The second episode of the Uncuff India podcast is now live on all podcast streaming platforms! Go give it a listen! In this episode, the intimate space of the “home” is scrutinised, where the marginalized are often subject to acts of violence. The relationship between violence and spaces within which violence can occur are also explored while focusing on the linkages between violence in public and private spaces. The episode also touches upon the various ways in which the State can proactively address violence in intimate spaces and be held accountable as well. The amazing Dr. Jagriti Gangopadhyay joins us on this episode. Dr. Jagriti is currently an Assistant Professor and the faculty coordinator for the Center for Women’s Studies, at the Manipal Centre for Humanities, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE). Her most recent publication is a co-edited a book titled, “Eldercare Issues in China and India”, published by Routledge, U.K. Tune in for a very honest and insightful conversation!
Sanchi- Hello everyone and welcome to our podcast Uncuff India by One Future Collective. My name is Sanchi and my pronouns are she, her.
Uttanshi-My name is Uttanshi and my pronouns are she and her. We are your host today and it’s so good to have you all listening in.
Sanchi- In today’s episode, we will unpack the relationship between violence and the spaces within which such violence can take place. In particular, we will focus on violence that occurs in intimate spaces, such as our own homes.
Uttanshi-Homes are traditionally seen as safe and healthy spaces, and this view also guides the approach that governments and state bodies take towards responding to such violence, especially violence, which happens within our own homes because they are intimate. Because they are considered safe and healthy, they are often treated as outside the ambit of the State’s mandate of regulation and protection.
Sanchi-Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for introducing the themes for today with Uttanshi and we are ready to dive into the conversation without further ado. So, let me introduce our guest for this episode. Today we have with us Dr. Jagriti Gangopadhyay. Dr. Jagriti is currently an Assistant Professor and the Faculty Coordinator for the Center for Women’s Studies at the Manipal Center for Humanities, Manipal Academy of Higher Education. She did her PhD from the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar. She was awarded the Shastri publication grant by the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute for her monograph titled Culture, Context and Aging of Older Indians Narratives from India and Beyond. And her most recent publication is a co- edited book titled Elder Care Issues in China and India. Welcome to the podcast Dr. Jagriti. We are really looking forward to this conversation with you.
Jagriti- Thank you very much. Thank you Uttanshi, Sanchi and Suchanda. I’m very happy to be on this platform and I really look forward to our conversation. Thank you.
Uttanshi- Thank you so much. Before we start off, I just want to quickly get started right at the beginning, right homes are rarely considered as sites of violence in popular discourse, even though the issue of domestic violence has been present for a long time. Only recently, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, did it come to the limelight. I’m quite intrigued. And, you know, I want to hear from you, Jagriti, about why do you think that we as a society, as a government, are unwilling to recognize that homes are not always safe spaces and that they can be sites of different forms of violence as well. Why do you think there is a lack of focus on violence which happens within homes, and do you think that that needs to shift?
Jagriti- Yes, I do actually because few things, First things is for the first thing is that you know home as a space, the very idea and maybe Pete speaks particularly from the perspective of India, one of the biggest things is that it’s seen as a very safe space, family oriented India particularly, I’m talking about India because you know, because we’re talking about intimate violence and now there have been different contexts of intimate violence, right? Like of course there’s the pandemic and domestic violence, but then also the very recent Aftab Shraddha case about an intimate partner violence which again kind of then one thing about that is that you know while there is much literature and media highlight on domestic violence, intimate partner violence specifically on girlfriends is less highlighted. You know like that kind of like the law is also complex in that sense. So, home in that sense is not seen as a space for violence that is because it centers around the family and if you go back in time, like even before, we start talking about domestic violence and home as a space, even the very idea of gender roles, like traditional gender roles, like how you know, like the binary gender roles of men and women. If we just go by that, they also start from home, right? Like how mothers teach a specific thing to do, how you know how parents also expect boys and girls to be very different with regard to gender roles.
So in that sense, home yes is actually one major space where violence starts. And violence as we know is also verbal, physical, emotional, financial. It is not just physical violence that takes place in a home and abusive verbal violence is also something that really is constructed within the home as a space. However, why that is overlooked to answer that question, that is because it’s not just about the government or it’s just not about the media, but we as individuals is what I would say. We also do not really question the household or the household dynamics, right. We do not question the family setting. We kind of take that to be the normative order that has been handed down to us right from generations. So because of that. Before we really of course the State and the media and other institutional civil organizations also need to play a very big role with regard to violence and the household. But, we as individuals also need to recognize where is the origin of all of this. So first the household needs to, you know, really get that attention. So that is why it is overlooked and that is why even till day-to-day domestic violence or intimate violence is still a major problem in a country like India.
