Revenge-porn is defined as “sexually explicit images of a person posted online without that person’s consent especially as a form of revenge or harassment”. Morphed images of the victim are used for the same reason. A study conducted by Cyber & Law Foundation found that 27% of internet users aged 13 to 45 in India have been subjected to such instances of revenge porn.

The issue is that even if action is taken and the content is removed by the original uploader, anyone that has seen it could have downloaded and reuploaded it elsewhere. There is no way to track down each person and force them to remove the content.

In other cases, because of social stigma, many victims choose not to report this harassment.
The recent surge in revenge porn has led to many countries passing laws to tackle this issue specifically, although India has no specific law to deal with it specifically.

However, in March 2018, in the case of State of West Bengal v Animesh Boxi, the Sessions court in Tamluk, West Bengal, sentenced a man to five years imprisonment along with a fine of Rs. 9,000, for uploading private and objectionable pictures of a girl on the internet without her consent. The accused was convicted under Sections 354, 354A, 354C and 509 of the Indian Penal Code along with Sections 66E, 66C, 67 and 67A of the Information Technology Act.

One main fault that may be seen is that section 354C of the IPC (capturing or dissemination of pictures of a woman engaged in a private act without her consent) is gendered in its application and limits its scope to a male offender and female victim.

Domestic violence is almost always discussed concerning women. Not many people consider that a man can also be a victim, and there are no laws about it that legitimize the issue.

However, according to a recent study, 51.5% of males experienced violence at the hands of their wives/intimate partner at least once in their lifetime.

In a study conducted by My Nation along with Save Family Foundation (Delhi) on domestic violence against men, between April 2005 and March 2006, 1,650 men were interviewed and their cases looked into. The study concluded that Indian women were the most abusive and dominating.

The early Indian men’s rights movement was started in 2000 in Mumbai by activist Rudolph ‘Rudy’ D’Souza to help other victims of psychological abuse in marriage and false claims of dowry harassment. The movement began as an organisation called “Misused dowry Act.”

In September 2012, the Ministry of Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath proposed a bill that would make it mandatory for husbands to pay a salary to their wives. This move was criticised by men’s rights groups and they sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention in the matter.

There are a growing number of men who are at the receiving end and facing physical and psychological abuse from their wives. Toxic masculinity also plays a role in forcing victims to be silent about their issues, the belief that men are stronger than women is common, and admitting that a man was physically abused by a woman would be met with humiliation.
While news of dowry-related harassment and crimes against women are reported extensively in the media, there are a growing number of men who are at the receiving end of harassment and face physical and psychological abuse at the hands of their wives.

Men who have reported their own experiences of harassment and violence – ironically, say the law against domestic violence has been used against them by the wife’s family.

27-year-old Sonu Sharma, who got married in 2016, says things went from bad to worse for him when his six-month-old baby accidentally fell off the bed. When he said they would have to rush him to the hospital, she said that she wanted to return to her parents. She told her family that he had hit her and asked them to pick her up. After that, the woman’s family hired goons to harass his family.

Gurvinder, a 37-year-old, has also come forward and said he was blackmailed while his wife was having an affair. When he questioned her, she called him the ‘bank balance’. 2 weeks later he received a summon stating he had abused her wife and demanded dowry.

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Written by Madeeha Khan

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