It’s hardly ‘home sweet home’: about a third of all Indian women have experienced violence within their own four walls at some point. The perpetrator isn’t a “malevolent stranger”, but their own husband, father or father-in-law. Subduing the women in the household through violence is considered so normal among all social classes in India that it is barely noticed. That doesn’t make the violence any less harmful, degrading and brutal. Neither is it legal. But there is still a long way to go before the state will protect women and really punish violence.
There’s a will, but ...
To change the patriarchal conditions, which favour violence against women, it takes a lot of patience, plenty of educational work, a will – and hope for “eye-opening moments” like these: “It was normal before for me to beat my daughter-in-law. But since she’s been attending the women’s committee, she is now aware of her rights and defends herself. That’s really opened my eyes. My daughter-in-law has succeeded in stopping me beating her.” The person relating this anecdote is not just anybody. It is an older gentleman with a white beard, whom the men in the local municipal administration look up to and respect. Shankar Pandurang Patil is head of a small village in Osmanabad district in Maharashtra state and sets a good example in his community with his story.
Your, my, our house
The cooperation with state agencies is undergoing a transformation. For example, married couples’ joint registration of land ownership has achieved a lot. “The mayor presented us with the land registers. There are two names on every land registry deed”, reports SWISSAID employee, Sigrid Burri, after visiting the community. She is delighted: “This allows the women to fully participate in land ownership! There is a huge determination to change in this village.” The long-standing educational work of SWISSAID’s partner organisation may also have contributed to this new mentality.
Try talking before violence takes hold
Since 1992, the Halo Medical Foundation (HMF) in Osmanabad district has cared for the women and their emotional and physical injuries. It offers advice and works closely with various self-help groups in which the women can talk openly about their troubles and benefit from education on women’s rights and violent men can think about their behaviour. The groups are led by ‘mentors’: these men and women are trained HMF lay staff, who have really excelled through their commitment, and enjoy the local people’s trust. Sigrid Burri remarks, “Several mentors specifically help unmarried men. The idea is to make these men more aware of domestic violence before they perhaps have the opportunity to raise their hand against their wife for the first time.”
Holding the state to account
HMF encourages the women to assert their rights and supports them when they go to the police or to court. Other pillars involve mediation committees, who report to the police, courses for the heads of self-help groups, public awareness as well as working together with local officials. Behind all this educational work is the hope that the state will take over these tasks as soon as possible and domestic violence will no longer be tacitly accepted in Indian society.
- Project code: IN 02/13/17
- Project duration: 2016
- Project costs: 87‘025 Swiss francs
- Number of beneficiaries: 2,020 men and women as direct beneficiaries