Sanchi-Thank you so much for your input here, Jagriti. I think what you mentioned about the situation, the context of gender roles and how that impacts intimate violence and also bringing up recent cases that we have seen in current news. I think something that it brought up for me is this divide that we seem to have between private and public and that really intrigued me and I would like to follow up on that and ask you if you think that violence in these spaces is interlinked in some way and does one feed into the other? And if it does, then in what ways does that happen?
Jagriti- Well, honestly, public and private, you know, before the pandemic, even if we were to say that there was one kind of difference because of course there was, you know, the home space, but also the office space and the office space definitely played a very big role. But in specifically, you know, it’s not just about violence. But during the pandemic, I read so many media reports about more breakups, more divorces. That is because people, the couple you know, people started spending more time with each other and the fact that office as a space matters so much became glaring only when the work from home model started. And the reason why the pandemic actually, you know, like India did very poorly with regard to gender inequality. And it’s not just about violence, but also labor force participation rates. Oxfam reports gender inequality on all grounds, in fact. Women started quitting their jobs specifically because of motherhood, right. So all those pressures also and the pandemic kind of put it out there in front of the world as to show that you know, like where India stands with regard to generic inequality. So to talk about private and public. Now of course the spaces are very blurred and they do not really exist because of the work from home model in that sense. The public has actually entered into the private and one of the consequences of that is, you know, one of the biggest problems is that because people there is this lack of space, that violence kind of became like an immediate reason for the outburst. You know, if, if I’m not sure this someone called Parul Bhandari, who’s a scholar of sociology who has written about intimacy and violence, and she had argued based on the pandemic data that was available that one of the biggest reasons why India witnessed such huge search of domestic violence and why of course you know, it was like another upper urban middle class problem because you know the technically domestic violence is also associated with a specific kind of class of people. But then it became like an all India problem. Of course there was of course much more reporting because people could reach out and you know there was some helplines available. But the other reason also was because is that, you know, domestic violence became a major issue specifically because the spaces were blurred, because instead because the people were thrown into each other, they were always there with each other. The lack of space, there was no other space except the home. So, which is why violence became one of the biggest outbursts and an easy way to express frustration, like you know about job frustration. It’s easier to take it out on the other people on too, specifically on the spouse, on the, you know, it’s like the other, the weaker person. It just became like that kind of a phenomena. The other reason why I, you know like now there is the other thing that has happened about violence is about representation. Now, the OTT platforms we see a larger display of violence and much more access to violence than we really had when we were growing up. And really in that sense that violence has entered the household. So that is the other reason why the public and private divide is actually getting blurred.
Uttanshi- Thank you so much for sharing that. I feel like when we’re talking about the private and the public divide. There is also a guiding, you know, sort of certification or a license from the society for people to look the other way when we talk about violence that takes place within the home. And you know, that’s a big problem because like you said, what allows for that violence to thrive within the private space? It is how it can be looked at outside of the home as well, right? We were just talking to someone earlier and we realized that this same frustration was being felt by people of all genders. It’s not that the COVID-19 frustration was only affecting one particular category of people more than it was affecting other categories of people. However, because of existing systems of oppression and existing power dynamics in the society. Some people felt more empowered to inflict harm on another person than the other person did. So, I feel like even to that, you know, to echo your point about the fact that public and private divisions are not necessarily as significantly different as they seem from each other. And that brings me to the next point about how, like you said, there is a lot of research available about how cases of such violence are bound to increase when people are living together for long durations of time. There are research studies to point out that during Christmas, for example, during holiday seasons, people who live together and have to spend a lot of time together do engage in certain forms of violence. And that leads me to then ask how come we were still not prepared and to that extent, what responsibility do you think does the State have in intervening in such spaces and cases of violence? What do you think guides the State’s approach towards addressing such violence? And the reason I ask this is only because we have repeatedly seen police officers, courts, judges across spectrum say that is happening behind closed doors and therefore we do not have to think about it or we don’t have to address it. So yeah, what do you think about that?
