Every time we’ve discussed domestic violence on this blog we end up having the same debate – “Is domestic violence worse amongst desis?” – without having any facts. However, thanks to a recent WHO study of 24,000 women in ten countries, we know a bit more about the way that one desi country (Bangladesh) stacks up to nine others outside the region:
Domestic violence in urban Bangladesh is worse than any of the six other countries where urban domestic violence was measured, and domestic violence in rural Bangladesh is the third worst of the relevant eight countries, after Ethiopia and Peru.
In Bangladesh, a cross-sectional survey of women aged 15-49 years was carried out, with 1603 interviewees in the capital city Dhaka and 1527 in the rural area Matlab….
Combining data for physical and sexual violence, 53% of ever-married women in Dhaka and 62% in Matlab had ever experienced physical or sexual violence. [Link]
p>Nor is this the kind of violence that apologists can simply wave away:
In both sites, one in four women who had experienced physical abuse by a husband reported that they had been injured at least once in their lifetime; a third of them in the past 12 months.
Among women who had been injured, 68% in Dhaka and 80% in Matlab needed health care at least once as a result of their injuries.
10% of ever-pregnant women in Dhaka and 12% in Matlab were physically abused during at least one pregnancy. Of these, 37% in Dhaka and 25% in Matlab were punched or kicked in the abdomen. [Link]
p>Much of this violence is hidden from view:
In both sites, 66% of women who were physically abused by their husband never told anyone about the violence…Only 5% of physically abused women in Dhaka and 7% in Matlab ever sought help for the violence. [Link]
p>Why is domestic violence so high in the one SouthAsian country tested, and is it representative of the region as a whole? My guess is that domestic violence in Bangladesh is high because women have relatively low levels of education and therefore few economic opportunities outside the home.
p>That would be consistent with the fact that DV is higher in rural than urban settings. If I had the time, I’d graph rates of DV against female literacy, I’ll bet they correlate quite well. [I’ll see if I can do so tonight].
p>If the lack of female economic empowerment is indeed closely related to rates of DV, then one would expect this to hold for the region as a whole, and for inter-regional variation to follow female literacy as well. [Does anybody have rates within India?]
p>Is there a cultural / religious component to this too? I can’t tell since Bangladesh is the only Muslim country tested, but it is worth noting that the two countries with worse rates of rural DV are both very heavily Christian countries, and that Thailand and Japan (both Buddhist countries) have quite different rates of DV. My personal opinion is that the economic factors are primary.
p>I suggest reading the country summary for Bangladesh (which is short), or the introduction to the report as a whole.
p>Related posts: National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Misogyny kills, Seeing the in-laws
I suspect one cultural factor affecting domestic violence in Bangladesh and South Asia is the manner in which male children, even in upper-class and middle-class families, and even in South Asian families in the West, are spoiled and made more of a fuss of than are female children. I believe this leads to a holier-than-thou, superior, and privileged perception of oneself among many South Asian males that makes it difficult for them to compromise or negotiate in relationships with South Asian women, and often makes it easier to just take that next step into violence. Now, this hypothesis also suggests that this feeling of superiority/privilege would be felt only with respect to South Asian women. With the caveat that there could be a selection error, it would thus be interesting to see if in the West there are proportionately significantly more cases of domestic violence reported for South Asian women living with South Asian men as opposed to women of other ethnicities living with South Asian men.
Oddly enough, I was surprised to see no statistics for South Korea in this WHO survey. There is considerable data out there that suggests similar discrimination in favour of male children results in a high degree of domestic abuse both in urban and rural Korea.
Now, in Bangladesh, and I suspect large parts of South Asia, far too many women are still completely financially dependent on their spouses. This might explain why they do not leave abusive marriages or relationships. Who are they going to go back to — the parents who often paid a dowry to get them off their hands?
And, er, for what it’s worth, I am male, obviously an armchair generalist, and Bangladeshi.
I’m pretty sure there was a very forceful “amen” to that from a substantial number of desi women on SM regarding that idea
There’s a difference between justifying and explaining. The first attempts to excuse negative behaviour. The second details a logical sequence of events. You’ve been reading my posts on SM for over a year so you should know by now what my views are on violence towards women. I’ve fought against various commenters enough times on previous discussions when the other party has attempted to blame women for getting raped by casting aspersions on some aspect of their dress and/or behaviour, for example.
