You are professor as well as a social activist. There is an educated and well employed couple in your vicinity who often fight on their personal issues. One day they started fighting as usual, starting from arguments, turning loud, slamming doors and finally the male partner resorting to physical violence, the cry of wife and children started coming out. People come out, but do not dare to go to them citing that it is their personal matter, so any interference would be unethical and uncalled for. Answer the following questions based on the above case: (a) Would you agree to be a bystander on the advice of the people that it is a personal matter of the couple? Give reasons. (b) Suppose you go to the flat of the couple and enquire what is wrong but the male member insists that they be left on their own as it is their personal matter and you should mind your own business. What would be your reaction? (c) Can police help in curbing this social malady by using legal authority and provisions? (d) What is your moral and ethical locus standi on intervention of neighbours to stop the domestic violence?

(a) Would you agree to be a bystander on the advice of the people that it is a personal matter of the couple? Give reasons.

• No, the crowd is falling into an argument, which is convenient but unethical. Small brawls between male and female counterparts in a family are indispensable and even add sweetness in relationship as made out in many popular fictions. But when things go out of proportion leading to violence and various abuses, the couples cross their limits to privacy, disturb and destabilise their neighbours and also cross the limits defining humane and civilised norms.
The issue becomes social and ethical. And I would intervene to stop it from becoming uglier.

(b) Suppose you go to the flat of the couple and enquire what is wrong but the male member insists that they be left on their own as it is their personal matter and you should mind your own business. What would be your reaction?

• Knowing that such bizarre argument would anger me and create a personal outrage, I would deliberately keep cool and calm because the purpose is not “winning the argument” but “winning the case.”
• Secondly, I would try to cool down the person involved in the case and help them out with atleast a temporary reconciliation through various possible means- love and assurances, promises and offering help which they need.
• But if soft methods would not work, I would try to use “law and order machinery” (police) or even “social control” to stop violence and abuse, but not to harm the couple (as happens in “crowd justice” or vigilantism”).

(c) Can police help in curbing this social malady by using legal authority and provisions?

• There is always a limit to effectiveness of “law and order” or “policing” in such cases.
• Such cases need proper ameliorative steps from elders in the family, civil society and counselling and psychiatric treatment. Also education and awareness about various “pressing situations” in family life and “how to tackle them” would go a long way. It is important to know that “first best option” may not be always available in life and so we must reconcile with the “second best options”, based on reconciliation and adjustment. That is what pragmatic or relative ethics suggest.

(d) What is your moral and ethical locus standi on intervention of neighbours to stop the domestic violence?

• Normally, domestic issues are best left with the couples if it is not violent and abusive. The private space of couples is sacrosanct. But the sanctity of private space is violated if things turn loud, violent and abusive. This becomes a “social issue” or “human issue”.
• Even if the couple is not ready to accept social intervention – consciously or unconsciously unaware or indifferent- the neighbourhood should come forward to stop domestic violence by legitimate and human means.
• Vigilantism should be avoided at any cost and in “out of control” situations, help of police and law and order should be sought out immediately. However, in the long run family elders, civil society and counselling would be more effective.

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