Patriarchy explains the widespread nature of violence against women

When faced with the task of trying to discover whether patriarchy explains the widespread nature of violence against women or not, there are four types of questions that must be kept in mind. What? Who? Where? Why? Are the types of questions that must be asked in order to answer the essay title effectively. What are the arguments that support or refute the notion of the patriarchy thesis? Who has been affected? Why is patriarchy even being considered as an explanation behind the violence experienced by women? How is it possible to see this?

By tackling the subjects of sexism, misogyny, violence and abuse, one hopes to form a naturally logical essay structure, where the possibility of a reasonable conclusion may be achieved. “Gender is the social aspect of the differentiation of the sexes” Giddens (2002, pg, 193) and although the roles of men and women vary depending on culture there isn’t a society in which it is known that females are more powerful than males. In almost every culture the responsibility of looking after the child/children and the domestic work lie’s with the woman, while the man traditionally possess the responsibility of providing for the family.

Thus it can be said that men’s roles compared to the roles of women are generally more rewarding and highly valued. However with the current separation of work between the sexes it has led to unequal positions being assumed by man and woman in terms of prestige, power and wealth. In spite of the advances made by women in many countries across the world, gender differences persist to serve as the foundation for social inequalities. Sociologist have therefore developed new concepts to analyse gender inequality (Abercrombie 2002, pg, 193) since it would able the interconnectedness of the different aspects of gender inequality to be captured.

Patriarchy is one such concept, for it is a “system of social relationships in which men exploit, dominate and oppress women” quoted from Abercrombie (2002, pg, 193). It exists mainly because men deliberately or unknowingly benefit from this and wish it to continue. Throughout recorded history, domestic violence has occurred in societies in which women according to Zahm (1999) are considered to be subordinate to men. Male violence against women includes rape, sexual assault, wife beating, workplace sexual harassment and child sexual abuse and is seen by many feminists as a form of power that resides over women.

This is because the threat of violence or the use of power discourages women from challenging patriarchy and as a result helps them to keep in their place. It is therefore evident that the violence against women is a social problem that is widespread. More over it is a potentially fatal problem from which no woman is immune. This theory is backed up by an article published in the magazine Population Reports (1999) entitled “Ending the violence against women” for it shows that around the world at least one woman in every three has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.

Most often the case being that the abuser is a member of her own family. Two of the most common forms of violence against women are abuse by intimating male partners and coerced sex. This could take place in adult hood, adolescence or even childhood. Intimate partner abuse, which is also known as domestic violence, wife beating and battering- is almost accompanied by psychological abuse and in one-quarter to one-half of cases by forced sex as well (population reports 2002). It can therefore be right to assume that the majority of women who are abused by their partners are as a result abused many times.

In fact, an ambience of terror often permeates abusive relationships. Many cultures have beliefs, norms and social institutions that legitimise and therefore perpetuate violence against women. The traditional Asian practices can be said to be an example of further perpetuating the problem. For example, the custom of the husband keeping the children after a divorce and the dowry system trap many women in marriages no matter how violent they may turn out to be. The same acts that would be punished if directed at an acquaintance, an employer or a neighbour often go unchallenged, especially within a family when men direct them at women.

It is quoted by Banerjee (2000) that the underlying “dynamic of domestic violence is always the same. It is still about power and control”. This may mean that for the abuser it is still about finding whatever excuses he can, in order to blame the woman for the abuse. Statistics on violence against women reveal an increase of crime against women in India, which have gone up from 98,948 cases in the year 1994 to 1, 06,471 in 1995, according to the Centre for Women’s development studies, New Delhi cited in Sangat newsletter (2002).

It shows that that there has also been a rise in violence within the households, with analysis of crime reports indicating that cruelty at home constitutes the largest share in crimes against women, followed by rape and molestation. These disturbing facts and figures conclude that the family is probably the unsafe space for women. The problem of domestic violence in India is quite fundamental and is because in many homes it operates at the level of not being considered as a problem at all. There is a sense of normalcy, an attitude of acceptance, that a man has the right to use violence in order to keep the woman in line.

However, it can be true when said that the operative word around domestic violence amongst Indian women is “galti” quoted by Virmani (2002) which means mistake. Violence is justifiable if she is perceived as having made one. According to Virmani (2002) this attitude is internationalised not just by husbands and other members of society but also to some extent by women themselves. It maybe unconcealed and assertively warranted (by men in rural and urban poor backgrounds) or hidden under layers of pretensions to civilized and educated behaviour (in middle/upper classes) and may only reveal itself, if revealed at all, under stress.

There is much denial of the prevalence and extent of domestic violence, especially amongst the middle and upper classes in India. This is because the institution of the Great Indian Family is seen as being invested with many precious notions- these notions suggest that the Indian family is emotionally nurturing and stable (in contrast to the families in the west) as well as being the repository of good values, where the men are for ever benevolent and treat the women like queens. In short that it is a picture of share happiness.

Now if survey data indicates violence against 40. per cent of married Indian women, (Virmani 2002) its not surprising that this news would be received by middle class Indians as an uncomfortable assault on their culture their self-image, as well as the conception of who they are as people. Unpleasant realities it can be said tend to be denied and attributed in order to demonise others. Virmani (2002) argues that in order to explain the high national average of domestic violence, “the elite blame villagers and slum dwellers, the educated blame the uneducated, Hindus tend to point fingers at the Muslims, South Indians blame the uncultured Northerners, and so on”.

The facts however point to the almost chilling reality that in India no region or community or even class for that matter is exempt from this behaviour, that domestic violence could indeed be a characteristic of national integrative proportions in the Indian society. According to Walby (Haralambos 1995, pg, 612) the lack of reliable evidence makes it difficult to determine as to whether the violence suffered by women at the hands of men has decreased or increased.

However, it is believed so by Walby that it is possible to determine that there have been changes in the response to male violence. Many governments have committed themselves to overcoming violence against women by passing and enforcing laws that will ensure women’s right and punish abusers. However it can be argued that Health workers cannot transform the cultural, social and legal environment that gives rise to and condones widespread violence against women.

Long-term commitment and strategies involving all parts of society is required for there to be any chance of ending physical and sexual violence. It is therefore important that in addition, community-based strategies focus on empowering women, reaching out to men and changing the beliefs and attitudes that permit abusive behaviour. Only when women gain their place as equal members of society will the violence against women no longer be an invisible norm but, will instead be a shocking aberration.