In my work with abused women, one of the most important things is the support of the family and their resolve to stand by the decision of their daughter.
In a recent case I dealt with, a woman who had been regularly beaten by her husband was forced by her family to go back and live with him.
This young woman, let me call her Preity, had a long history of domestic violence. Her husband, a former drug abuser, was also openly having a long-standing affair with a woman living nearby.
This led to frequent quarrels which would end with him beating her up. Preity returned to her father’s house many times, but every time her husband would come and plead for her forgiveness.
Early this year, they quarrelled yet again and this time she went to stay with an aunt. One evening she thought why should I remain depressed when he is enjoying his life? So in an act of defiance, she dressed up and joined a celebratory dance of men and women, usually unmarried ones, which was being held as part of the Holi festival known in Manipur as Yaoshang.
But as she was walking home, her husband accosted her and tried to stab her, saying he would rather kill her than have her cavorting with other men. Thankfully she survived with a few wounds to her fingers.
At this point her aunt approached me for help. We were earnestly trying to help Preity – taking her to hospital, approaching a legal counsel and so on. We also asked her husband to meet us separately and asked him to make a statement. We even approached his employers to seek their opinion of his character and to ask for their help.
Preity was adamant that she would no longer continue to be victimised. She also wanted to file a legal case against her husband and the paperwork had begun.
However, after some time, we learnt that Preity had gone back to her husband after pressure from her own family to return to him.
I think the lack of strength and support from Pretty’s parents was mainly due to their poverty, as well as the fact that Preity’s husband’s house was very near their own. It meant that every now and then he would come and beg for forgiveness.
People are frightened by the very mention of filing a legal case. The legal process in this country is usually very drawn out and can become very expensive as a result.
People want speedy solutions. And even though the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 stipulates that cases should be resolved within the mandatory 60 days as far as possible, more often than not cases remain pending. As a result people are discouraged and disheartened.
For me, it is sad that a woman has to continue suffering due to loopholes in legislation and lack of support from her own family.
As told to Thingnam Anjulika Samom