- Gita Pandey
- BBC News – Delhi
Last month, Indian police arrested a 46-year-old man for killing his wife because he thought the breakfast she had prepared to contain too much salt.
Police officer Milind Desai told the BBC: “The man, Nikesh Gag, a bank employee in Thane, near the western Indian city of Mumbai, killed his 40-year-old wife Nirmala in a furious attack because Sabodana Khashidi (made from sago: starch). Indian palm) was very salty. ”
The son told police, when he was twelve years old and witnessed the crime, that his father followed his mother to the bedroom complaining about the salt and started beating her.
Officer Desai added that the boy “was crying and begging his father to stop, but the accused continued to hit his wife and then strangled her with a rope”.
After the angry father hurried out of the house, the child called his uncle and grandmother from the mother.
“When we arrived at the scene, the victim’s family had taken her to the hospital, but she had already died,” Desai said.
The accused was later handed over to the police station, where he told the police that he had high blood pressure. And he was sent to prison.
Nirmala’s family told police that their daughter’s husband had been arguing with her over “household matters” for the past 15 days. Desai has indicated that police have not received any complaints about this from the victim or her family during that time.
This is not a unique case, as news of the murder of a woman by her husband due to a food quarrel often makes headlines in India.
Here are some examples of similar recent cases:
- In January, a man was arrested in Noida, a suburb of the capital, Delhi, for killing his wife after refusing to serve dinner.
- In June 2021, a man in Uttar Pradesh was arrested for the murder of his wife because she had not served him power with his meal.
- Four months later, a man in Bangalore was reported to have beaten his wife to death for not properly preparing fried chicken.
- In 2017, the BBC reported that a 60-year-old man had shot and killed his wife after it was too late for dinner.
Although “death draws attention,” says gender activist Madhavi Kokreja, all of these cases of gender-based violence remain “invisible.”
Most of these incidents have been categorized under the legal term ‘cruelty by a man or his relatives’ and domestic violence has been the most frequently reported crime of violence against women in India. In 2020, the most recent year for which crime records are available, police received complaints from 112,292 women, averaging one every five minutes.
India is no exception in terms of the spread of violence against women and according to the World Health Organization, one in three women in the world experience violence because of their gender, and in most cases the abuser is an intimate partner. This is similar to the rate of accidents recorded in India.
Activists in India must confront the culture of silence surrounding violence against women, as well as the shocking spread of tolerance for such practices.
This is evident in the latest figures recorded in the National Family Health Survey, the most comprehensive government survey of households in India.
The responses of more than 40 percent of women and 38 percent of men surveyed were that it is acceptable for a man to beat his wife if she abuses his family, neglects her home or children, goes out without permission his, refuses to have sex with him. him, or because her cooking was not good.
In four states, poll results showed that more than 77 percent of women justified a man hitting his wife.
In most states, the results showed that women are more justified by beating women than men. The number of women who believed it was acceptable for a man to beat his wife if she did not cook well was greater than the number of men in all states except Karnataka.
Amita Peter, who runs Oxfam India’s gender justice program, told the BBC that the numbers were lower than in the survey five years ago, in which 52 per cent of women justified beating women compared to 42 per cent. of men, but attitudes had not changed.
She noted that “violence against women as well as its justification are rooted in patriarchal patriarchy. There is a widespread acceptance of gender-based violence because women in India are considered the inferior sex.”
“There are strong social notions about how a woman should behave: she should always be submissive to her husband, not a decision-maker, she should serve her husband and earn less than him, among many others. “Accepting the opposite is very little,” she said. So if the wife challenges this, it is okay for the husband to put her ‘in her place’.
She says the reason why more women justify beating women is because “patriarchy reinforces gender norms and women absorb these ideas and their beliefs are shaped by what prevails in the family and society.”
Activist Madhavi Kokreja, who founded Vanangana, a charity that has worked with abused women for a quarter of a century in the northern Indian region of Pendelkand, one of the poorest regions in the country, says popular advice is given to young people. bride translates to what it means: “You enter the conjugal house.” in the Hodge, and you leave only in the coffin. ”
So most women, even those who are beaten regularly, accept violence as their natural destiny and do not denounce it.
She points out that “although there have been more reports over the last decade, beatings of women are still, to a large extent, not reported today. It is difficult to report and record such cases.”
“Most people still say ‘what happens in the house should stay within its walls.’ So women are also not encouraged to go to the police,” says Kokriga.
She adds that women have nowhere to go if they leave the marital home.
“They are often rejected by their parents because of their stigma and in many cases because their parents are poor and can not feed their extra mouths. There is no support system, there is a lack of women’s shelters and compensation given to abandoned women. “It’s very low, often’s 500-1500, which is not enough for a woman to survive, let alone feed her children.”
Buspa Sharma, president of the Vanangana Foundation, told us about her relationship last month with two women who were beaten and then abandoned by their husbands with young children.
“In both cases, the man dragged the woman by the hair from her house, attacked her in front of the neighbors and claimed that her cooking was not good, but this is part of a long series of accusations and complaints. “The meal was the direct justification for the outbreak of violence,” she said.
She says a woman can be “beaten because she gave birth to a daughter and did not give birth to a” male heir “, or on the pretext that she had dark skin or was not beautiful, or because she did not bring enough benefit, or because the husband was drunk , or because she did not give him food. ” “Either the water fast enough when he got home, or because she threw too much salt in the food, or because he forgot to add it.”
In 1997, the Vanangana Foundation organized a street show aimed at educating people about domestic violence.
The show started with: “There is no salt in the bowl … (lentil soup)”, says Kokreja.
“25 years after the start of our campaign, little has changed. This is because of the extreme importance we attach to marriage. We (Indians) are doing everything we can to save marriage – it is sacred and must last forever.”
She emphasizes the need to change these concepts, saying: “This mindset needs to change. We need to empower women. They must never tolerate beatings.”
Infographics and graphics prepared by Shadab Nazmi, BBC correspondent