Viral video spurs debate on elder abuse in India | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 13.01.2016
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Viral video spurs debate on elder abuse in India

A CCTV video of a woman beating her elderly mother-in-law has raised the issue of elder abuse and elder care in a culture where a wife is meant to care for her husband and in-laws into old age.

Security footage recorded early this year in a home in northern India shows an elderly woman being violently beaten by her daughter-in-law, Sangeeta Jain. The video (below) now has almost six millions of views on Facebook and YouTube. Be warned that the video contains graphic content.

The video was released by activist Kundan Srivastava who stated that he posted the video to question why the police has failed to file charges against Jain. The couple were reportedly in the middle of divorce proceedings when the incident took place but Jain was still living in the home. There are also reports that the husband reported the abuse to police but they failed to act.

The footage has hit a nerve in a country where it is expected that a woman will marry and move in with her husband's parents and take care of the home and in-laws into old age. This issue has also become more prevalent as young women are now more educated and want careers of their own outside of the home.

According to a survey by HelpAge India released in 2014, half of all elderly people surveyed have experienced abuse including "verbal abuse, disrespect, physical abuse and neglect."

HelpAge India also reports that the majority of the abuse was done by daughter-in-laws but also by the sons themselves. The reasons the report gives for the abuse is "emotional dependence, changing ethos and economic dependence."

A study into elder abuse by the World Health Organization stated that the global population of people aged 60 years and older will more than double, from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion in 2050 and that "elder abuse is predicted to increase as many countries are experiencing rapidly ageing populations."

Most of the discussion in India surrounding the topic criticized the woman and the police for not acting. The hashtag that was used to discuss the video was #MonsterBahu, using the Hindi word for daughter-in-law.

But the story is not as cut and dry as it seems. After numerous highly-publicized cases where mother-in-laws and husbands beat the wife, the Indian government passed a number of laws that protect wives and women in general. While many in India believe this to be a positive step, the woman accused in this case had registered a case against her husband and mother-in-law just prior to the video being filmed.

Many are now attributing the failure of the police to take any action against the woman as a sign that the laws in place to protect women from abuse may also protect women in elder abuse cases against in-laws.

Many social media users, especially men, say that laws should protect all Indians, irrespective of gender or age. Others are criticising womens' groups for being "silent" on this issue.

Other have accused women of abusing these laws, known as "Dowry Laws," for their own benefit. This has been a hotly-debated topic in India for some time. This YouTube video of a television debate on the issue was broadcast in 2014.

"What kind of women empowerment is this if the old women are not safe in the hands of their young daughters-in-law? Is the lndian penal code only for young women?" asked Save Indian Family Foundation spokesperson Jyoti Tiwari on

According to news reports, Jain was arrested on Tuesday and will be charged with attempted murder of her mother-in-law.

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