Domestic violence is a public, not private matter

JULY 29 — It has been interesting seeing the reactions to the recent incidents involving the couple behind the Sugu Pavithra YouTube channel.

What started out as a nation's fascination with a delightful, homey cooking show has spiralled into high drama and now, the deletion of all the videos.

I've seen people voice their anger over the reason behind the husband's arrest but at the same time I have also seen people saying that it was a personal matter, that they should work it out themselves.

The latter kind of thinking is what gets women killed.

How many times have we heard of cases of domestic violence where the police apparently did nothing, saying it was a private matter out of their jurisdiction?

When a partner, whatever the gender, in a relationship assaults the other it is a criminal act and not a personal matter.

Perhaps in the old days when women were considered property as in that archaic local case where a man was sued for “enticing” someone's wife, that would make sense.

There is no reason domestic violence should be condoned. It is also troubling to me that someone could get bail so easily for bringing a sickle to a hospital.

Last I heard, a sickle is a dangerous weapon.

Yet even a hand is enough of a weapon to cause hurt ― to bruise, to break bone, to strangle.

If a man were to assault another man, in public, the police would be called. Yet why are the rules somehow different between husband and wife?

Why, in the eyes of some people, is there some sort of special license to hit your partner without being criminally charged?

While I'm sure there will be people suggesting we need to tweak the law I am more convinced society needs to be changed first.

Despite the many comments to just leave the couple alone, I am encouraged to see more people, men included, coming to the conclusion that what happened was not something that could easily be swept under the carpet.

Consider this: someone who would so easily beat their partner in public would be just as likely do the same, or worse, in private.

Let's not make this a gender thing either. While in most cases of domestic violence, it is the husband assaulting the wife, it happens the other way around as well.

Should any new law be enacted, it should be free from gender bias. There must be no special dispensation for the spouse who committed assault with mere forgiveness.

Anyone with a history of assaulting their partner should be monitored for a certain period of time.

I'm not saying they do not deserve redemption or the chance to change but the thing is, destructive patterns such as those seen in domestic violence are not easy to undo overnight.

My own relative married an abusive man; he was a small man, very slight in stature and looked harmless.

Yet he beat my relative so frequently and so badly that her doctor pleaded with her to leave him.

When she finally decided to get a divorce, her own mother tried to get her not to, persuaded by her son-in-law that it was his wife who was in the wrong.

Some days, I regret not tossing the man off a balcony but it would be hard trying to explain to his kids why Aunty Erna broke all their father's bones.

Counseling and rehabilitation matter and I am not in favour of punitive measures used to correct an ill in society.

There also needs to be better support systems for domestic violence victims so they can more easily extricate themselves from harmful situations.

If we look at domestic violence the same way we look at child abuse, then we can clearly see that line that differentiates meddling in someone's private life and committing a crime.

I would personally advocate adding a short reminder in premarital courses: you shall not hit your spouse or you will go directly to jail, to spend a week there considering the errors of your ways.

That would be a far better idea but until our society evolves, I fear we will still need to remind our children that they will always need to know how to defend themselves — even from the ones they marry.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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