The Breakthrough Voice 25th January, 2017

Enforcing the ‘Natural Order of Things’.

When an all men cabinet takes decisions about women’s bodies especially in the world’s most powerful nation and one can no longer say it was just some ‘’private men-only locker room talk’’, it makes all kinds of warning bells go off in my head as a woman. This feeling is further strengthened when another powerful nation decides to decriminalise domestic violence obviously to enforce the ‘natural order of things’.

Where does it leave us Indian women? We can never match up to the illusion of ‘fairness/equality/empowerment’ our progressive counterparts are living in. As Russia, moves closer to decriminalising ‘some’ domestic violence all I can wonder is how they reached this new low and about the plight of women across the world. According to the new bill, Russian law does not see first time offences causing no injury that require hospital treatment as an act of domestic violence. With the near unanimous stance on this bill, it will be a law soon.

Despite the law against domestic violence in India, domestic violence has increased. I shudder at the thought of the domestic violence law being decriminalised here especially when a slap or a bruise, a scratch is not even considered violence. In our country women are more likely to not report the first time offense or a not so serious injury. It is difficult for women in our country to seek help or even identify abuse as they might be unaware of what exactly falls outside the realm of acceptable behaviour. Our society accepts aggression and violence in men as a norm and expects women to ‘adjust’ and not air the dirty laundry in the public.

This step taken by the Russian lawmakers to trivialise domestic violence will go on to negatively impact the global efforts against domestic violence especially for countries like ours which are ingrained with misogynistic , paternalistic values depicting men as protectors and women as needing protection, women as child bearers and men as the head of the family.

Russia has remained innately patriarchal society with an ideology that women should be a part of workforce but nonetheless be responsible for household chores. Putinism celebrates manhood and denigrates women as child bearers, mothers and housewives, represses women’s rights and disdains feminism. Does this ring any bells? We are familiar with the idea of women being less human than men so, this does not comes as a shock. But as for the natural order of things, despite their orthodox beliefs, men came out of a woman’s vagina and fighting for women’s rights is not hooliganism; signs of humility and obedience, being effeminate and capable of love are not a woman’s natural domain.

Today morning I overheard a conversation between our domestic help and my mother where she was casually telling my mom how her husband loses his temper and beats her. The problem was in her acceptance of the violence and the fact that she was not upset about it. It made me think about how badly we have internalised this mindset where we cannot distinguish abuse from life in general.

For women to choose to stand up against violence they are capable of agency. Further, the stigma associated with talking about these issues needs to tackled. These problems keep getting worse at the intersection of identities such as class, caste, ethnicity, religion, politics, disability etc. We need more laws that support and help women to gain social agency, enabling them to stand up for themselves and fighting for their rights. We can only hope for people to realise that there is no reason that can support abuse and violence. If only we could help every single woman in this country to channelize the ‘nasty woman’ in them… As for Russia I just hope to see another pussy riot over this.

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