By Ritesh(R) Chugh & Ripan(R) Sethi
Every time you think of domestic violence, it is usually an image of a female being subject to violence that conjures up. However, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey show that almost one in three victims of domestic violence and abuse is a male. This ratio might come across as a surprise if you consider the little attention male victims generally get from society.
While the concept of male dominance can be seen rightly diminishing across the world, with almost everyone consciously focusing on gender equality, it appears to be still holding its roots tight in the subcontinent community that subsists in a predominantly patriarchal model. Hence, this apparent male dominance contributes in keeping the male victims of violence under cover and deters them from coming out in the open to report their bruises. In a society where men who right from childhood are brought up to be a leader of the family, suddenly finding themselves in violent situations as a victim can be traumatising. It definitely takes a lot of effort to accept it, let alone sharing it with others.
Indeed, domestic violence is a very complex issue and in most cases both genders have a justification for their actions. Fair to say that we are naturally trained to be great lawyers for our mistakes and even better judges for someone else’s, however the key concern in such situations is that one party usually gets an unfair advantage over the other, purely based on gender. The media hype we see has passively trained us to think that a male is to be blamed for any family violence situation and is likely to have done something that led into violence. This gets even worse when the support line males reach out to starts the conversation based on the theme that a male is guilty unless proven innocent. Such experiences when shared through the social ecosystem feed into a common perception that male victims have little support available and need to fight a lonely uphill battle for their basic right to justice, which further discourages victims to come out openly about their issue.
Even if men draw the courage to share, they stand the risk of being falsely removed from their homes, leaving other family members even more vulnerable to the main culprit. Unfortunately, it appears that laws in most countries are meant to favour the female gender, who seem to be quite aware of this fact and are often seen taking undue advantage. In India, section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, commonly known as the Anti-dowry law has contributed to the increased registration of false cases against men. Unfortunately under section 498A, the hands of Themis (the blindfolded woman of justice) only extend to men (or their relatives).
Whether it is a cultural barrier or just lack of awareness, we believe more needs to be done in this vacuum so that our brethren do not have to suffer in silence. Ideally, one does not need to be a past victim or some distant relative to connect to the cause. It is an elephant in the room which the sooner we acknowledge the better it is, otherwise we will only be encouraging perpetrators and risking other lives in future. We don’t necessarily have all the answers to what needs to be done in this complicated issue but believe the 3Es (enlightenment, education and encouragement) can go a long way in filling the void.
RR are planning to join a consortium formed by a number of different organisations, who are genuinely connected to the cause, to bring male domestic violence issues to the forefront and are keen to do something about it. If you are interested, drop in a comment or contact one of us.
(The views expressed are personal.)