In a study called ‘Gendered pattern of burn injuries in India’, it was found that an estimated 7 million people suffer from burn injuries in India annually, of which 700,000 require hospital admission and 140,000 are fatal. According to the National Burns Programme, 91,000 of these deaths are of women’s.
The question that arises is that why the situation is such in India? It is mostly because these women are pushed to the edge by their husbands or in-laws. One such story is of Yashodha’s. Like many others, Yashodha was born in a traditional family and was married off at an young age. Her husband’s alcoholism was an issue that bothered her, but to not overburden her parents, she kept it to herself.
Alone and emotionally stressed, she thought the only way out was to set herself on fire.
Not an isolated incident
While, these incidents seem sudden and unplanned, but in reality it is an outburst of years of accumulated emotional and physical abuse. The International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC) founded in 2001 to help domestic abuse survivors knows about many such other instances.
“Nine out of 10 women that we meet tell us very clearly that domestic violence was the factor that pushed them towards it,” says Swetha Shankar, head of psychosocial programmes at PCVC.
Many of these cases usually pass off as an accident to hide the horrific reality of sexual abuse, but the survivors eventually speak up after months of counselling and assurance. The key part of PCVC is to raise awareness about the many faces of domestic abuse, even if it is not physical.
“In our culture, we are brought up in such a situation, where some women don’t even realise that they are undergoing domestic violence,” explains Sajitha Spelman, project coordinator at PCVC. While many people think that domestic abuse is restricted to only physical harm, many people need to know that emotional and financial abuse, verbal abuse and not giving any independence to make decisions is also harmful.
“So it is very important to recognise that this doesn’t happen in isolation,” says Swetha. “That it is not just a burn injury. That there is a history of violence, of domestic abuse, of a denial of choice.”
PCVC has helped 4,500 burn survivors since 2006. The non-profit leaves no detail to chance — right down to providing the hospitals caring for the women with clean disposable sheets and gowns, clean drinking water and health supplements. This is their way of telling these survivors that they are loved and somebody cares for them.
Yashoda’s may have taken an extreme step, but her journey has not stopped. She broke free from the cycle of abuse and gained employment; she also became a thriving example for others. “There may not be beauty in my appearance but there is beauty within me. Many appreciate me. They like my words. They like my courage,” she shares proudly.
The Logical Indian appreciates the PCVC Foundation for giving love, care and strength to people who have been scared and mum through years of abuse. More power to women like Yashoda who had the courage to break free and inspire others.