Now Bahu assumes the role of abuser

Pune: There appears to be a turn-around in respect of the traditional `Saas–Bahu` equation, when it comes to abuse of the elderly in the country as it is the daughter-in-law who has, according to a study, emerged as the "major abuser" in the lower socio-economic strata.

"Nationally, daughter-in-law emerged as the major abuser of the elderly (63.4 per cent) followed by the son (44 per cent) from lower socio economic strata as against the son (53.6 per cent) last year in the higher socio-economic strata," says a report on "Elder abuse and crime in India", released by HelpAge, India based on the findings in nine cities in the country.

The report lists verbal abuse including "speaking in loud voice, using foul langauge, name calling, accusing and blaming" topping the kind of abuse faced by the elderly in the lower socio-economic strata.

Among the higher socio-economic segment of population the abuse takes form of "showing disrespect" to the elderly.

"While verbal abuse was highest in Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai reaching 100 per cent, physical abuse was highest in Patna (71 per cent) and the lowest in Ahmedabad," it notes.

Abuse by son was reported more in Patna (71.4 per cent) and Bangalore (58.8 per cent), while abuse by daughter-in-law was highest in all cities except Bangalore, with Delhi NCR topping at 100 per cent.

Among the factors contributing to the malaise are the shrinking sizes of residences in cities and drastic changes in the social fabric and cultural values of the society and a natural preference of the new generation to opt for nuclear families, the study released on the occasion of `World Elder Abuse Awareness Day`, observed on June 15, stated.

The study observed that on a national level, Elder Abuse if highest among the 70 plus elderly and it is mostly elderly women who face abuse due to dependence on sons.

More than one fifth of the elderly (22 per cent) have experienced abuse, the report based on in-dept interviews with respondents, said.

"While Bangalore tops Elder Abuse, cases with a shocking 44 per cent, it is closely followed by Hyderabad (38 per cent) and Bhopal (30 per cent ), Kolkota (23 per cent), the lowest being Chennai at just two per cent," the study claimed.

The survey has reporoduced a comment by one of the respondents, attributed to the daughter-in-law as a refrain, which is "Budhiya Marti Bhi Nahi Hai" (The old woman does not even die).

The overall percentage of the elderly staying with their sons is put at 72 and Mumbai tops in the category with 86 per cent. Interestingly, Chennai reported the highest percentage of the elderly staying with daughters at 22 per cent.

More than half (51 per cent) of the elderly felt that there has been an increase in the incidents of abuse in the last three years with Bhopal getting the dubious distinction of being the highest at 80 per cent followed by Banglore (74 per cent).

Chennai retained a laudable lowest at 23 per cent also in the spurt in incidents of abuse.

The report also noted passive acceptance of the abuse by the elderly as 98 per cent of them did not register a complaint with police.