Lecture 05/29/2017: Intimate Partner Violence – Dr. Romarao Indira, Prof. of Sociology

Intimate partner violence (IPV), as described by the World Health Organization, is one of the most common forms of violence against women and includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviors by an intimate partner. IPV is linked to negative health consequences. The likelihood of coronary heart disease, chronic neck, and back pain was higher among women who reported IPV than among those who did not (Vives-Cases, 2010). Women who report IPV are also more likely to experience a range of psychological consequences like depression, PTSD, insomnia, anxiety, suicidal ideation, self-harm. There is also an increase in developing chronic illnesses like diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disorders, and respiratory disorders among these women (Dillon, 2013). Therefore, IPV should be looked at as a public health issue worldwide.


In specific, Indian women have different variables working against them as discussed through this lecture. Dr. Indira began “When you talk of violence, there are several myths surrounding violence. In fact, many people who refuse to believe that violence happens in the family are born to protect the family as the ultimate institution, have always asked this question “How is it that for years nobody talked about it and all of a sudden since the women’s movement became so active and you people are obsessed with this kind of behavior (violence against women), so you want to tell the world there is violence. Many people still think like that, but the truth is when you talk of violence we have to talk about reported cases and unreported cases. I firmly believe that a large number of cases in India still go unreported because violence for a long time at least, was accepted and never came into the public domain. The one change that has happened during the last 30 years is that a large number of women are no longer feeling ashamed of what they’ve gone through. Earlier it was ‘Cover up! Protect the family!’ So your family was considered more important than yourself.” Shame has been a constant theme when discussing the beliefs, role and perceptions of the woman. The female body is the victim of oppression before birth with sex-selected abortions a common practice. Since childhood, the Indian woman is taught to be ashamed of her body, to cover it up, to sit conservatively in order to not offend anyone, to not accept that they are sexual beings and these attitudes are a stark contrast to the way males are raised. Males in the Indian society are valued more since it is through a patriarchy that the family functions. Men are seen as more capable, valued and honored. They are not shamed but are the ones who cast it. Dr. Indira expanded this idea by mentioning that in women’s studies, the body is never talked about. It is the duty of upcoming generations to reclaim their power over their bodies.


Dr. Indira spoke of the Women’s Movement and their contribution to voicing violence against women for the first time in the 1980’s when activism changed from discussion groups to direct action. She shared a story of witnessing a college campus protest against a male professor who had denied his son’s marriage to a girl of lower caste. The girl attempted suicide after he did not recognize their marriage. Making violence against women visible was the beginning of learning its many causes specific to Indian culture. Specifically, caste and religion play central roles in gender-based violence in India when it does not align with the marriage pressure of the parents. In fact, marriage as an institution is the breeding ground for all intersections of Indian culture to result in violence. Marriage in India perpetuates unequal servitude. Dowry, the payment from the female’s family to the male’s family in order to negotiate the marriage, is one of the most influential factors in intimate partner violence in India. According to National Crime Records Bureau report 1998, 2,371 cases of suicides were related to dowry disputes. A study of dowry victims in Delhi reports that in a sample of 150 dowry victims, one-fourth were murdered or driven to commit suicide and more than half were thrown out of their husband’s house after a long drawn period of harassment and torture. (Nigam 2002) The cases of intimate partner violence studied and reported are less than actual occurrences which makes it worse that currently, there have been studies on intimate partner violence in marital relationships but not in women engaging in live-in relationships as opposed to marital relationships, divorced or widowed women, women involved in same-sex relationships, and in HIV discordant and concordant relationships, settings in which social and family support systems are already weakened. (Kohli et al., 2012). There have been few studies on women ages 50 and older and IPV although this stage of life may increase vulnerability due to an increase in economic dependence, lowered social status if widowed, neglect and control of family members.


