Sameer is an architect. He had been in a few relationships before getting married. He recalls this one particularly abusive relationship which took a huge toll on his mental health.
“I was in a relationship with a guy who I met during my masters in Zurich. We had the same likes and dislikes and within the next few months, we were together.”
He says, “One day we went out to a party thrown by my friend. I am an extrovert, so I naturally started talking to guys around me. I talked to them, cracked some jokes. We came back to the dorm and to my surprise; my partner pushed me down on the floor. I could sense anger in his eyes. He held me by my collar and said, “Don’t you dare flirt with other guys!”
This was the first time he used physical force on me.
“The second time I was talking to a classmate regarding his mother’s health. I came back to the room where he punched me and I fainted. I broke up with him that very day. I changed my room. He started stalking me and making fun of me in front of people. That was the worst relationship I ever had. I developed self-harming tendencies however, luckily, I walked away from that relationship before things escalated.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 26 percent of gay men and 37.3 percent of bisexual men have experienced rape, physical violence, stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime while 43.8 percent of lesbians and 6.1 percent of bisexual women have experienced the same as compared to 35 percent of heterosexual women. The types of IPV include physical violence, lethal threats and intimidation, verbal harassment, and sexual violence. These statistics above are of first world countries where LGBTQ safe spaces do exist. When it comes to south Asian nations, especially India, the figures would understandably be worse since as a culture we don’t even recognize the basic rights of the community.
Since the majority of the domestic violence awareness movements have been focused on heterosexual relationships, members of the LGBTQ community have been largely left out of the movement. Many of the recent studies highlight how LGBTQ members fall victim to domestic violence at equal or even higher rates compared to their heterosexual counterparts. In India and all around the world, when we speak of domestic violence, it is understood that we are just speaking for heterosexual married women who are ‘beaten’ by their husbands or in-laws. All the campaigns started against domestic violence particularly focus on married women and have hardly paid heed to the homosexual violence that happens behind the closed doors. Here’s the thing – domestic violence is not limited to physical abuse and the gender of the abuser does not matter here. An abuser can mentally, emotionally, and economically abuse you too. All these come under the criteria of domestic abuse. If one is going through this, they have all the right to seek professional help. Both men and women can abuse their fellow partners and both have the same rights against their abusers.
One cannot deny the multiple layers of complex factors at play that push the issues of intimate partner violence in the gay community under the rug. Even today, among the most progressive cultures and societies, LGBTQ couples are looked at as the others. Same-sex relationships are often demonized or marginalized, and there is a section of people with the prejudiced belief of ‘it serves you right’. Since it doesn’t fit into the ‘accepted’ heteronormative pattern, IPV among queer couples is not only ignored but even ridiculed.
Samantha talks about her relationship where her partner threatened and physically abused her.
“I don’t even want to think about those days. I felt trapped, and couldn’t just walk out of it. It requires mental courage to leave behind a person who you thought would be your perfect one. The fear of not finding a perfect partner in the community where even self-acceptance takes a lot of courage makes queer domestic violence unreported. In the hope of things getting better, people tend to cling to their toxic partners.”
“When the relationship became suffocating, I assembled her stuff and asked her to move out. It was then when she tried hurting me physically. I am glad that I walked away from that relationship.”
When it comes to queer violence, people tend to keep mum because of the stigma around homosexuality. Even if they go to the police, they are either brushed off or their sexuality is questioned, threatened, or made fun of. The behavior of the police towards the queer community is unsympathetic, inhumane, and hateful. Transgenders are systemically discriminated against as a community too, which makes the police station an unsafe place for the entire queer community.
In such a hostile environment, it is understandable that many people from the community are nervous about airing their ‘dirty laundry’. People from the queer community have been working hard since ages to enter the mainstream society, challenge its status quo while fighting for equal rights, in such a situation, they fear that the mention of abuse will discredit all their efforts and the community as a whole. This is one big reason why violence happening within the community is never talked about openly.
The law qualifies domestic violence as ‘any act consists of domestic violence when it harms or endangers the health, safety, life, limb, or wellbeing (mental or physical) of the victim, or tends to do so, and includes causing: physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and economic abuse.’ It is a legally punishable offense. The laws against domestic violence in India have not included anything specific about queer domestic violence. There is no way we can say whether it is inclusive in nature or not.
If you find yourself or your loved ones in any situation of Intimate Partner Violence, please contact –
Sahaay – 1800 – 2000 113
AASRA counselling NGO – 9820466726
Pinklist India’s queer friendly therapists – 50+ Queer friendly therapists in India
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