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"What will people think?" Indian Women and Domestic Violence in Aotearoa/ New Zealand

Migration is a complex process undertaken for a wide range of reasons. To leave the country of ones birth to settle in another is likely to involve disruption to existing family and community relationships, reassessing ones culture of origin, reassessing ones identity and “fitting in” with a host culture. For many migrants, relative poverty, isolation, racism and prejudice are additional challenges and often, obtaining permanent resident status is far from straight forward. For these sorts of reasons, immigrant women who experience domestic violence face particular challenges over and above those faced by women from the dominant host culture. Although there is a field of international literature which identifies immigrant-specific factors that trigger or maintain domestic violence, there is little such research in New Zealand and none which specifically focuses on Indian women immigrants. This research is positioned within a view of domestic violence in India being a socio-cultural issue cutting across all castes, social classes and religions. The research increases awareness of cultural perspectives that foster violence and abuse, and investigates how the process of migration affects Indian women’s attempts to navigate their safety in the context of New Zealand. In particular, it reveals the barriers that Indian immigrant woman experiencing domestic violence face in seeking help, paying particular attention to the socio- cultural aspects of the Indian Diaspora in New Zealand. There were two phases to the data collection- semi- structured face-to-face interviews with key informants in India and New Zealand and case studies of Indian migrant women who experience domestic violence. The key findings suggest that patriarchal attitudes and a sense of male entitlement are pivotal in perpetuating and tolerating domestic violence. In-laws are heavily implicated in the abuse (emotional, physical and financial) of women. This includes continued dowry demands after the wedding. Women reported isolation as an integral aspect of power and control exercised by their spouse in a host country. This and the shame they might bring upon their family and community were key reasons for not seeking help. Uncertain immigration status of women hindered reporting domestic violence. Although some community members were helpful, too often the Indian migrant community colluded with the abuser and/or were tolerant of domestic violence. Indian migrant women were sometimes outmanoeuvred by their partners in the family court by using ‘orders preventing removal’ of children. Even after women left the abusive relationship, they were emotionally abused by the partner using their children. Culturally safe practices are paramount to ensure women are not further victimized when they approach services.
Type of thesis
Somasekhar, S. (2016). ‘What will people think?’ Indian Women and Domestic Violence in Aotearoa/ New Zealand (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10592
University of Waikato
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