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This article deals with ‘ Domestic Violence .’ This is part of our series on ‘Society’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.
- Domestic violence is the use of physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, or financial abuse by one person against another in an intimate relationship like marriage. This behaviour is used to gain power and control over the victim (woman) and can cause significant harm and fear.
- It is also known as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).
Forms of Domestic Violence
|– Includes slapping, kicking, hitting, beating etc.
– It is the most visible form of Intimate Partner Violence.
|– Includes harassment, threats, verbal abuse, blaming and isolation etc.
– It erodes a woman’s sense of self-worth.
|– Includes touching or fondling, sexual coercion, wife swapping etc.
Causes of Domestic Violence
- Dowry Demands: It can lead to physical & emotional abuse and even dowry death and bride burning.
- The patriarchal structure of household where men claim ownership over women’s bodies, labour, reproductive rights and level of autonomy
- Cultural acceptance of Intimate Partner Violence
- Alcoholic husband.
- Not having a male child
- Legislative lacunae, as marital rape is not punishable under Indian law
- Violence against young widows, esp. in rural areas, as they are cursed for their husband’s death
- Under Reporting: Underreporting & non-reporting encourage partners to indulge more in this.
- Erosion of the joint family structure has reduced the check on the spouse’s violent behaviour.
- Lack of awareness of women’s rights and belief in women’s subordination perpetuates a low image of women.
- Increasing stress has increased the instances of Intimate Partner Violence
Effects of Domestic Violence
- Emotional distress & suicidal tendencies in women suffering from Intimate Partner Violence
- Infringement of Fundamental Rights of women, including the Right to Life
- Serious health problems: Injury, Unwanted Pregnancy etc.
- Negative Impact on Children: Children of such parents also face psychological problems and live in an atmosphere of fear.
Act: Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
Provisions of the Act
- The definition of Domestic Violence has been modified recently – it encompasses actual or threat of physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and economic abuse, as well as harassment in the form of unlawful dowry demands made on the woman or her relatives.
- It has widened the scope of the term WOMEN: The act now covers “live-in partners”, wives, sisters, widows, mothers, single women, and divorced women.
- Right to Secure Housing, i.e. the right to live in a matrimonial or shared household, regardless of whether or not she has any ownership or rights.
- The principle of Locus Standi doesn’t apply.
- The state needs to create shelter homes for women who prefer not to stay in the shared household.
- To fast-track the verdict, the first hearing should happen within 3 days after receiving the application, and the case should be disposed of in 60 days.
- Protection Officers should be appointed to assist women with medical examination, legal aid etc.
- The act has a provision of up to 1-year imprisonment.
Lacunae in the Act
- Madras High Court Bench observed that it could be misused by the women to file frivolous cases.
- A man can be booked under the act even if women feel she has been mentally harassed and verbally abused. But these terms are subjective.
- The conviction rate in such cases is very low (just 3%).
- Marital rape is not included in the definition of Domestic Violence.
- There is no provision for the online filing of cases.
- The number of protection officers appointed in the state is inadequate.
- The law specifically targets men as being responsible for domestic violence and only recognizes women as being victims. This law fails to acknowledge the rights of male victims of domestic violence. In contrast, domestic violence laws in the Western world provide equal protection to both genders.
Therefore, the present legal framework fails to address the issue of domestic violence effectively. It places an excessive burden on men while denying them rights and granting women numerous rights without holding them accountable.
Recent Judgement making it Gender Neutral
The Supreme Court has declared that a female individual has the right to file a complaint against another woman who she believes is responsible for domestic violence.
Reasoning of Court
- Since the perpetrators and abettors of Domestic Violence can also be women, insulating them would frustrate the act’s objectives. Under this immunity, females and minors can continue to commit domestic Violence.
- It discriminates between persons similarly situated and, thus, violates Article 14 of the Constitution.
Significance of the Change
- It makes Domestic Violence gender-neutral.
- However, there are concerns that it would encourage husbands to file countercases against their wives through their mothers or sisters.