DR. AJAY RISAL
The end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 witnessed very sad and brutal incidents in relation to “violence against women” (VAW) in our part of the world. Gang-rape of a medical student in a public bus at Delhi and her subsequent death; whole body burns of a homemaker by her own family members in Saptari and her tragic death in the National Hospital became headliners in the media. These violent, criminal and barbaric acts cannot be forgotten by any civilized society, nor can they be pardoned in any law. Media explosion of these incidents saw more and more revealing of other acts of VAW around the country; i.e., dowry related torture/ murder, workplace violence, and sexual harassment at public places. I think some of these might have been concealed if the former incidents had not hiked so much public attention.
Any act of violence has two sides; perpetrator and the victim. Hence, we need to intersect in both the aspects. Let us look at the issue of VAW. Here, women are the victims but the perpetrators need not only be men but also the women who may be involved in the act directly or indirectly. Similarly, our society also plays its part in it. The prime issue at which VAW occurs in our part of the world is related to marriage, mainly dowry. Torturing or killing in the name of family honor; either by the parental or the spouse side, dowry related acts and domestic violence, all of them have the role of both the male and female members of the family in particular, but in general, the background is set up by the society. Cultural taboos and even the religious norms have been cited by the perpetrators knowingly or unknowingly.
Pre-delivery sex detection for the purpose of selective abortion, female infanticide, early marriage of a girl child in the name of ‘kanyadaan’, courtship violence, date rape, incest, forced pregnancy, psychological trauma that a single or unmarried, divorced and widowed women gets are all the different facets of VAW.
Technological advances have also brought forward many ill-effects which make females prone to be victimized. Fashion, Internet and Mobile cultures, pornography, media exposure and the TV serials depicting all sorts of possible or impossible issues in society act as a slow poison in this regard.
There are some traditions which we follow knowingly or unknowingly, that favors men but disfavors women to rise in society; and the so- called patriarchal culture also makes women morally victimized.
Decline in the moral and ethical values among the youth are favoring not only the brutal acts like gang-rape but also acts like sexual harassment, molestation, teasing of girls in public which may get less media attention. We tend to forget positive values like ‘Matridevo bhawa’, ‘Nari shakti’, ‘Ladies first’. Are they taught in schools/ colleges or even at home? I strongly recommend the necessity of ‘value based education’ being talked about nowadays.
Leaving these socio-cultural issues at one hand, let us talk about psychiatric aspects. Mental illnesses are the strong risk factors in this regard; not only that of the perpetrator but also of the victim. Researchers have shown that most perpetrators, in order to victimize a female; be it a wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, girl friend, class mate, employee or any lady in public, usually take the help of alcohol or some other abusive substances beforehand. Most of them are found to be poly-substance dependent. Some drugs like LSD, Amphetamines and some sedatives are notoriously regarded to be date rape drugs. Other Psychiatric Disorders commonly seen among these perpetrators are Personality Disorders (Antisocial, Impulsive or Mixed types), Delusional Disorders and even Psychosis.
Similarly, females who are victimized may be suffering from Depression, Mental Retardation or Chronic Psychotic illnesses. They may be concealing these illnesses due to the fear of public stigma; or may be the passive recipient of the victim as a result of disability or low frustration tolerance. The perpetrator may have an added advantage because of the socially neglected, resource less and unsupported status of these mentally ill females. Parents whose daughters are mentally ill do not care for their treatment fearing that these girls would not get a suitable match if their illness gets revealed. So, they get them hurriedly married hiding their mental illness. What would be the consequence when the illness breaks out at her husband’s home? Who is responsible for the violence these girls would be exposed to when they become ill, violent or psychotic? What would happen to the unborn child when they get pregnant?
The psychological aspect of a victimized lady; if she does not get support and respect from the family or society cannot be forgotten. Various Psychiatric illnesses are known to be associated with the insurmountable stress they are exposed to; i.e., Acute Stress Reaction, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Adjustment Disorder, Depression etc. Violence against women cannot be dealt with by the constitution and legislation alone. The culturoreligious aspect of the society needs consideration. Mental health of the victims and perpetrators in particular and society in general has to be looked into. We need a sincere holistic approach. Dr. Risal is Psychiatrist at Dhulikhel Hospital