Role of SHGs in Domestic Violence

Violence against women:
  • Violent acts, at the hands of a husband or a partner (intimate partner violence, or IPV), are distressingly common worldwide. These stem from the belief that women who don’t obey or don’t perform their set gender roles deserve to be beaten.
  • Intimate relationships are important sites where violence against women is used to perpetuate patriarchy.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that almost one-third of all women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner, which affects their physical and mental well-being.
  • Boys who witness parental violence are more likely to use it in their adult relationships; girls are more likely to justify it.
Solution and Role of SHG:
  • Strategies to address IPV have included legal reforms, awareness creation drives, and strengthening of women’s civil rights.
  • As criminal justice solutions have largely been inaccessible to socially precarious women, a more inclusive alternative is to have collective-based resolution mechanisms.
  • The potential of large-scale groups of women, such as self-help groups (SHGs), becomes critical in the Indian context.
  • India has experimented with many models of community dispute resolution mechanisms — the Nari Adalats (women courts) in various States, Women’s Resource Centres (Rajasthan), Shalishi (West Bengal), and Mahila Panchayats (Delhi) — which have seen IPV as a public issue rather than a personal problem.
  • Several NGOs have co-opted these models so that women can resolve cases of violence without getting entangled in tedious legal processes.
  • SHGs are the most widely present collectives across regions. The experiences of large-scale programmes offer valuable insights into action for IPV redressal within SHG-led development models.
  • These, as well as previous models, provide two key lessons — one, collectives of women need adequate investment for building their capacities; and two, mediation of IPV requires specialized structures to avoid manipulation by kinship relations and political affinities.
  • Not all groups of women become safe spaces to discuss violence. SHGs must first become enabling spaces where the economic and social concerns of women are stated as priorities.
  • Freedom from violence must be stated as a necessary component of empowerment. It takes time for most women to recognize that violence is unacceptable.
  • To enable them to understand this, there must be investment in specific training, and gender analysis processes. SHGs are mostly seen as administrative entities. Their social role can be enhanced to tackle the widespread problem of IPV.

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