She’s been married for nearly three decades and has two grown-up children, but her marriage is not as rosy as it seems on the outside. Bangalore resident Vidya Desai’s husband has been subjecting her to physical torture and mental harassment for 15 years.
Vidya, a 52-year-old living in an upscale locality, is married to a businessman who plays the role of a perfect husband outside home. But behind closed doors, he turns into a brute, who has been beating and abusing Vidya at the slightest excuse.
Vidya is not alone. Stories of trauma and suffering akin to Vidya’s fill up the case study notepad of Vanitha Sahaya Vani, the women’s helpline service that runs a toll free telephone number 1091.
“On an average every month we receive 150 cases. Eighty percent of these cases pertain to domestic violence, which includes verbal and mental abuse, sadistic behaviour, harassment for dowry and, most often, wife-beating,” Rani Shetty, a counsellor with Vanitha Sahaya Vani, told IANS.
In 2008, the helpline received 1,000 cases related to domestic violence. The number was 856 in 2007 and 800 in 2006.
“Till September this year, we’ve received 1,085 cases related to domestic violence. The women who call at our helpline service belong to different strata of society. We try to give them necessary help. Mostly we offer them counselling over phone,” said Ms. Shetty.
“Right from a poor woman to working women from the city’s posh localities, they all approach us for counselling. So we can say domestic violence is not class or caste specific. It’s a reality of our society and not restricted to a particular class or caste,” she added.
The helpline service was founded by Bangalore Police in 1999 to help women in distress.
According to the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, domestic violence of any kind — physical, verbal, sexual or economic — is an offence punishable by law. The law came into force on Oct 26, 2006.
However, experts working in the field of women’s rights say very few have been convicted under the law. According to them, lack of awareness about the law itself is a stumbling block.
“Firstly, there is a lack of awareness about the law. Very few women come out in the open to tell the truth. They fear losing their families and a long-drawn legal battle ahead if they file a police complaint against their husband or in-laws,” Dona Fernandes, member of women’s rights group Vimochana, told IANS.
“India is a male-dominated society and women have been subjected to physical, emotional and mental violence since ages. The mindset of the entire society has to be changed to bring change in society,” added Ms. Fernandes.