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