ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Suicide or Domestic Violence?

The vulnerability of women from affluent background to domestic violence is examined by critically analysing the act of “suicide” of Bollywood actors. It argues for the adoption of a sociolegal perspective, where an act of suicide in an intimate relationship must be examined in the broader context of the social order by drawing on perspectives of domestic violence literature and the language of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. This approach is critical to recognising that victims of domestic violence exist in all strata of society and that the act of suicide is the culmination of a process of enduring violence in intimate relationships encompassing multiple forms of victimisation.

The suicide of an actress in Mumbai had grabbed newspaper headlines in April 2016. As the interpersonal relationship of the victim and her boyfriend was put under the microscope, details of the relationship began to emerge, where it was alleged that the actress was fine the day before, was subjected to controlling behaviour of the boyfriend on previous occasions, and was impoverished to the extent of taking a loan from her domestic worker (Hindu 2016a, 2016b and 2016c; Mengle 2016; Natu 2016). However, amidst the minutiae of the personal story, suicide was never construed as an act of domestic violence. I wondered how our collective conscience was blinded by the categories of Indian criminal law, which allowed us to see the “suicide,” but dissociated it from domestic violence.

In contrast, when a man walked on the streets of Pune with the chopped head of his wife in his hand, the act was immediately reported as a murder or an act of violence (Banerjee 2015). Public condemnation and outrage was widespread in denouncing the insane act of the husband. However, what happens when a man walks out of an interpersonal relationship killing a woman, but without the head of a woman in his hand? What happens when the man is not in a marital relationship with the woman who is dead? What happens if the man is not insane and poor, but a powerful “normal” business person with resources of different kinds, including access to a pool of well-placed lawyers and parents? In these circumstances, the death of a woman is instantly labelled as a suicide rather than a result of domestic violence. This trend of labelling “deaths under mysterious circumstances” as suicides negates the experiences of violence endured by women in the intimate relationship and contributes to the invisibility of domestic violence in intimate relationships.

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Updated On : 24th Nov, 2017
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