Opinion Based Blog

Progressive Alterations in the Domestic Violence Act


Author: Vaishnavi Yadav BA. LL.B (Semester 3) at Faculty of Law, University of Allahabad.

INTRODUCTIOM

Domestic violence is not a new concern; it has been embedded in society for a very long time and it took so much effort to recognize this as abuse and not a right over a spouse as the orthodoxical society claims still is. Eventually, the right was recognized but where does it stand? Has it made women powerful enough to take a stand against the abuse? How likely is it for women to get rid of their abusers and live life on their own?

Society has always considered domestic violence as an internal matter, a matter of their family affairs. Yeah, society still believes so, a very personal matter and quite so that it is a right over their spouses, some may suggest. The Law-making body will make numerous laws against a commission of the crime but is merely a law enough to deal with the stigmas or the crime garbed as internal matters? Verily, the answer is no. No abuse, no assault, no violence is an internal matter. The right to being equally treated is enshrined in the Constitution and violation of it is surely not an internal matter.

The Real Victims Of Domestic Violence And Why The Bill Was Needed

Domestic violence is carried out by, and on, both men and women. However, the victims are commonly women, especially in our country. In the United States, of all the violent crimes women 85% are intimate partner violence experienced by women, on the other hand violence experienced by men are 3%[1].

The United Nations Population Fund and the International Center for Research in 2004, found that 60% of men reported using some form of violence (physical, emotional, or sexual) against their spouse. 41% of men admitted that they had used emotional violence at some point in their lives. In India, the United Progressive Alliance passed the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act about 15 years ago and India has progressed since then for the crime against women in their home. More women are coming out of their home and raising their voice against the abuse, whether it is the spouse or the in-laws, everyone is equally likely to get punished for the same if involved.

The World Health Organization reports that 15% to 17% of women have experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner[2].

India’s National Crime Records Bureau highlighted in 2000 that 125 women faced domestic violence every day and the figure rose to 160 in 2005[3]. It was also highlighted that around 30% of married women have faced sexual assault or marital rape. According to a report of the United Nations Population Fund, in India 55% of women have faced domestic violence[4].

There is a slight increase in the cases filed under domestic violence, in 2006 the number of filed cases were 63,000 while in 2015 it increased to 113,000, as shown by the National Crime Records Bureau. It was assumed that the rise in the number of cases could be because of women coming out of their expected role or maybe there is an increase in numbers of cases of abuse.

In 1983, Section 498-A was added in the Indian Penal Code, which identified Domestic Violence as a criminal offence and made it a cognizable and non-bailable offense. Section 498-A stated if a woman is subjected to cruelty by the husband or in-laws of a woman then they shall be punished with imprisonment of three years along with a fine[5].

However, section 498-A lacked in some way, the section focused more on the offence rather than focusing on the rights of women and also it didn’t expand its area to the rights of women in that particular relationship, the section only dealt with the cruelty when combined with dowry and no relief was granted to return to the marital home.

A study done by Oxfam India analysed that a very poor number of cases moved for conviction orders by the trial court. Over 90% of cases were caused by lack of evidence in UP and Orissa during 2010-15[6].

Debates Over The Bill

The very first draft of the law on Domestic violence was presented before the NCW (National Commission for Women) in 1994 and after that many scholars activists, lawyers attended a colloquium on domestic violence named ‘Empowerment through law’ and it was concluded that the domestic violence is brutal enough that needs new legislation.

A large number of people debated over the bill and some contented that the bill should be gender neutral as not only women are suffering while on the other hand, some opposed this contention of making it gender-neutral as it will defeat the main purpose of this legislation. Lastly, it was concluded that the legislation should be made exclusively for women for erasing gender inequalities[7].

Another major point that was argued is that what if the perpetrator is female? Will she also be punished under the same law? Will this legislation cover the female perpetrators and it was concluded that legislation should be dealt with in a way to punish the criminal and hence it should not be used for personal revenge[8].

Eventually, the bill reached the premises of Lok sabha and it was introduced as a separate bill by NDA (National Democratic Alliance) in 2002 called Protection for Domestic Violence Bill,2001. There were so many gaps in the vill and it received several setbacks i.e., rights of the victims were unaddressed and legal procedure was time taking[9].

In 2004 the Lok Sabha dissolved and after came the United Progress Alliance as central government and the draft of this bill was approved in June 2005 and was passed by both of the houses afterward and thereafter it received the president assent. On 26 October 2006, the bill was made into legislation named Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Why Is There A Need For Alteration In The Current Act?