Jagriti- So you know, very recently I saw a survey, the NFHS survey, which showed that of course more to do with South India and Karnataka kind of was, you know, leading the survey that it was not just men but also women believed that it is okay if, you know, they are subjected to domestic violence if they do not perform household responsibilities and chores as they are expected to do. So this is which is what is significant. You know, I think what there is a law, domestic violence or any form of violence, there is a law that exists in our country. So in technically on pen and paper the State would say we have a law, we have helplines, we have a lot of, you know, like police officers or other agencies which you can reach out to. If you are being subjected to any kind of violence and abuse, then why is it that that still continues to be a problem? The question that you asked is very significant, you know, like why were we not prepared? And it goes back to the first question that you asked. That is because nobody had thought was the during the pandemic, during the lockdown, that of all things, domestic violence would actually be a problem. That was not even in the radar in that sense. But why it is a problem is because there is an invisibilization of women realizing patriarchy exists in the household and that they have to fight the patriarchy. It’s that lack of realization. I was shocked to see that women themselves believe that it’s okay to be abused if you don’t perform household chores, you know, in the right way. Or, for example, women believe that after becoming mothers they should quit their jobs. So that because parenting is still like seen as a mother’s responsibility. So what the State really needs to do, it’s not just about having a law. It’s also about specifically addressing cultural perceptions that has been in, that exists for generations, you know, like for example, in the family setting it’s still okay. You would see that women will first give food to the husband and then eat, and that has been okay. That has been the norm. The reason why women do that is because that is what they have seen in their own family. That’s what mothers did it. Right now this is the kind of generation and gradually post globalization, we still do not have a situation where women and men are, you know, an inequal terms with regard to entry into the workforce because women are still willing to settle for less, women are still willing to take up those jobs which men do not want to take up. So unless change happens there, unless women themselves believe the gender equality has to start from the household, it is very difficult to achieve equality okay or other genders, like other specific genders who believe that they need to have equal access to opportunities. It is very, very difficult to fight something like intimate space violence. So that is why and see even if you see the surveys etc. -still about men and women, other gender categories are not even included. So the problem has not even reached there. It is still seen as a husband and wife problem. Okay, we are not even explaining like fleshing out the other kinds of problems, but it’s also what how is it that we learn violence or what is it that we see, we see that.
Like the father is abusing the mother and the mother is accepting that. So, unless the cultural perception of both these two generations, even if I just see two genders, the parents or the father and the mother, they start seeing violence differently but they start believing that you know equality like both people should start. So what happens when the husband comes home, he expects that the wife will serve him constantly. So even if she has, you know, worked or she has done some amount of work. But even then the expectation is that she should serve me first and then eat. So unless it called, the State has to actually address the cultural attitude within the family setting. Unless we address that, there is no solution because it’s not just about violence. But I was also surprised to see that before the pandemic there was a survey- I forget the agency which did it, but around like majority of Indians believe and that it’s both men and women, that marriage is still the solution to a women’s economic well-being that is still seen as an that is seen as like the major solution. Okay, so that is like economically women’s viability is still marriage and men are still seen as the bread owners. So unless change happens at that level, it is very difficult to make change within the household setting. It’s cultural perception that has to change and the state needs to address that. That is what I believe.
Sanchi-Thank you for your thoughts here, Jagriti. And I think you’ve brought out some very pertinent points and I think three themes that I would like to focus on from what you shared about is, first, how the internalization of social acceptance of domestic violence happens for marginalized genders and how, how problematic it is then that it creates this pressure of fighting against entrenched patriarchal systems. It puts that pressure on marginalized genders itself. And I do think that the State has more role to play in this. And also the second thing that came up about it just reminded me of the quote, which is very majorly used. Of course it’s-the personal is political, and what you shared made me think about the public and private patriarchy and how this cannot be distinguished very well, right? There’s no clear line if it always flows into each other and it was accentuated during the pandemic, as you’ve also mentioned. And the third thing that I’m also thinking about is how violence against queer folk also increased exponentially during the pandemic and then what role does the State have to play because as you said, we’re still thinking in the binaries and there’s a very urgent need to go beyond that. And I would still like to ask you a little more about that. What do you think that the State can do more? What are some things that might add value to how we currently see intimate violence and? Another thing that I was wondering about was whether you think that the State can then be held complicit in some way because it is because of the lack of their action that violence inside the households is instigated or perpetuated because their response is not adequate. What do you think about that?
