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3 Crucial Laws Against Domestic Violence In India: Know Them, Protect Yourself

Widespread and rampant violence against women is one of the most pressing problems India struggles with as a society. It is estimated that around 37 percent of Indian women have experienced either physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

In 2013 alone, there were nearly a hundred and twenty thousand reports of domestic violence against women, according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau.

Furthermore, a 2015 study conducted by the Planning Commission of India surmised that a whopping 84 percent of women have been abused in their homes at least once.

However, a majority of these women are far too afraid of social stigma to reveal that they are victims of abuse. This is due to women’s poor social standing in Indian society, where beating a woman for even the smallest things is seen as a justified act.

In turn, this leads to a lack of support, even from close friends, when domestic violence victims seek help in escaping their situation.

Thankfully, the Indian government has already put into place a number of rules and regulations that are designed to protect Indian women from domestic violence.

If the following laws are properly enforced, women in India may be able to hope for safer, more peaceful homes within the near future.

  1. The Indian Penal Code Amendment in 1983

A special section, numbered 498-A, that officially made domestic violence a criminal offense was added to the Indian Penal Code in 1983. This section of the law specifically covers cruelty towards married women by their husbands or their husbands’ families.

A helpful clause in this section allows women’s relatives to make the complaint for them. This is extremely beneficial in cases where the woman is too afraid to speak up for herself, for reasons such as she could get caught by her husband or simply cannot leave the house.

One kind of cruelty that can be punished is behavior that causes a woman’s death or serious injury, or pushes her to commit suicide. Another kind is the type of harassment relating to intimidating the woman or her relatives to give up her property.

Under the policy, acts of cruelty include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • physical abuse;
  • mental torture through threats to her or her loved ones (such as children);
  • denying the woman food;
  • locking her in or out of the house as punishment; and
  • demanding perverse sexual acts against the woman’s will.

Convicted offenders will be charged with up to three years of prison, as well as a hefty fine.

  1. The 2005 Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act

Created in 2005 and enacted over a year later, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act is exactly what the title proclaims.

This is the first law in India to specifically acknowledge every woman’s right to be in a home without violence. In fact, it was seen as a major step forward in securing women’s rights and more effective protection.

It is a long and comprehensive law that details several important policies and procedures meant to help women.

First, it gives a specific definition of domestic violence: actual or threats of physical, mental, emotional, sexual, or verbal abuse, as well as harassment regarding dowry or property.

Women are given the right to seek protection against such acts, and their relatives can file a complaint for them against husbands who break the law.

Second, a woman’s right to reside in their “matrimonial household” is clearly recognized. She cannot be evicted from it as she rightfully shares it with her husband.

If she is evicted, she has the right to seek monetary compensation and safe shelter, as well as free legal and medical aid.

Lastly, both NGOs and divisions of the Indian Government – such as the National Commission for Women – took the initiative to organize awareness seminars that could be easily attended by women who are affected by this act, e.g., women in high risk areas.

Violators of this law will either be mandated to compensate the woman financially, or will be served a restraining order to keep them away from the complainant.

  1. The 2013 Criminal Law Amendment

As a response to the requests made by the Justice Verma Committee, a small commission named after and headed by one of India’s most highly regarded jurists, a lengthy list of amendments to the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Indian Evidence Act were introduced in this 2013 act.

The aim of the amendment was to provide harsher and swifter punishment for those criminals who committed abuse against women.

Details regarding sexual assault and rape were clarified and added onto. For instance, “rape” was given a better and more exhaustive legal definition, to include non-consensual penetration using non-sexual objects, as well as non-penetrative sexual acts.

Penalties for offenses such as rape, assault, and sexual harassment were increased.

In particular, heavier sentences were declared for rapists, even including the death sentence for particularly disturbing cases, such as gang rape where the victim was left in a vegetative state after the crime.

New offenses that are punishable by law were introduced by the amendment as well. These include, but are not limited to:

  • acid attacks (the act of throwing acid upon a woman with the intention of disfiguring, maiming, or outright killing her);
  • stalking;
  • voyeurism (spying with prurient or indecent interest); and
  • publicly and forcefully disrobing a woman

However, despite the commission’s recommendations, the amendment failed to address the issue of marital rape. This exception basically assumes that marriage automatically means the woman will always consent to her husband’s sexual desires.

This ridiculous notion implies that rape cannot happen within a marriage, when in fact it does, and even happens quite frequently to Indian women.

Crime Against Women Cells

This is an initiative of the Indian government to better help female victims of domestic abuse. In every district’s police station, a Crime Against Women (CAW) cell was put in place.

Women suffering from domestic violence may approach these specialized help desks for direct assistance from the police, whether to file an official complaint or follow up on one. Each one is headed by an assistant commissioner.

This program begun in 2010, as the Indian government’s answer to steadily growing numbers of abuse that targeted women.

In Summary

While the Indian government has made significant efforts in reducing the largely unchecked epidemic of violence against women, there is still a long way to go.

Merely passing laws meant to protect women from abuse is obviously not enough to achieve success. Even after the 2013 amendment, horrific crimes such as gang rapes continue to happen, and happen publicly.

The numbers have even continued to rise, though this may be because of increased awareness among women, resulting in greater reporting of domestic violence overall.

A necessary step in moving forward lies in changing the overall mindset of society towards women. There needs to be more education on how to treat women as equals, instead of as lesser beings that deserve to be punished for the tiniest mistakes.

