The coronavirus outbreak has brought the world to a screeching halt since it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation in March this year. In an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, several countries have enforced strict lockdowns, confining people to their homes. And while the lockdown is a necessary step to keep the public safe, it has given rise to an alarming outcome--women are locked indoors with their abusers 24/7, with nowhere to go.
According to a recent report by the National Commission of Women, there has been a sharp spike in the number of gender-based crimes ever since the lockdown was imposed. In a shocking incident of domestic abuse, a man in Vadodara brutally assaulted his 24-year-old wife causing multiple injuries to her spine, after she defeated him in multiple games of Ludo.
According to a report in a leading daily, the woman encouraged her husband to play the game with her in order to stop him from going out and socialising within the housing society during the lockdown. He agreed to play, but his wife ended up defeating him in not one, but four games. And of course, how dare a sanskari patni defeat her husband in a silly online game? The nerve! *eyeroll*
“A sore loser, he started arguing with his wife, and the verbal duel turned ugly. He started beating her with such ferocity that the woman developed a gap between two of her vertebrae,” said a counsellor at 181 Abhayam, the Gujarat-based hotline for women in distress.
But why would a rational human being resort to such extreme violence over a game? “His ego was hurt thinking that wife outsmarted him and was more intelligent as she also contributed to the family income,” said the counsellor.
There you have it--the issue lies not in the act of him losing the game, but because his fragile ego couldn't handle the fact that his wife may be smart enough to defeat him during a game. In India's typical patriarchal culture, a man is considered the 'head' of the household and the main breadwinner, while women are expected to take care of literally every domestic chore, raise children and obey their husbands. And thinking that, a working woman is a threat to such men, is still deeply-rooted in our patriarchal society. So naturally, the fact that wife was taking tuitions at home to supplement his income didn't go down as well with him, and his defeat was just a nail to the coffin.
However, the most saddening part about this whole incident is the fact that despite everything, the woman decided to return to her abusive husband after a mere verbal apology. “Our counsellors give options to the women whether they want to lodge a police complaint to settle the issue. In this case, since the husband apologised and the wife didn’t want to register a complaint, we counselled the couple on how to live together and avoid marital discord,” said Chandrakant Makwana, Project Coordinator at 181 Abhayam.
The sickening reality of our society is that women would rather willingly return to their abusive husbands (or pressurised to do so by their family) because being married to an abuser is better than being a single woman bearing the 'kalank' of a divorcee. The man was simply let off with a warning and reminded that his actions were a criminal offence and that he can be arrested if she complains to the police.
This incident has set a terrible precedent--it tells men that they can be let off with a simple apology no matter how violent their actions, and tells women that it is next to impossible to get help or justice. The NCW also launched a Whatsapp helpline recently so as to provide a hassle-free platform for women to reach out to register cases of domestic violence, but given India's track record when it comes to crimes against women, we aren't too hopeful that it is the right solution.
Clearly, India is no country for women, and this incident just proves that we still have a long way to go.