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Nita Bhalla: I Have UnSilenced the Violence on Professional Women Like Me

September 22, 2012

Reporting on women’s rights issues [as a journalist] in South Asia over the last three years, I have covered the plethora of threats which haunt the millions of women who live in this deeply patriarchal region.

I still keep thinking: “This did not happen. This does not happen to women like me.”

Most of the victims we read about in India are largely uneducated women from poorer backgrounds – reinforcing a general perception that domestic violence or intimate partner violence is more pervasive in groups of a lower socio-economic status.

Yet professional women in India also face such abuse, but rarely speak of it.

And so now it is I – a professional, educated, independent woman – who is standing behind a curtain inside the trauma centre in Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences, as a nurse makes me undress and examines my injuries.

While physical and sexual violence against women is unfortunately something that afflicts every society, the high levels to which it is acceptable in India are sometimes unfathomable.

The National Family Health Survey found that 51% of Indian men and 54% of Indian women found it justifiable for a man to beat his wife.

And the SILENCE that surrounds such abuse helps perpetuate that acceptability…the incomprehensible silence of others – family, friends, neighbours and even passers-by – who choose to turn a blind eye.

But now I have experienced that silence.

When he pulled my hair and kicked me as I lay on the pavement, there was a deafening silence from my neighbours who heard my screams but were reluctant to intervene [and from]…the group of young men walking past, who stopped a few feet away to watch as he beat me.

Nita Bhalla is a journalist and correspondent for humanitarian and women’s affairs for the South Asia region for the Thomson Reuters Foundation.  The above is an excerpt from her personal essay for the BBC “Becoming an abuse statistic in patriarchal India”. She tweets at @nitabhalla

9 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2012 1:27 pm

    You can not separate violence against you and other women from society as a whole.
    You can not separate violence, conflict resolution, from male society as a whole.
    It is natural that men fight and that the strongest man wins the conflict. It is therefore logical and natural that women should be beaten by men. It may even happen that women cry if they do not get beaten.

    There are societies where men usually do not hit women. This is because the society is dominated by women, and women do not want to use violence, conflict resolution, because they will lose to the physically stronger men.

    The problem is not the violence, but disagreement about its application.
    It is both a problem when women require beatings and the man will not give it, and it is a problem when the man beatings and woman do not expecting the beaten.

    You’ve got to knock him so thoroughly that promise not to beat you more. Use a hand bag with something heavy in.

    • September 25, 2012 1:47 pm

      @Peter — If men beating women is natural then so is people killing people and dominance, and survival of the fittest etc. It makes democracy, peace, justice, human right — “unnatural” concepts. Just to clarify — WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THAT WOMEN PICK UP HAND BAGS OR ANY OTHER THINGS TO BEAT THE MAN DOWN (unless it is in self defense.) JUST PLEASE GET OUT OF THE HOUSE/RELATIONSHIP AS SOON AS YOU CAN. PLEASE READ OUR BLOG POST ON RECOGNIZING SIGNS OF BEING IN A DANGEROUS AND OR VIOLENT RELATIONSHIP.

  2. Liz L. permalink
    September 25, 2012 1:32 pm

    Bravo for speaking out! It’s true what you say. Violence does happen at all levels of society, in the west too. But why is it that we don’t hear more from women who are educated and working in India?

    • September 25, 2012 1:52 pm

      Good point. It is generally assumed that women with more education and financial independence, will be in a better position to a position to speak out. Unfortunately it does not work that way in India. We’ve seen it with our campaign too — there is more pressure in fact on women in the middle and upper classes to stay silent about violence inflicted on them. The same with rape. Poorer women in India are far more likely to report rape than middle or upper class women. It’s because there’s more pressure on these women to keep up social appearances, and apparently that preserves the families social “reputation.” But really kudos to Nita for taking the lead!! The change in social attitude towards violence on women has to be across the board, and it includes the middle and upper classes.

  3. October 14, 2012 5:05 pm

    @peter – Women required to be beaten? FU you son of a bitch!! No such thing as women requiring a beating. I’ll frickin beat your ass any day because its the cowardly men who require beatings!! Weak ass men who beat up on the weak and the innocent. If it takes women fighting back for you men to get the message that women are cooperators instead if competitors like men, then so be it!! Induan me are Disgusting men like the Arabs!! Pigs and uncivilized!!

  4. October 14, 2012 5:16 pm

    @ Peter – women required to be beaten? FU you son of a bitch! I’ll beat your ass any day! It’s the weak cowardice men who beat their wives! Pittance of men. And until men realize that women are cooperators instead of competitors like men, they will not stop their cowardice and failure as protectors and providers for the weaker sex. They are pigs and wild dogs like the Arab men! What insecure men who have to be found somebody weaker yeah you look like a big man alright! Ha!! If it takes women fighting back for you idiots understand this, than women need to stand up scream from the mountain tops and start fighting back – maybe with guns. Then maybe you’ll get the point that it’s not okay. Try not to be so condescending when you say that the only societies who fight back is where women run the society. Bull crap!! Men are just respected by the women Because they earn it!! and they care for what is their own. A man who loves himself, will treat his wife as his right arm. You wouldn’t beat up your own right arm would you now? So then why would you beat up something as delicate and precious as a flower of a wife? Cowards!!

  5. October 14, 2012 5:22 pm

    And here’s the thing women, don’t ever forget men don’t understand niceness. The rule of thumb is this: bullies don’t understand anything but another bully- Men only respect other men- they have no respect for niceness they take kindness for weakness- big mistake!!! Now, it makes sense when I read about these women cutting penises off in India.

  6. Dave Kisor permalink
    March 1, 2013 2:11 pm

    This is utterly incomprehensible. Do the women who agree with wife beating still agree with it after they have been beaten? One would imagine not, but reason, sanity and logic don’t seem to apply here.


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