I fully believe in the concept of “innocent until proven guilty”, for both parties. However, it’s also problematic to assume that the woman is automatically a saint just by virtue of being female, and that the man is automatically guilty simply by virtue of his gender. Especially if you’re only hearing one side of the story. As I said before, it depends on the particular two people concerned and the specific situation. It’s ultimately dependent on the specific personalities of the two individuals, not their respective genders.
Many situations in life often are, unfortunately. Some scenarios really are simple and “cut & dried”, others are a little more complex and nuanced than they may appear to be at first glance. Ask any lawyers 😉
With regards to my comments on the core topic, Amitabh has understood the context of my remarks perfectly, as he’s discussed in post #152. Your different interpretation may just be a matter of semantics, but take a look at Amitabh’s post to see what I basically meant. Same for JOAT in post #143.
I respect your point of view and we’ve been on good terms on SM for over a year as you know, but I have to strongly disagree with you here. My own previous comments were deliberately thorough and carefully made the various points concerned very clear, because this is obviously a complex and highly-sensitive issue. However, the fact that the other commenter concerned took isolated statements out of their original context and attempted to ascribe some kind of twisted underlying agenda on my part was way out of line. Paranoia at the least; yet another deliberate attempt to create a scapegoat via the use of strawman arguments and fabricated allegations at the worst. Misguided and ill-considered either way.
And also disrespectful towards Ennis, who has been trying to host a constructive discussion here on what is undoubtedly a deadly serious issue.
I think you’ve giving her far too much credit and the evidence in her own words contradicts you, especially considering the large numbers of other commenters — including some of the people running this blog — who have also been on the receiving end of this bukwaas. There is also a significant track record here where she has freely admitted to deliberately engaging in such malicious behaviour for her own enjoyment. But again we can amicably agree to disagree.
Let’s get back to the main discussion, bro 🙂
Quick addendum to post #155.
What I’m basically saying is that both parties have a responsibility to behave as mature adults and, fundamentally, to be nice to each other. Equally. Neither party should behave as a jerk and take advantage of what they perceive to be the other’s weakness(es). And if their own negative behaviour has played a part in causing the collapse of the relationship, the person concerned should be an adult and take some damn responsibility for what has happened — regardless of whether they’re male or female.
I am talking about the act of poisoning/destroying relationships by one’s own conduct and precipitating their collapse, not just DV. Abusive behaviour can be psychological as well as physical, as I mentioned before.
Being a woman isn’t a licence to be a jerk towards your husband/boyfriend, any more than being a man is a licence to treat your wife/girlfriend like dirt. If anyone disagrees with this and does not want to take any personal responsibility for the outcomes of their actions (regardless of how nastily they’ve behaved), then frankly they have the mentality of a spoilt child and need to grow the hell up.
I don’t know of any feminists who would recommend jogging at 3am or not wearing a burqa in Kandahar, for that matter. Who are these feminists you are referring to? Feminists agitate, write articles and books, organize marches, set up DV shelters, and attempt to change social attitudes so that women can acquire greater rights and freedoms. They try to tame the tigers, not throw women at untamed ones.
You know, it’s funny, when you like people on a site like this, you want to ‘have their back’, or defend them, even if they may not be saying something you agree with at that time…Jai and I go back a while now, and he has had my back on more than one occasion here, and Dharma Queen and I have always gotten along well despite disagreeing at times (DQ, you bring me around to your POV more often than you realise). I guess what I’m trying to say is that ideally we should try to evaluate each other’s statements on their merits, not simply based on alliances that we form here. But it’s tough. Without sounding too wishy-washy, I think both of you guys have made some valid points. Peace out.
DQ and Jai, CHILLLLLLL!!!!
See if this helps 🙂
Knee-jerk reaction: Great, the stereotypes of African/Asian/South American men being abusive and all that coming out again. Why these 10 countries? Ask my Greek friend who just had to break off her engagement because of her (physically and verbally) abusive (and very Greek) fiance.
