Alcohol Ban And Role Of Alcohol In Domestic Violence

by | Jan 27, 2018

According to a National Family and Health Survey in 2005, total lifetime prevalence of domestic violence was 33.5% and that of sexual violence was 8.5% among women aged 15–49.[1] While women constitute “nearly” half of our population, they are still facing gender biases in academia, at work and at homes. Recent Alcohol Bans put up by government (such as in Bihar) and domestic abuse of my house helps’ by their alcoholic spouses has motivated me to write this post.

In order to get victim’s perspective, I chose Sheetal*, a helper at Ram Narayan Girls’ Inter College, Gorakhpur, whose husband spends all the money he earns and some part of her earning in alcohol. He then indulges in abuse and beats up her as a routine. Sheetal says he beats her because he doesn’t like her telling him not to spend money on Alcohol and Gambling. He also gets violent when she doesn’t agree with him on anything or resists something he wants. It leads to increased anxiety due to Excessive intake of Alcohol.

“Do you think Alcohol Ban would stop your misery?”, I asked.
“If he doesn’t get it, then he will get more problematic (in her words, आफ़ते बा). His habits will remain same and his desperation will only result in me being the object of all his anger.”
“Would you still support the ban?”
“Yes, definitely. It would be difficult in the first few months. He may beat me up a lot more but he would have to eventually settle without alcohol.”

In my humble opinion, I don’t think that would happen because most such men consume alcohol to distract themselves from real life problems and they can’t control their behavior towards women (apart from the fact that social values have taught them to dominate). They are usually the ones working in unorganized sectors, largely as laborers and find themselves in a frustrating work-environment, where they need something to get away from it all. Alcohol, of course, is an easy choice.

Even if we ban alcohol to deal with abuse, we need to improve working conditions of these men, status of women in terms of education, health and self sustenance and a new social order, because they would harass women irrespective of whether they get alcohol. The behavior seems to be deeply rooted in their sense of masculinity and the fact that they’re looking for an escape from harsh working conditions. Having said that, alcohol surely aggravates anger and strengthens their tendency to dominate.

According to a research, index of domestic violence which measures verbal and physical abuse towards wives and children as a consequence of drinking, it’s 3.5 times higher for heavy drinkers compared to overindulgent drinkers and 6.5 times higher for heavy drinkers when compared to social drinkers.[2]

An alcohol ban would be beneficial if we are able to couple it with channelizing need/addiction of these daily wage laborers towards a new source of entertainment such as games, like Chess in a village of Kerala. There are other concerns raised against such bans, including, ‘Freedom of choice’ and ‘Economic blow to business class’. I think ‘Freedom of choice’ can be compromised while dealing with destroyed families. As far as ‘Economic blow to business class’ is concerned, it seems to be an ideological clash of Socialism and Capitalism where one needs to ensure whether public issues should be kept out of the purview of businesspersons or not. Another question we need to answer here is, whether our policy should be more contemporary (as in majority based) or an all encompassing one. We will also need to make sure that alcohol ban works from economic point of view. For example, Tamil Nadu draws More than 30,000 crore rupees from taxes on alcohol which helps it fund various other social programs[3].

We will be able to make a progress if we combine concession for social drinkers for their ‘Freedom of choice” (like Bihar proposed to sell foreign branded liquor in urban areas, thus, retaining revenues) with improved working conditions and new ways of channelizing needs of men (women who drink have a low percentage in India as of now. It is sharply increasing in urban areas but they are less likely to get affected by alcohol based domestic violence. Exceptions are there). Government should look towards job creation opportunities through such bans in order to compensate for the jobs lost. As MK Gandhi said,

“A policy is a temporary creed liable to be changed, but while it holds good it has got to be pursued with apostolic zeal.”

[1] NFHS – Domestic Violence Report
[2] The effects of husband’s alcohol consumption on married women in three low-income areas of Greater Mumbai.
[3] Of populism and prohibition 

*Name changed to protect identity

**This is an essay written by the author as a part of assessment process of India Fellowship Cohort 2017-18

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1 Comment

  1. Anupama Pain

    Very well crafted piece. The Chess in a Kerala village bit was also interesting.


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