Domestic violence in Nagaland: Societal pressure, stigma hold back victims from seeking help

15% women have experienced domestic violence.
‘Even men can be victims of domestic violence’


Morung Express News
Kohima | November 18

At least 15% of women in Nagaland have experienced physical or sexual violence, while 2% of pregnant women have experienced physical violence during one or more of their pregnancies, according to the National Family Health Survey (4th series).

The survey also revealed that the most common perpetrator of violence for ever-married women was their husband with 74% such cases. (Ever-married are persons who have been married at least once in their lives although their current marital status may not be 'married’).

Though seldom spoken about and considered a ‘taboo’ subject in the context of Naga society, domestic violence in Nagaland has become a common phenomenon. 

Globally, domestic violence is a crime perpetuated among the educated and uneducated, the poor and wealthy alike. However, it was found that many women choose to remain silent and deal with it privately due to fear, stigma, shame and societal pressure.

It was also found that while domestic violence is perpetuated in numerous forms ranging from subtle, coercive to violent physical abuse, many women are unaware of the kinds of violence.

Speaking to The Morung Express, Programme Coordinator, Nagaland State Social Welfare Board (NSSWB), Juliana Medom said “While we may be complacent that domestic violence does not happen in Nagaland, our data speaks a different story.”

However, she also commented “While addressing this issue (domestic violence), we must also not be blind to the fact that even men can be victims of domestic violence.”

Medom informed that Women Helpline has received 10 cases of domestic violence in the current year, besides other cases of crimes against women.

As the National Family Health Survey (4th series) conducted in 2015-16 for Nagaland it was reported that among women age 15-49, 12% have experienced physical violence and while 6% have experienced sexual violence.

The survey was conducted under the stewardship of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India which provides information on population, health, and nutrition for India and each state and union territory.

Spousal violence 

According to NFHS, 7% of ever-married women reported having been slapped by their husband; while 2-5% reported being pushed, shaken, or having something thrown at them; having their arm twisted or hair pulled; being punched; or being kicked, dragged, or beaten up; and less than 1% have experienced being choked or burned on purpose and being threatened or attacked with a knife, gun, or any other weapon.

The survey’s key findings reported that 5% of women experienced marital rape while 2% reported their husband forced them with threats or other ways to perform sexual acts they did not want to perform.

Overall, the survey found out that 13% of ever-married women have experienced spousal physical or sexual violence from their current husband or, if not currently married, from their most recent husband while 10% report spousal emotional violence and few ever-married women (2%) have ever initiated violence against their husband. 

Although the prevalence of spousal violence is lower among more educated women, 8% of women who have at least 12 years of schooling have experienced physical or sexual spousal violence. Women whose husbands consume alcohol are much more likely than women whose husbands do not consume alcohol to experience spousal violence, especially if the husband often gets drunk. However, 6% of women whose husbands do not drink alcohol have experienced physical or sexual spousal violence. 

A rather distressing finding includes that of 17% of women who have experienced spousal physical or sexual violence suffered injuries as a result of the violence with the most common type of injury being cuts, bruises, or aches. 

Gender-role attitudes 

Interestingly, 45% women are found to have the “believe it is justifiable for a husband to beat his wife under some circumstances” while 35% of men believe that wife-beating is justified in some circumstances.

As per the survey, at least 32% of women believed that wife-beating is justified when she neglects the house or children, 28% of women deemed it justifiable if she ‘showed disrespect’ for her in-laws (28%) while 20% said it was justifiable if she argued with her husband.

Likewise, 23% men who justified wife-beating cited the reasons as when she neglects the house or children; with 16% if the wife shows disrespect for in-laws and 16 % responded that wife-beating was justifiable if she argued with him.

“Even among those who have completed at least 12 years of schooling, 32% of women and 24% of men say that a husband is justified in beating his wife for one or more of the specified reasons” stated the report.  
Silent victims

The survey further found out that only 14% of women who have ever experienced physical or sexual violence by anyone have sought help. And about three-fourths of women (74%) have neither sought help nor told anyone about the violence. 

As numerous cases of domestic violence goes unreported, Medom observed ‘fear of social stigma’ as one of the major reasons for women not speaking out against domestic violence. She further maintained that  due to lack of awareness about the kinds of domestic violence among women, many of them do not realise they are victims of domestic violence. 

However, of late, “We are also witnessing a rise in women coming forward and fighting till the end for their rights,” added Medom.

Mention maybe made that the Nagaland State Social Welfare Board is the notified service provider for domestic violence in the state as such, it has 181 Women Helpline and One Stop Centre as one of its major programme through the State Resource Centre for Women (SRCW).


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