We are victims, not vamps: Mums-in-law

New Delhi: It’s official. The saas-bahu soaps have got it wrong. Contrary to what reel households portray, mothers-in-law are seldom the villain of the piece in real domestic settings.

The latest round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) shows that young women face maximum domestic violence from their own parents rather than in-laws. Armed with the data, over 700 women have joined hands to launch the All-India Mothers-in-law
Protection Forum (AIMPF) to break their stereotyping as vamps, and demand protection against violence and abuse by daughters-in-law, and for property rights. AIMPF members include forensic experts, lawyers, doctors, teachers, other professionals and housewives.

According to the NFHS report, 13.7% women faced violence from their mother as against 1.7% tormented by their mother-in-law. Among unmarried women, 57.1%, and among women who were married but whose send-off ceremonies were yet to take place, 64.3% reported family members, particularly mothers, as perpetrators of violence against them.

“It has been statistically established that mothers-in-law are unnecessarily maligned and subjected to judgmental attitudes by society. On television, we are shown as vamps, while in reality we are the victims,” said Neena Dhulia, co-ordinator, AIMPF. “The image of the mother-in-law has been tarnished by feminists. It is compounded by step-motherly treatment by society and the judiciary. The mother-in-law is the one held responsible if a marriage doesn’t work.”

The AIMPF will push for amendments to inheritance and dowry prohibition laws and the Domestic Violence Act. Its members have written to the National Commission for Women and the police to accept complaints from mothers-in-law in the same spirit as those from daughters-in-law.

The AIMPF also wants a change of attitude in the judiciary. “There are several mothers-in-law who are victimised and threatened with section498 (A) of the Indian Penal Code. Incidents abound of mothers-in-law silently bearing the brunt of domestic violence by daughters-in-law. Despite severe abuse, mothers-in-law do not get social support. Financial control and (the matter of) independence are the main reasons why daughters-in-law harass us,” Dhulia said.

Interestingly, a psychologist from Newnham College, Cambridge, UK, in a recent book claims that daughters-in-law are programmed to dislike their partner’s mother. If hatred marks the onset of the relation, it can never blossom into a healthy relationship. Also, due to adverse social hardwiring, it is the mother-in-law who is projected negatively and held responsible for all ills.

Source: DNA India

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