Domestic violence against women creates many bounds of mental pressure which ultimately cripple their life. They played at least some role in accelerating acute stress disorder, depressive disorder, conversion disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar mood disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is found that social violence or social humiliation stemmed from social politics and injustice as a precipitator in mental illness. Writes Nuzhat Rifa Ehsan
Much has been written about domestic violence against women in Bangladesh in this newspaper various times. To date, nothing concrete about psychological abuse has been covered wholly. To add to that, women are still experiencing violence against their body in different forms be it physical, psychological or sexual. The lax legal infrastructure and poor knowledge about legal action compounded the problem. In this write-up, I will shed some light on the sorry state of domestic violence perpetrated against women and bring forth the psychological and legal issues that surround them. According to section 3 of the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2010 domestic violence means may be defined against a woman or a child of a family by any other person of that person of that family with whom victim has been in family relationship. Domestic Violence is not related to married couples only but encapsulates other couples who are jointly living together. It may extend to other family members such as parents, siblings, or co-tenants, domestic servant etc. Domestic violence may also be hurled to young girls who may become victims of sexual assault within the family. Victims of domestic violence in the under developed countries are mostly found to be wives who are economically deprived.
UNICEF (2008) includes different forms of abuse and exploitation in defining domestic violence perpetrated by intimate partners and other family members. Physical abuse such as slapping, beating, arm twisting, stabbing, strangling, burning, choking, kicking, threats, with an object or weapon and murder. Psychological abuse which includes behavior that is intended to intimidate and persecute, and takes the forms of confinement to the home, surveillance, children, destruction of objects, isolation, verbal aggression and constant humiliation.
In a study, it is revealed that the most frequently-mentioned reasons for violence included questioning the husband in day-to-day matters, failure of the wife to perform household work satisfactorily, economic hardship of the family, failure of the wife to perform household chores, inability of the wife to take proper care of the children, not conforming to veil or other expected behavior, inability of wife to bring money from parental home, not taking good care of in-laws and relatives, and husband’s frustrations in relation to his various activities even dark complexion of children.
Women are even violated by the husband and in-laws if she is incapable of giving birth to a child especially son. Another most common reason in Bangladesh that initiates domestic violence is the ever-increasing prevalence of dowry for which is strictly prohibited. But due to socio -economic hardships and treating women as the economic burden to the in-laws or husband’s family, dowry is a common practice among all sectors in different names.
There is a strong correlation between violence against women and mental disorders. Violence is to be considered as a predisposing factor in some while in many a precipitator or maintenance factor. The type of violence and its severity perceived by women facing it sometimes played an important role in the development of a particular mental disorder. In the absence of adequate mental health facilities, women with severe and chronic mental disorders almost always faced some form of violence. It occurred when force was applied to restrain them from causing harm either towards self or others, it also happened when long exhausting care giving took a huge toll on the care givers. Even the near ones themselves were either involved in perpetrating violence or kept silent when others were doing it.
Physical violence, verbal abuse, or social humiliation has played a distinguished role in affecting a woman in developing mental disorder; emotional or psychological trauma outperforms the most. Emotional trauma resulting from negative remarks by their husband such as “you are black, you are not liked [by me], the girls outside are beautiful”, extramarital affair or sex with other woman, and second marriages were likely to lead to mental disorders. A woman who tried to harm herself deliberately several times because of her husband’s extramarital affairs alleged: “I have been hurt [emotionally] for the last year and a half. I have been tortured [emotionally], I have been dishonored”. Violence which has affected an individual may cause mental disorder even in later life. A psychiatrist narrated his experience of treating a sexual dysfunctional patient which he believed to be the result of her childhood sexual abuse. The patient took around 2 years to see a psychiatrist because no psychiatrist had ever explored her past traumatized life.
Domestic violence against women creates many bounds of mental pressure which ultimately cripple their life. They played at least some role in accelerating acute stress disorder, depressive disorder, conversion disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar mood disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
It is found that social violence or social humiliation stemmed from social politics and injustice as a precipitator in mental illness. Often parents, in laws, and very near ones hurled abusive language or physically hurt patients without understanding the impact of its long-term consequences.
To encounter the menace against domestic violence in Bangladesh, different Acts and sections have been put into force such as The Penal Code 1860 and Nari o Shishu Nirjaton Daman Ain. Since unfortunately, acid throwing has also become a part of domestic violence, Acid Niyontron Ain 2002 is also referable here which contains the provisions of punishments for the crime of throwing acid. And most importantly, the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2010 which allow persons to seek protection under this Act. We often stir around physical abuse but no reliable authentic laws against psychological abuse have been enacted so far. There is no one stop crisis centre for curing women who often go many emotional traumas.
From the above scenario, we can deduce that domestic violence against women has become a predicament in our society. Awareness of mental disorder which arose from domestic violence on a familial, societal and political level is important and hence it is the responsibility of the country to address it. Making continuous efforts in this regard is essential.
Nuzhat Rifa Ehsan a regular contributor to Blitz is a lecturer of a law college. She can be reached at ehsannuzhat[at]yahoo.com