Familial Abuse of South Asian Immigrant Women: Analysis of the Narratives of Victims
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This qualitative study examines the familial violence experiences of South Asian immigrant women in Toronto. An important focus of the investigation was the contribution of honour ideology toward these experiences. Ten South Asian women who had immigrated to Canada participated in the study. Eight of them had immigrated after getting married to Canadian men of South Asian ethnicity and two had sponsored their South Asian husbands after they had themselves immigrated to Canada. Unstructured interviews were conducted with the women. These interviews were analysed using the grounded theory method of qualitative research developed by Glaser and Strauss (1967). Following Rennie’s (2000) exposition, grounded theory method was applied as an inductive approach to methodical hermeneutics. The analysis produced three main themes representing immigrant women’s experiences of familial violence: (1) Lost in the Desert, (2) Navigating through the Desert, and (3) Complexities of Honour. The participants’ initial experiences of immigrating to Canada and starting their lives anew were akin to getting lost in the desert. They had very few if any resources to aid them in this new phase of their lives. Gradually, however, they started adjusting to the new realities and actively sought out resource and support to manage their situations. Honour ideology was important baggage that directed the women through their ordeals. I concluded that the role of honour ideology in the life of South Asian immigrant wives is multifaceted and has positive as well as negative dimensions. While honour scripts resigned women to their abusive marriages and burdened them as guardians of family honour, they also offered them personal strength, social support and safeguards against abuse. These findings are discussed in relation to the extant psychological, anthropological, and sociological literature. The need to broaden the current narrow understanding of honour, as primarily vested in female sexuality, to a more complex ideology about right living is stressed. The implications of cultivating this more elaborate understanding of honour for domestic violence research and services, as well as for scholarly research and discourses are discussed.