Calmed-down reaction: I still think this problem of DV is far more widespread than is thought, and closer to home, rather than in third-world countries. Also, the explanations like ‘ SA men are spoilt more than women’ etc are very simplistic…
I have to strongly disagree with you here. My own previous comments were deliberately thorough and carefully made
the various points concerned very clear, because this is obviously
a complex and highly-sensitive issue.
However, the fact that the other commenter concerned took isolated
statements out of their original context and attempted to ascribe some kind of twisted underlying agenda
on my part was way out of line.
at the least;
yet another deliberate attempt to create a scapegoat via the use of strawman arguments and fabricated allegations
at the worst.
Misguided and ill-considered
I’m more than willing to hear other “less simplistic” explanations. I don’t believe I suggested that a sense of privilege, superiority, etc. was the only cause of domestic violence, and am always open to hearing other hypotheses that could be offered. However, I think, simplistic as it might sound, it may well be one of the factors that predispose South Asian men towards domestic violence. Note that there is also considerable domestic abuse of servants in South Asia, and that this too correlates with a sense of class superiority.
Shaad Bhai (or Shaad Behan or Shaad ji), I don’t believe I suggested that a sense of privilege, superiority, etc. was the only cause of domestic violence, and am always open to hearing other hypotheses that could be offered. However, I think, simplistic as it might sound, it may well be one of the factors that predispose South Asian men towards domestic violence. Note that there is also considerable domestic abuse of servants in South Asia, and that this too correlates with a sense of class superiority.
All this (if it even does, I seriously doubt) holds for middle class, and upper middle class. My parents had often somebody living in their “outhouse”, I have hardly noticed any spoilt in majority of Indians. They are struggling for bread on day to day basis. Spoilt is a luxury for them.
A simple question: How many in India and South Asia are even middle class, even after India shinning? 10%, 15%, you tell me.
…….first, it is an universal problem that gets exponentially compounded by poverty and asymmetry in relationship between sexes. The key word is “exponentially”.
OK – both of you – Jai and DQ DO NOT ACCUSE EACH OTHER AND DO NOT REPLY TO EACH OTHER. Serious. I haven’t read enough of the threads to know who is right and who is wrong. I can see some merit in both of your claims. But this is getting seriously ugly, yo.
If you have to, and I mean absolutely have to, respond to a claim made by the other, please respond solely to the words of that person, do not generalize about the person, and respond in the most charitable fashion possible.
That is, say “I disagree with the argument that”. Do not characterize the argument. Simply restate it and explain what you disagree with.
That’s a good tip in general, however, when each of you is dealing with the other, it’s absolutely essential.
If you don’t start to exercise personal responsibility, I really will ban you both. I’m a hairswidth away from doing so because I’m so tired of the bickering and the sniping.
Jai – I’ve deleted your last four comments in an effort to reboot things. DQ – I’ve deleted one of yours. Please, both of you, CHILL OUT. Do not respond to me. Do not respond to each other.
Before this thread goes to oblivion I’d like to say a big THANK YOU and MUCH RESPECT to the people who shared personal stories. I appreciate that it is very difficult and complicated material. I for one was quite shocked at the number of stories of DV in “our” community — by which I simply mean the regular commenters here — let alone the implications about prevalence more broadly, whether among desis, Americans, or humans in general. I suppose I’m shocked but not surprised. Thanks for the education.
Years ago there was a case of DV on account of an alcoholic husband of a cousin of mine, who would abuse her when drunk. The whole family – her mother, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, etc, were telling her LEAVE HIM TODAY, and offered to take her in till she got settled on her own.
If Indian women had more of this kind of response from their families then I think the whole society could change rapidly in this regard.
On the other hand a very educated “modern” Delhi friend of mine was also a victim of DV at the hands of her (British) husband – who also had a drinking issue, though not nearly as often and severe as my cousin mentioned above, and her educated, wealthy and well-placed New Delhi Desi mom told her to go back to him, that she was now a married woman and could not live at home with parents.
I know of another case where a South Indian woman was married to a crazy man (her family didn’t know he was pagal till after they wed), and he tortured her mentally for years, and occaisionally physically as well. Her parents were constantly interceding and talking to him, demanding from him and his parents that he stop, get help, etc, but they never once suggested that she leave him.
Domestic Violence Act of India comes into effect today.