Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The abusers and the lynching mobs

When Tahehlka's Think Fest had started, we were getting ready to start our research on "Violence and Abuse" in north Karnataka. Reading the list of the speakers at the Think Fest, I had briefly fantasized about somehow flying to Goa to listen to some of them. About two weeks later, as the first news about Tarun Tejpal's sexual abuse of a journalist had come out, we had just started to discuss the preliminary research results. We were trying to make some sense out of the terrible situation that had come out of our research.

Our research was on "violence and abuse, including sexual abuse, towards persons with disabilities in the Bidar district of Karnataka". The research was conducted jointly with local associations of disabled persons and persons working in a community programme.

A group of disabled persons and community workers from Bidar district, both women and men, were trained to conduct the research. The aims of our research were two - (i) to gain an understanding about factors influencing violence and abuse towards disabled persons and (ii) to initiate a dialogue on how can violence and abuse be prevented.

During the initial training of the researchers, it had come out that this issue directly concerned both disabled persons and community workers. In the past 12 months, many of them had also been through personal experiences of emotional, physical and sexual violence.

Our daily feedback sessions during the research, when we discussed the information collected during the day, brought out sharing of peoples' stories and invariably had some of us crying.

In the next few weeks, I will be working at the analysis of the information collected during this research. However, the preliminary analysis of our data shows a terrible situation -

  • More than 80% of the disabled persons interviewed had at least one experience of significant violence and abuse in the past 12 months. For most of them the experiences were more frequent, some times even daily.
  • More than one third of the women interviewed had had at least one episode of sexual violence in the last 12 months.  Married women suffered more violence and abuse compared to unmarried women.
  • Disabled men were also victims - more frequently of emotional and physical violence, but about 9% of them had had at least one episode of sexual violence in the last 12 months.

Our research shows that violence and abuse are common in our homes, in our families and in our communities. Few persons had the courage to talk about the abuse they had suffered. Often, those who were supposed to protect them, including police and authorities, were themselves complices and even perpetrators.

While reading about Tarun Tejpal and the journalist, everyday I am listening to the shrill debates, to the cries for jail and stringent punishment, to those who ask for castration and death. And I think of our research.

They shout - kill the rapist, hound anyone connected with them, make examples out of them, better if they are well known persons. The shrill noise means we are exempted from looking inside ourselves, to recognize and understand our societies. We do not need to look at what we do every day in our homes and our communities.

One Nirbhaya every now and then, is fine for breaking news, prime time debates and candle light vigils, so that abuse of hundreds of silent unknown Nirbhayas in our homes, families and communities can go on.



  1. It is true that there is a lot of sexual attacks happen on close relatives and never come to light. The victims have to bear the trauma for the rest of their lives. Most of the times we adopt a holier than thou attitude and aggressive posturing is perhaps meant to hide the skeletons in their own cupboards.

    1. Thanks Sabyasachi. As you say, that is part of the reason, I was uncomfortable with the kind of debate I heard in India about the Tejpal events. The other was, how common violence and abuse are in our society, and thus I feel that this kind of discussions are a kind of distraction, so that we remain at the superficial level ..


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