Jagriti- Yes, of course I agree with all of your points and I have to say that the State is complicit and accountable as well as responsible because if you see the Nordic countries, for instance, one of the major reasons why they have better quality of life or they dwell in the happiness indexes or in the gender equality indexes, is because the State recognizes that gender equality within the household is important. So for example if you see that its not just maternity leaves, there are also countries which have paternity leaves. In India, for instance, we still have like paternity leave as a concept is still new. Of course, it’s is the option of taking paternity leaves. But also I read a media report where I saw that men in India are wary of taking paternity leaves because then they are not sure whether they will, you know, receive their promotions or, you know, what if the other person kind of trumps them in the workplace. So that is, these are some of the concerns that the State needs to address that when awareness programs are created or when awareness programs are held. Most of the time I see lawyers and activists, policymakers, academics- they’re invited, but they always address the macro problem, the legal issue. They will specifically talk about contemporary media, you know, gender related news item which would be prevalent at that particular point of time. And with regard to that, they would address and they would highlight about the laws or you know the different kind of helplines that would be available. Those, those would be the major solutions. You know, the crux of the discussions is what I’ve seen. But in those awareness programs, it is also I have the other I rarely see, you know, like awareness programs that are held together for all forms of gender. It’s usually, you know, for women or only for men in that sort. So that is also very important like gender workshops addressing cultural perceptions within the household need to be addressed like that should be the first step. So that is one. The other thing is a more representation is needed, you know, in the states body most of the time what happens is privileged women make decisions or I would say actually privileged men who have very little understanding of what is really happening at the situation. They are the ones who make the laws and who make the policies. So that that is of course true for kind of everything that we do. But representation of the victims is very necessary in the committees who are actually going to, you know, implement the law. So for example, now one of the law, you know, the law is that equal marriage age where women it’s manager, manager marriage age is also going to be 21 very soon. So in that sense that there’s a task force and they’re going to implement it and the idea is to address maternal mortality and you know the nutritional problem that women face, but it’s not going to solve the problem. That is because as I said, most women also still believe that early marriage, early children, you know that those are the steps to go and that’s how the family is also built. Like I’m not just talking about rural India, but I’ve even very, very educated upper class. They are we as women, I’m sure we have faced this question immediately. I don’t know like after twenty-five one is often asked, right? Like when are you going to get married? So that cultural perception needs to change and the State needs to take responsibility. So in the awareness programs or in the law, the first address that needs to be done is that activists, lawyers, they need to understand and talk about the cultural perceptions and make public aware about the cultural norms that exist in Indian society so that the state has to take responsibility and change the laws accordingly. Unless that happens, it is very difficult for any real change to happen. It would be difficult because you know, despite the fact that we have our laws etc are quite stringent. Well crimes against the men or you know, even the queer community is one of the biggest problems that India has.
Uttanshi- Thank you so much for sharing that. I think something that I really resonated with here is just, you know, when you spoke about representation of victims- of course you looked at root causes. You looked at how it’s not just a problem that exists in certain economic sections of the society. But what really resonated with me is how you spoke about how there need to be victims at the center of this particular problem and solution making and how they need to be a part of the implementation committees. They need to be a part of the decision making authorities which reminds me of this really powerful thing that you know, I was reading and we also believe at One Future Collective which is that lived experiences can also be expertise. And it’s not always true that if you’ve studied something academically, if you’ve read about something academically, you are the expert on the subject matter and you know your expertise and knowledge is definitely valuable to some extent. But involving stakeholders who are most affected by it has its own value, which we cannot ignore. And if we continue to ignore that, you know we will continue to make policies that don’t hold a lot of relevance or can’t be implemented in the most useful manner or the most effective manner? And that brings me to the next question that I have for you, Jagriti, which is just how do you think we can make State responses better? Of course, you’ve looked at one of the ways, which is incorporating survivor voices in implementation committees. But are there any other ways that you think this can be done in a way that really reflects the lived realities of survivors and incorporates their voices in understanding what future solutions and solution modeling can look like.
