"People's reaction was like it was normal to see a man beating his wife. There's no law, there are no safe houses, and even the police can't do much. Some families also act like they're so modern and they say, 'Oh it's a private matter'."
Maryam's (name changed) voice trembled as she revisited the horrors of public humiliation, her husband's brazen attack on her, and the deafening silence of the onlookers.
Maryam's story resonates with 1000s of Iranian women who have silently accepted the daily ordeals of physical and mental abuse as a way of life.
Maryam started a podcast to share stories, experiences of domestic violence survivors
Iran's increasing cases of mental and physical abuse
Time to change and challenge the societal taboos
What happened to Maryam?
Maryam met her husband at a university where she studied child psychology. She went against her family to marry him, as she thought he was a liberal, intellectual, and an advocate of workers' rights. Within a few months of her marriage, she realized her mistake. She was reluctant to take help from her family as he was the man she fought for. Over the years, Mariyam had to go through mental and physical abuse where she was made to believe "she's the reason for her pain." It was her fault that she has to endure daily abuse.
While growing up, Maryam was raised with the common maxim: "A woman enters a man's house in a white bridal dress and leaves only in a white shroud." Societal norms, age-old traditions prohibited her to take any drastic steps like divorce as it is believed to bring shame to the family. To make things worse, Iranians keep their family matters behind closed doors. This is like an accepted, followed, social practice because of which domestic violence has become endemic to society. It was only after Mariyam ended up bruised, semi-conscious on a hospital bed that she took the decision to call off the marriage. She was lucky to have the support of her parents in her decisions. In most cases, women remain quiet because they have no one to support them, not even their parents.
A New Hope: New Podcast
Maryam started a podcast to share her, and the stories of other domestic violence survivors. The podcast aims at raising awareness and bringing the unheard voices of domestic violence survivors. It challenges the existing, deep-rooted societal taboos and encourages women to speak up. Tell them they are not alone. The podcast also highlights a lack of institutional protection for women in Iran. Research from Iranian and international officials found that two-thirds of Iranian women have experienced domestic abuse at least once as of 2014.
The General Director of Counseling and Psychological Affairs of the Welfare Organization of Iran confirmed that domestic violence cases had tripled since the start of the pandemic.
Iran's parliament is yet to approve the bill prepared to prevent violence against women that has been lying on the floor for the last 10 years.
Let us know in the comment section below how you feel about Maryam's initiative and the present system of Iran?
Also Read: 13-year-old murdered by her father in Iran
About the Author
Prakriti S is a foodie, wildlife photographer, geo-politics enthusiast, and a woman activist.