Unfortunately, even the legal system, dominated by men of course, has its bias towards many traditions embedded in patriarchy. For example, the 2006 Domestic Violence Act that made domestic violence a punishable offense was tossed around for nearly 15 years while decision-makers argued over how to define “habitual” and “occasional” beatings as a measure of determining what counted as domestic violence. Fortunately, women’s rights activists fought against the acceptance of any form of violence being the norm. Regardless of this act, violence against women is still an overly saturated and underreported issue. According to the National Crime Bureau report, every 7 minutes there is a crime of violence against a woman. A crime can include a beating, torture, rape, and abduction –anything against women. IN a country as large and over populated as India, for every 7 minutes for a woman to be experiencing violence is a dramatic phenomenon.


The main cause of intimate partner violence, according to Dr. Indira, is power. She stated “Everything is about power: gender, religion, politics, etc.” therefore women have to resist the male goal of controlling the woman’s body. When a man commits a crime of violence against a woman it is because his power is being threatened. This cycle is the product of a mindset, the male is the ultimate provider and caregiver of the woman so if and when she threatens it, she is vulnerable to abuse. Dr. Purnima Mahdivanan chimed in during the lecture and shared an interesting finding from her study on IPV. Her study showed that the type of abuse is different among classes. The lower-class experiences more physical abuse whereas the middle and high-class experiences more sexual abuse. Of course, this struggle for power lives in the perfect environment for tensions to grow. A patriarchal society within the modern world will face new challenges as women become exposed to more and begin having access to resources they never had before. In order for women to attain equality they will have to surpass cultural, political and economic barriers. Culturally, patriarchy is still the norm in most families and throughout Indian social systems. In some tribal villages women cannot sit in chairs because chairs are a symbol of power. Patriarchy is not limited to men; it can be transferred and enforced by women. Mother-in-laws have been known to abuse their daughter-in-laws in accordance to the male pressures in the household. Economically, women still typically depend on men therefore the husband controls the mobility of the wife. In the context of healthcare, this makes it difficult for women to seek care since it would mean involving the husband to take time from his duties and Indian women are raised to suppress their suffering in order to not be perceived as weak or dishonorable to the family. Politically, the culture has not evolved to meet modern women’s needs for equality. The Indian parliament is known to be the greatest perpetrator in gender discrimination. Although in theory India has some of the most progressive laws, in practice there is a huge disparity amongst the sexes.






Dillon, G., Hussain, R., Loxton, D., & Rahman, S. (2013). Mental and physical health and intimate partner violence against women: A review of the literature. International Journal of Family Medicine, 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/313909

Jewkes, R. (2002). Intimate partner violence: causes and prevention. The Lancet, 359, 1423-1429.

Kohli R, Purohit V, Karve L, Bhalerao V, Karvande S, Rangan S, Sahay S. Caring for caregivers of people living with HIV in the family: A response to the HIV pandemic from two urban slum communities in Pune, India. PLoS One. 2012; 7(9):e44989. [PubMed: 23028725]

Nigam S. (2002) Silent Enemy in the Home. Social Welfare 49 (4) 12 – 16.

Sandra L Martin, Kathryn E Moracco, Julian Garro, Amy Ong Tsui, Lawrence L Kupper, Jennifer L Chase, Jacquelyn C Campbell; Domestic violence across generations: findings from northern India. Int J Epidemiol 2002; 31 (3): 560-572. doi: 10.1093/ije/31.3.560

Corinne H Rocca, Sujit Rathod, Tina Falle, Rohini P Pande, Suneeta Krishnan; Challenging assumptions about women’s empowerment: social and economic resources and domestic violence among young married women in urban South India. Int J Epidemiol 2009; 38 (2): 577-585. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyn226

Vives-Cases, C., Ruiz-Cantero, M. T., Escriba-Aguir, V., & Miralles, J. J. (2010). The effect of intimate partner violence and other forms of violence against women on health. Journal of Public Health, 33(1), 15-21. https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdq101



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