Abused Abroad: South Asian Create Sisterhood Against Gender-Based Violence in the United States

South Asian Women

Written by: Geeya Patel 

If he beats you, he loves you,” a common phrase in the South Asian community used to justify and validate gender-based violence. With growing cases of gender-based violence in the community and even greater suicides caused by the issue of gender-based violence, the South Asian community has begun to find comfort in sisterhood, support groups, and the evergrowing number of South Asian Women Organizations. 

History of Movements

Gender-based violence is nothing new in the United States, but the fight against it in South Asian communities has evolved over time, through efforts from organizations and support groups. With active awareness and understanding of the cultural norms which shape this ideology, support groups and organizations are coming together to create trainings and fundraisers to help these women stand up for themselves, as well as be able to support themselves when the women leave their husband’s home. 

The rise of South Asian women’s movements began in the early eighties and nineties, when migration was avidly present in the United States. Many women who came to the country with their significant other had left their support system behind in order to start a new life. Many stigmas around domestic violence, menstruation, and street harassment followed across the nation and was further perpetuated in various forms of gender-based violence. With these considerations, many women had no one to support them when they faced gender-based violence. This isolation prompted South Asian Women’s Organizations (SAWOs) to grow over time, in order to create a sense of supporting sisterhood for individuals who faced gender-based violence. This sisterhood slowly developed in New Jersey with the SAWO group, Manavi and became national, with multiple organizations forming over the years such as Saheli, Raksha, and Narika


Although women are less likely to report gender-based violence due to fear of further abuse, the numbers in which certain abuse is reported is still quite frightening. 30% of women in India face sexual or physical abuse from their partners, while this number rises to approximately 50% in Bangladesh. 96% of Indian and Pakistani women from a group of 56 in San Francisco reported being abused by their partners. These are only some of the statistics which are reported by older South Asians; recent research has shown that the younger generation is more likely to report and confront their abusers. 

How to Help 

With the increase in the number of South Asian communities in the United States, the need for support groups that can create a relatable and safe environment for victims of gender-based violence is essential. Much of the gender-based violence which is perpetuated in the community is through a culmination of cultural norms which have existed for years and must be dismantled in order to create progress. This progression can be done through trainings and workshops for the community. It is also crucial to provide funding and resources to the South Asian Women Organizations which are trying to protect and provide for victims of gender-based abuse so they can keep providing aid and support as necessary. The SAWOs mentioned in this story have a link attached to their name where you can go to their main page for more information or ways to get involved. 

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