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Silent Suffering: The Impact of Intimate Partner Violence on Women in South Asia

In this post, A.A. Zubayer - Programme Assistant GRRIPP South Asia - highlights the pervasive problem of intimate partner violence across South Asia and different ways that organisations, including a GRRIPP project, are working to support women to talk about it and escape the violence.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious public health concern that affects millions of women worldwide. In South Asia, the prevalence of IPV is particularly high, with many women facing abuse and violence from their partners on a daily basis. Despite its prevalence, IPV remains a largely hidden and stigmatised issue, with many women suffering in silence.

The impact of IPV on South Asian women is far-reaching and devastating, affecting their physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. Women who experience IPV are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. They may also experience physical health problems, such as chronic pain, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems. The trauma of IPV can also have long-term effects on a woman's ability to function in daily life, affecting her relationships, work, and overall quality of life.

One of the reasons why IPV is so prevalent in South Asia is because of the cultural norms and gender dynamics that exist in the region. Many South Asian societies are patriarchal, with men holding power and women occupying subservient roles centered on domestic duties and caregiving, which can limit their access to education, employment, and other resources that could help them achieve greater independence and autonomy. In this context, men can feel entitled to control and dominate their partners, often using physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as a means of control. Women's roles as caretakers and homemakers are also often undervalued, contributing to a sense of powerlessness and dependency that can make them more vulnerable to IPV.

Another factor that contributes to the prevalence of IPV in South Asia is the stigma that surrounds the issue. Many women who experience IPV feel ashamed and embarrassed to talk about it, fearing that they will be blamed or ostracised. This stigma can also extend to healthcare providers, who may not be adequately trained or equipped to deal with cases of intimate partner violence (IPV) in South Asia. One study in India found that the quality of care for women experiencing IPV was often dependent on the individual attitudes of the physician.

The impact of IPV on South Asian women is further compounded by the lack of resources and support available to them. Many women may not have access to legal aid or counselling services, leaving them feeling trapped in abusive relationships. A lack of social support networks and resources can also make it difficult for women to leave abusive relationships, especially if they are financially dependent on their partners.

Photo: UN Women/M R Hasan

Despite the challenges, there are efforts underway to address the issue of IPV in South Asia. Many organisations are working to raise awareness about the issue, provide support to survivors, and advocate for policy changes that protect women's rights. There is also a growing recognition of the need for culturally sensitive interventions that take into account the unique challenges faced by South Asian women.

One of the projects of GRRIPP South Asia, titled "Towards Human Rights and its Violation Expulsion", has focused on raising awareness in their project area Durgapur, Netrokona, Bangladesh about women and men's rights and responsibilities in general, as well as women and children's specific legal rights and protection from abuse and violence. Activities also targeted parents to raise their awareness regarding the negative impact of child abuse on the physical and mental health development of children. The project has raised awareness through conducting training, workshops, a video programme, leaflet distribution, and putting up posters and billboard displays. These training and education tools contained information on women's and child rights, and issues of domestic violence, sexual harassment, child protection, dowry, child labour, and early marriage.

Another promising approach is the use of technology to provide support and resources to survivors of IPV. Mobile phone apps and other digital tools are being developed that provide information about legal rights, counselling services, and other resources. For example MyPlan App, the National Domestic Violence Hotline App, the Tech Safety App, and SafeTrek App help women escape abusive relationships, find protection and support and rebuild their lives.

In conclusion, IPV is a pervasive issue that affects many women in South Asia. The impact of IPV on women's physical, emotional, and psychological well-being is significant, and the lack of resources and support available to women can make it difficult for them to escape abusive relationships. However, there are efforts underway to address the issue, including community-based interventions and the use of technology to provide support and resources to survivors. By working together, we can create a safer and more supportive environment for South Asian women and ensure that they no longer have to suffer in silence.

Author Bio: Abdullah Al Zubayer is the Programme Assistant of GRRIPP South Asia. During his undergrad and postgrad at University of Barishal, where he majored in Sociology Department, Zubayer participated in diverse research projects. Zubayer has contributed to Q1 ranking articles on Public Health related issues; some have already been published, and others are under review. He has experience coordinating and communicating with different national and international research organisations and of organising events and programmes.


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