Jagriti-Yes, of course. One thing is that you know, when the victims themselves speak up, that is also another issue. You know, victims like now reporting has started, you know a little bit now because of social media. The, you know, post me too movement victims are confident that they will receive support at least in an online community. That little change the transition has happened because when the me too movement started, one thing I saw a lot of older women, older people, they actually came out and you know spoke about their the kind of harassment that they had faced during their time and how they could did not really have a platform to express at what they had undergone at that point of time. So, I think that the State first needs to include it in their framework is, but you know like it. As you rightly said, lived experience is like a very big part. Often, it’s not just academic or the law or the you know like how you know it’s it’s just not just the law and academic or the policymakers who should come together. But lived experiences also should play an important role. I think one thing that the State could do there are some, you know, good foundations and NGOs who actually do work really hard for some of the victims and some of the difficult, you know, violent crimes, victims who have suffered different forms of violence. So the State should tie up with them and see that adequate representation is done because rarely would victims, you know, would like to talk about their experience or, you know, like be a part of that committee and then, you know, immediately start making decisions or start talking about their experiences. So, the State first should have a simple group where the victims would be made comfortable, you know. So unless that is included in the framework as to how the victims should be made to feel comfortable, so that they really believe that they belong to the State, they belong where they can be protected, they can be encouraged and they can really make a difference, it would not really make a change in that sense, right? That is because today I’ll just give you a simple example in the sense of mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship- we talk about domestic violence and mostly the idea is that, you know, violence in that sense is, you know, husband is being violent on the wife. But there are also many instances where women have been violent against women. So as you know that you know that so mother or even when I have gone to do field work in rural areas or even in many of the, you know, urban houses. One thing I always noticed whenever I wanted to speak to the daughter-in-law, the mother in law would always be very keen to accompany because she could be very worried as to what would the daughter-in-law tell about the household that, you know, an unknown stranger would know. So one thing that happens is that why does the mother in law, you know, always have a difficult or a conflicted in relationship with the daughter-in-law because she herself had suffered once upon a time when she was the daughter-in-law. So that is the cultural perception that I’m talking about. That is what the state needs to address. That is essentially what the State needs to understand that within the family setting, there are different layers where violence is implicit, where cultural norms are actually getting translated over generations, and we are raising children who are actually growing up watching that kind of visualization of violence within the family setting. So, when I talk about representation or when I talk about the family being part of the awareness program, first, the first and foremost place, the State needs to understand that the household needs to be addressed. In India Today, the family is actually burdened with many responsibilities where the State does not interval. So for example if you see elderly are still expected to be looked after by their children. That is the other area of abuse that happened. You know, like older parents are often abused by their children. So that’s where the family has to take responsibility. Children are raised by their parents and the State would not intervene even if there is, you know, like a specific case of violence within that family in that sense. So, first and foremost the government needs to understand that the household is the biggest unit where violence is constructed in the first place, and to address violence or gender equality, awareness programs or outreach programs or any kind of policy has to be addressed first in the household. And unless that happens, it is very difficult to make any change in a country such as India where patriarchy is so embedded across the household.
Sanchi- Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on that, Jagruti. I think what you said right now clearly brings out the importance of framing the household as something that the State should look at while talking about violence. And it also gives a very concrete, clear idea of what the state can do. And I think the examples that you shared really brought to light the complexities of violence, so many nuances that come with it inside the household itself and how power is affected and it definitely gives me a lot to think about and I think our audience would also agree with that. Do you have any closing thoughts as we wrap up this conversation today?
Jagriti- Well, I One thing that I would want to say is that you know that social media also plays a very important role in the sense of this public versus private space. And where actually in technical sense, the government is overlooking that space also because so many people we meet on social media now, there are so many apps, and I’m not even aware of most of the apps. But you know, as a teacher, I often hear students writing assignments or talking about different platforms where they meet different people. And you know, now a lot of things is changing. Like for example, the dating cultures are changing, how we meet individuals are changing. So I think in terms of violence that really needs to be taken into account. You know, as a future like as like that could just be the next potential problem. And the State at this point is totally ignoring that, you know, as a setting like that that is not even on again as you’re not even in on in the level of policy as to how to of course now the media would highlight certain cases, but that’s about, you know, there is still a space which is going to be the future, specifically dating apps and different social media accounts where we meet different unknown individuals on a regular basis. And the government needs to take account of these different spaces that are coming and they are again in the private, which is the home space. You know where we first start talking to strangers or we start chatting with unknown people. So, that’s the government needs to recognize that as a potential problem and address that to really take into account intimate violence across India.
Uttanshi- Yeah, I fully agree. Especially the point about how intimate partner violence can exist across spectrums. So far we’ve been talking about the physicality of the household. But how this violence can happen on technological platforms, that is also something for us to consider. And as you were speaking, I was also thinking just in terms of I may be living away from my home physically, but there may still be violence and my people that I am living with in my household can be inflicting on me through different methodologies and different means. And what does that mean from the perspective of being able to get support and care and justice for us as survivors from the State? These are all some extremely important points. And the one thing that I think I’m taking back with me today especially is, you know, especially as a lawyer, I feel like we don’t really think about anybody other than people as being subjects of the law. But listening to you speak today, I’m really thinking about how a household unit can be a subject of the law and how when we look at a household unit, we’re also looking at its complexities and the power dynamics that exist within it and how it’s no longer just individual people. So I really want to thank you for bringing all of these insights in and having this conversation with us today. I also want to thank our audience for tuning in.
Uttanshi- Thank you for tuning in today. Please leave us any questions you may have as voice notes on Anchor or in our Dms. We would love to hear from you. This podcast is brought to you by One Future Collective.
Sanchi- Yes, thank you so much. And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook at One Future Collective and at One Future_India on Twitter. And keep an eye out for future episodes out every second and fourth Thursday of the month until next time.
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