Nidhi Seth, 39, has founded Empower-Let's Be The Change, a movement focusing on spreading awareness to fight domestic violence against women. In an e-mail interview with Healthntrends, Nidhi tells us why the cause is so close to her heart and why everyone needs to be involved in it.
Tell us a bit about how you got involved with the Empower movement, and why did you feel the need to do so?
There are many other causes being spoken about like cancer awareness, etc., but domestic violence, which is such a sensitive topic, is never discussed. You would be surprised to know that domestic violence is prevalent in the educated strata as well. Women, who go through this, never talk about it as the society has conditioned us to keep quiet. Your next door neighbour could be facing domestic violence and you may not even know about it.
I felt the need to get involved when I realised there are women who have been suffering silently for years. Each of us can help—all you need to do is turn around and observe if there is anyone in your neighborhood or friends circle who is going through domestic violence.
Tell us a bit about the Empower Movement. How does it intend to make a difference?
Empower is a movement to sensitise as many women as possible to speak up, instead of silently tolerating abuse from their spouse. We need to tell these women that they have a choice. They can get out of the situation by not taking abuse in any form. Abuse constitutes verbal, physical, emotional, where a husband may hit his wife inflicting physical pain on her, emotionally blackmailing her and verbally hurling abuses at her. Men who abuse women emotionally weaken the latter to such an extent that she feels that she is at fault. Such men even cry and apologize that they will not repeat the abuse, but then go on to do it again and again. It puts an emotional drain on the recipient and the healing can take ages.
Empower--Let's Be The Change will try to sensitise women and tell them thatnobody has the right to hit them.
How big is the problem of domestic violence in India?
Some studies show that nearly 7 out of 10 women in India have suffered some kind of domestic violence. Most of the cases are unaccounted for. Domestic violence is prevalent both in the educated and uneducated sections of the society. It is surprising to see that in the educated upper strata, more women bear atrocities silently. In many cases of abuse, women are hit badly and asked to cover up their bruises and lie to the society about the injuries.
What kind of help is available to women in India at the moment?
In 2005, the government of India passed a new legislation on domestic violence called the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDVA). It is a civil law aimed at providing relief to millions of women, including wives affected by violence in their homes. The punishment for such acts includes a jail sentence of up to one year and a Rs20,000 fine. The new law also provides a share of the husband’s earnings and property to the victim, including medical costs.
What do you think is the solution to the problem? What kind of efforts can the government make to help empower women?
There are two parts to handle this situation, one involves mentally and emotionally strengthening women by creating an atmosphere in the society that encourages women to come out and share what they are going through. The second part involves tackling the situation legally or in other ways.