“Why can’t she just leave?” is the most common question asked when it comes to women living with abusive partners and families. In this article, we will find out why it is not easy to leave abusive relationships.
The Setting of Life Goal
Women from a young age have been prepared for their marriage. When girls enter teenage, they are expected to learn domestic chores like doing the dishes, cooking, etc so that they can please her future in-laws. This is the first step towards telling them that marriage is an important part of their lives and marriage is inevitable.
Often customs also put married women at a preference. For example- Sindoor Khela is done by married women during Durga puja. Earlier, widows were not allowed to attend marriages and other celebrations. Women in their 20s and 30s can relate to being asked repeatedly about their marital status. Women are made to feel that marriage is an important life goal that needs to be achieved.
The notion of virginity is also spread widely to ensure that women do not have premarital sex. It is objectifying women and promoting the idea that women are property of their male relatives like husbands. There are many crash courses available in the market to teach women how to be good wives before they get married.
Our Popular culture like Bollywood movies also mentions marriage as the end goal of every love story. Almost all Daily Soaps focuses on women who are married and focus on their marital life. Women are fed since childhood that marriage is an integral part of their life.
Stigma with Singlehood Of Women
Single women are often looked down upon after a certain age. If a woman is divorced, there are higher taboos and rumors surrounding their life. Lower divorce rates are celebrating treating it as a cultural win but at the cost of abused women who have no way to get out of a toxic marriage.
Single Women have no specific customs prioritizing them. In religions like Hinduism, single women are asked to observe fasts to find a good husband while there is no mention of such fasts for single men.
Single Women have no specific customs prioritizing them. In religions like Hinduism, single women are asked to observe fasts to find a good husband while there is no mention of such fasts for single men. Often single women suffer while finding a house, they are told not to bring male friends and asked constantly if they have any male friends. They are often asked in job interviews whether they are planning to get married in the near future or not.
Sometimes many single women are looked down upon and shamed for being bold and unapologetic about being single. Singlehood of outspoken women is often used against them to make it sound like being single is a problem. Negative women characters in shows and movies are also shown as single women. It is treated as something which is not normal. Women who are single are often treated with suspicion.
Why can’t she leave?
According to a study by Unified Lawyers, India has the lowest Divorce Rate in the world with only 1%. Women in unhappy marriages are not able to leave marriages due to the stigma and pressure of society. Often divorced women bear the brunt of Indian society. They are blamed for their failed marriage, called various names if they seek alimony or financial support and are more prone to harassment post-divorce. Court proceedings, change in documents are some of the problems women suffer while applying for the divorce.
There are multiple factors that make women stay in abusive marriages. These vary from social to economic to psychological factors. For instance- girls grow up in households where abuse is normalized. Women bear abuse by their fathers and brothers for years and grow up thinking it normal. The entire culture of obedience and surveillance normalizes abuse at the domestic level. Women are more likely to be killed while leaving an abusive relationship than in being in that relationship.
Seeking legal and medical health is also difficult as these institutions are not sensitized enough on dealing with crimes against women. Women deal with a lot to leave abusive marriages and the cost is much higher when it comes to survive and live peacefully.
In many cases, domestic abuse begins at the beginning of the marriage but in a psychological and economical form. For instance, many women are asked to quit working outside or subside their careers after marriage giving a big blow to their financial security and self-esteem. Lack of financial security makes women vulnerable to poverty and they couldn’t seek legal help without financial resources either.
Many families refuse to keep their daughters with them if they choose to leave their husbands. It further isolates domestic abuse victims as they have nowhere to seek emotional support. Abuse victims also have a higher chance of having mental health issues like PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, etc leading to further gaslighting and abuse as they question their own thoughts constantly and choose to suffer in silence. Some of them have to stay in marriages for their children as the stigma further leads to the suffering of children.
Seeking legal and medical health is also difficult as these institutions are not sensitized enough on dealing with crimes against women. Women deal with a lot to leave abusive marriages and the cost is much higher when it comes to survive and live peacefully. However, this article isn’t a justification for staying in unhealthy marriages or relationships but a broader perspective to understand the challenges that as society needs to be overcome to make things better for married women.
Also read: The Pain Of Being An Indian Bahu
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