“NIRUTHUDA!”, or ‘stop it’, is the new slogan for the fishing and the street dwelling community in Chennai, where several women are part of families in which men are given to alcoholism. These women work very hard to earn wages and run the household, when these limited incomes are squandered away by their husbands on alcohol. They also single-handedly have to shield themselves and their children when the prospect of violent behavior looms large. Some of these men drink up to thrice a day on their days off from work. Karunalaya, a Chennai based NGO, works closely with these communities to combat domestic violence by working towards curbing rampant alcoholism in men.
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Violence against women in the recent times has received considerable traction, with rigorous probings about it at workplaces, educational institutions and sexual harassment reporting, which has grown a new, dynamic dimension on social media. However, a majority of women from working classes still accept and live with domestic violence as a part and parcel of marriage. According to the UNICEF’s 2016 statistics, an overwhelming 47% of girls and women in India– 37% and 52% in urban and rural areas respectively — still think it is justified for husbands to beat their wives.
Study after study has established that excessive alcohol consumption tends to pique men’s propensity to respond to conflicts with violence against wives and children, due to impaired judgment and lowered inhibitions. True, alcohol alone is not the problem – and neither is it limited to any one class. The low worth that a society perpetuates about its women vis-a-vis its men from the beginning is at the heart of gendered domestic violence. With a preponderance of these skewed mindsets, both heavy drinking and wife-beating come to be perceived as masculinity reaffirming.
The United Nations General Assembly designates November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Although unfortunately elimination is still like a dream for India – it is heartening to come across every vibrant initiative that aims to generate awareness and introduce bettering directions.