Ankita Chakrabarty/ Zee Research Group
Elderly abuse in India is growing and daughters-in-law are reported as the worst abusers of the elderly at home as they account for 39 percent of the cases. However, there is a view that the real instigators are sons who get away easily as the society is ruled by patriarchal norms.
According to a survey report by HelpAge India ‘Elder Abuse in India 2013’, in 39 percent of the cases, the daughter-in-laws were the main perpetrators in the crime while sons were found to be involved in 38 percent cases. The good thing, however, is that abuse at the hands of sons has come down compared to last year’s 56 percent.
Citing patriarchy as one of the main reasons behind the current situation, Mathew Cherian, chief executive officer at HelpAge India, said, “In a male biased society like India, whenever there is violence at home, it is usually instigated by sons but most of the mothers are so gender –biased that even though the culprit is the son, they blame their daughter-in-law. Daughter–in laws are a scapegoat in the whole process.”
According to the HelpAge India report, the most common form of abuse nationally experienced by elderly was disrespect (79 percent) followed by verbal abuse (76 percent) and neglect (69 percent), and a disturbing (39 percent) elderly faced beating or slapping.
Among states, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu reported a high percentage of elderly abuse in the form of beating or slapping.
Urbanisation is equally responsible for enhancing the elderly neglect. Himanshu Rath, founder of Agewell Foundation, another NGO working for the elderly people, concurred, “Joint family system has been ruined by the rapid urbanisation leading to the emergence of nuclear family. The warmth and the connect among family members has got eroded.”
Among the cities, Madurai in Tamil Nadu recorded the highest incidence of elder abuse (63 percent) followed by Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh where (60 percent) of elderly reported of experiencing abuse. About 20 percent of elderly faced abuse in the national capital (Delhi).
Almost all cases of elderly abuse go unreported in Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan. Among the cases of elderly abuse, a shocking 16.19 percent in Rajasthan and 13.67 percent in Andhra Pradesh faced beating or slapping.
The primary reason behind the elder abuse is unawareness and non-preparedness. Endorsing the view, Rath at Agewell Foundation said, “Most of the present day old people have not seen their own parents living up to that age; therefore they do not have any preparedness to deal with the problems of the old age.”
Highlighting the importance of sensitization, Cherian at HelpAge India, said, “It’s high time that the children and younger lot of our society are taught that love and respect for elders is something which is non-negotiable.”
Moral education is the need of the hour. While supporting the above view, Rath at Agewell Foundation said, “School curriculum should include moral education classes where the students should be taught how to respect elders.”
“It should be the duty of parents to teach their respective sons that everybody is equal in the society,” further added Cherian at HelpAge India.