Much has been written about domestic violence against women in Bangladesh in the newspapers many times. To date, nothing concrete about psychological abuse has been covered wholly. To add to that, women are still experiencing violence of different forms, be it physical, psychological or sexual.
The lax legal infrastructure and poor knowledge about legal action compounded the problem.
According to Section 3 of Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2010, domestic violence might take place physically, psychologically, sexually and economically against any woman or child by any family member with whom the victim has a family relationship.
Domestic violence is not related to married couples only but encapsulates other couples who are jointly living together. It may extend to other family members such as parents, siblings, or co-tenants, domestic servant etc.
It may also include sexual assaults on young girls by a family member. Victims of domestic violence in the underdeveloped countries are mostly found to be wives who are economically deprived.
UNICEF includes different forms of abuse and exploitation in defining domestic violence perpetrated by intimate partners and other family members. Physical abuse such as slapping, beating, arm twisting, stabbing, strangling, burning, choking, kicking, threats, with an object or weapon and murder.
Psychological abuse includes behaviour intended to intimidate and persecute and takes the forms of confinement to home, surveillance, violence, isolation, verbal aggression and constant humiliation.
The most frequently mentioned reasons for violence included questioning the husband about day-to-day matters, failure of the wife to perform household work satisfactorily, economic hardship of the family, the inability of the wife to take proper care of the children, not conforming to veil or other expected behaviour, the inability of the wife to bring money from the parental home, not taking good care of in-laws and relatives, and husband's frustrations about his various activities, including dark complexion of children.
Women are sometimes violated by the husband and in-laws if she bears no son. Another most common reason in Bangladesh that initiates domestic violence is the ever-increasing prevalence of dowry. But due to socio-economic hardships and treating women as the economic burden to the in-laws or husband's family, dowry is a common practice among all sectors in different names.
There is a strong correlation between violence against women and mental disorders. Violence is [NRP1] considered as a predisposing factor in some cases while in many cases it is a precipitator or maintenance factor. The type of violence and its severity perceived by women facing it sometimes play an important role in the development of a particular mental disorder.
In the absence of adequate mental health facilities, women with severe and chronic mental disorders almost always faced some form of violence. It occurs when force is applied to restrain them from causing harm either on themselves or others or when long exhausting caregiving takes a huge toll on the caregivers.
Even the near ones themselves were either involved in perpetrating violence or kept silent when others were doing it. Physical violence, verbal abuse, or social humiliation has played a distinguished role in affecting a woman in developing mental disorder; emotional or psychological trauma outperforms the most.
Emotional trauma resulting from negative remarks from the husband, extra-marital affair, sexual relationships with other woman or second marriages are likely to lead to mental disorders. A woman who tried to harm herself deliberately several times because of her husband's extramarital affairs alleged that she was hurt and it was emotional torture. She also reported feeling dishonoured.
The violence which has affected an individual may cause mental disorder even in later life. A psychiatrist narrated his experience of treating a sexual dysfunctional patient which he believed to be the result of her childhood sexual abuse.
Domestic violence against women creates many bounds of mental pressure which ultimately cripple their life. They played at least some role in accelerating acute stress disorder, depressive disorder, conversion disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar mood disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
It is found that social violence or humiliation stemmed from social politics and injustice as a precipitator in mental illness. Often parents, in-laws, and very near ones hurled abusive language or physically hurt patients without understanding the impact of its long term consequences.
To encounter the menace against domestic violence in Bangladesh, different Acts and sections have been put into force such as The Penal Code 1860 and Nari o Shishu Nirjaton Daman Ain. Since unfortunately, acid throwing has also become a part of domestic violence, Acid Niyontron Ain 2002 is also referable here which contains the provisions of punishments for the crime of throwing acid.
Most importantly, the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2010 allows people to seek protection under this Act. We often stir around physical abuse but no reliable authentic laws against psychological abuse have been enacted so far.
There is no one-stop crisis centre for curing women who often face severe emotional trauma.
From the above scenario, we can deduce that domestic violence against women has become a predicament in our society.
Awareness of mental disorder which arose from domestic violence on a familial, societal and political level is important and hence it is the responsibility of the country to address it. Making continuous efforts in this regard is essential.
Nuzhat Rifa Ehsan is a lecturer of a law college. She can be reached at [email protected].