Section 498-A and Domestic Violence Act, 2005 alone cannot tackle the prevailing situation of increase in domestic violence. The actual problem is in implementation, delay in justice is the root cause of every problem, and in that the victim starts losing hope and the tactical legal procedures horrifies them too. The Legislature sought a solution for this too; they assigned an officer called Protection Officer, such an officer is assigned for the major role of assisting the court, initiating action on behalf of the victim, and looking after the services required by the victim like medical help, counseling, legal aid, etc. However, the majority of POs are male but victims are females, hence the government should recruit female PO’s for the benefit of female victims.

The Domestic Violence Act, 2005 specified that there should be shelter homes as many as required. While in 2013, the Gujarat High Court observed that there was only one Protection Officer for the whole of the district of Ahmedabad, who has nearly 800 pending applications in seven months[10].

Alteration Needed In The Act

Thinking that mere law will change the status of women and prevent domestic abuse is totally bluffing, what is needed is a change of mindsets. Domestic violence is often treated as an internal affair of a family. According to the 2014 Quest for justice report by the Tata School of Social sciences, this has become the approach of the agencies that discourage women from proceeding with legal remedies and instead recommend they “settle” matters”, the report explained[11].

One of the ways to do this would be to give counseling to perpetrators of violence while it has also been suggested that domestic violence can be addressed by the approach of abuser i.e, the abuser should be sent to the shelter home rather than victim as they are the one who needs counseling, they should be able to understand the graveness of their act.

To solve this problem for women, the government can extend the power of granting relief to service providers who are registered under the Domestic Violence Act with state governments and have greater access to victims. This will help women in getting emergency reliefs and protection against their abusers. Similar proposal was made in Rajya Sabha in 2012 to amend DV act but was lapsed[12].

Since the root cause of domestic violence is gender inequality (men calling themselves the caretaker of women) and to address this inequality the NGOs can come forward and create awareness among the society, men as well as women. Make them understand that domestic violence is unacceptable and no woman should suffer in the future.

Programs are required which address women’s needs, which include self-sufficiency, confidence, and likelihood skills. The survivors can help create a network or could be involved in a program planning that ensures the voice of equality does not go unanswered. Instead of portraying women as victims, they can be the primary agents to change their lives and the women’s lives who are going through the same phase.

CONCLUSION

Domestic Violence is nothing new, never has been and is prevalent in society since time immemorial. The only difference is it had been changing at times, earlier women were the only victims and as society is changing there is a need to talk about the queer community and men’s rights along with it. Now, not only women but men, queer community and other marginalised coummunities are also the victim and it is time to look for the broader picture of the abuse and not making domestic violence a gender-based crime. Anyone can be the victim of it and with that, better implementation of the law is required. The country needs to create legislation that focuses on men, women, and queers too.


REFERENCES

  1. Rennison Marie Calie and Sarah Welchans, Intimate Partner Violence, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/ipv.pdf

  2. WHO Multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence against women, https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/violence/mc_study/en/#:~:text=Key%20 findings%20show%20that%3A,violence%20by%20their%20intimate%20partner.
  3. Kaur Avneet and Garg Suneela, Addressing Domestic Violence Against Women: An Unfinished Agenda,Apr. 33, 2008, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2784629/.
  4. Jejeebhoy Shireen , Santhya KG , Acharya Rajib, Health and social consequences of marital violence: A synthesis of evidence from India, https://india.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/pub-pdf/ViolenceReport-25-11-10.pdf.
  5. Pandit Tejswai, Cruelty to Women [S. 498-A IPC and allied sections],https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2018/12/03/law-for-laymen-section-498-a-ipc-and-allied-sections-cruelty-to-women/
  6. Menon Rajini, Is Section 498A anti women? , Aug 2, 2017, https://www.oxfamindia.org/blog/section-498a-anti-women.
  7. Pathreya Kamil, Domestic Violence and the Indian Women’s Movement: A Short Historyhttp://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/1702/domestic-violence-and-the-indian-womens-movement-a-short-history
  8. Ibid
  9. Ibid
  10. Jha Prita, Functioning of Protection officers and PWDVA 2005,https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/SR/Shelters/Prita%20Jha_PROTECTION_OFFICER.7.11.16.pdf.
  11. Chachra Manish, Ten years after it was implemented, how is the Domestic Violence Act faring?, Aug. 11, 2017, https://scroll.in/article/846666/ten-years-after-it-was-implemented-how-is-the-domestic-violence-act-faring.
  12. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill, 2012 (lapsed in Rajya Sabha), http://164.100.47.4/billstexts/rsbilltexts/AsIntroduced/domestc-E.pdf.

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