If the Indian government can combine proper enforcement of their existing laws with thoughtful gender education programs, we could be looking at a safer and brighter future for Indian women in the next few decades.

About the Author:

Jon works in marketing team at Loch Employment Law – The Employment Law Lawyers in the UK. He is fond of reading, writing & meeting people. In a former life, Jon worked as a content specialist and has good knowledge about employment policies & law. You can catch up with Jon at Loch Employment Law London office for any advice related to employment laws.

Working Women Less Prone To Domestic Violence, Say Legal Experts

At a seminar on Legal Rights Awareness For Women, held to celebrate Women’s Day, the topics covered ranged from laws on domestic violence to sexual harassment at the workplace. Pallavi Bhattacharya reports.

Domestic Violence in IndiaThe seminar was organised by the Women’s Wing of the Sri Shanmukhananda, Fine Arts and Saneetha Sabha of Mumbai, on March 10, 2007, to celebrate Women’s Day. Eminent judges, legal delegates, law enforcement personnel and social workers addressed a packed auditorium of both men and women.

Justice Ruma Pal, retired judge of the Supreme Court, Indira Jaising, Senior Advocate, Anjali Dave, Social Worker, Sanjeevanee Kutty, Member Secretary of the Women’s Commission, discussed the new Domestic Violence Act of India, which took effect on October 26th, 2006 and shared crucial data and facts on domestic violence.

  • Domestic violence:

Highlighting the myth that chaste Indian women have to forgive their husbands for battering them, Justice Ruma Pal said, “I had participated in a workshop of judges in Delhi for South Asian countries on violence against women during which I met a woman who had been crippled for life for protesting to her husband for bringing his mistress to the house.”

“I had asked her what she would do next. She plainly said that she would go back to her husband. Lack of esteem, self-worth and ignorance of her rights made her believe that a woman is subordinate to a man and has no freedom of choice whatsoever.”

Previously in Bengal before a son left to get married he would tell his mother that he would get a dasi for her. Even though this ritual is no more practiced the perception of women being in a servitude position still continues in many Indian households.”

Sanjeevanee Kutty, Member Secretary of the Women’s Commission describing the various forms of domestic violence, its trends in India and the harmful consequences said, “Domestic violence is the largest category of crimes against women in India prevailing in all classes of society. Nearly 70% of married women within 15 to 49 years in India face rape, beating and verbal abuse.”

“Downtrodden families don’t have much privacy and therefore can’t hide domestic violence from others whereas women in affluent families are reluctant to talk about the violence in their lives as they fear that it’ll taint their image in society. Of all these forms of abuse though physical abuse is the easiest to identify, emotional and sexual abuse are also a part of domestic violence.”

“Emotional abuse may be a subtler form of violence but it can delve a human being into insanity, depression and even suicide. Examples of emotional abuse may be calling the woman a failure constantly, telling her that she is worthless, useless and ugly, mocking and humiliating her, accusing her of what isn’t her fault, telling others lies about her, abusing her if she doesn’t have a son, humiliating her and her family for not bringing enough dowry, ridiculing her for not being fair skinned, threatening to harm her and her children, locking her into her house, isolating her from her family and friends, not allowing her enough money for her food”.

“Domestic violence is not an isolated act of physical aggression but occurs over a period of time and follows a pattern that you see in the behaviour of the male. In fact it also escalates over time. Exposure to this kind of violence can even be life threatening for the woman. Statistics do show that being a working woman does make her less prone to domestic violence which indicates that it is crucial for a woman to be financially independent.”

Unfortunately many women think that the hubby has a right to abuse them. While I was a part of the film censor board I remember watching a film with Sushmita Sen as the female lead in which the hero hits her when she can’t control herself when she is hysterically upset.

In the next scene, Sushmita walks in when the lover is standing by the swimming pool. She touches the man’s shoulder with her cheek lovingly and says, ‘Mujhe tumarah marna buhot aacha laga’. When we cut that line the producer found it very difficult to understand why it had been eliminated”.

Dispelling the myth that a woman should stay with her abusive husband because of the sake of the children, Sanjeevanee said, “Children from houses of wife batterers are also often victims of domestic violence. Even while witnessing domestic violence they cry, refuse to eat, withdraw, suffer from frequent illness, severe shyness, have low self-esteem and trouble in day care.”

“Sometimes they take the blame of domestic violence on themselves as they think that they have caused it. Some of these children learn that violence is an appropriate way of resolving conflict in human relationship. Often adolescent children of these households tend to side with the male aggressor rather than the mother.”

“Another myth is that men are violent as they can’t help themselves as it is in their nature. In reality these violent men often behave themselves when in company of people who won’t tolerate domination or violence. These perpetrators simply love that they can rule with the use of force. They falsely accuse women of provoking aggression. All this shows that the safest place for a woman may not be home after all.”

The situation of women in violent relationships may not be as grim if they seek justice under the new domestic violence law. Senior advocate, Indira Jaising, explaining the new law said, “According to this law the aggrieved person can be any woman who is/ has been in a domestic relationship with the respondent as a wife, partner, sister, widow, mother or daughter. In fact it also includes women in relationships of cohabitation, bigamous marriages and single women in relationships.”

“Women in live-in relationships can also seek justice under this act. The three criterias that have to be met are that the woman has to be in a domestic relationship, be subjected to domestic violence and be/ have been a part of a shared household. The respondent can be any adult male member who has been in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person”.

Justice Ruma Pal pointed out, “The real difficulty in the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act is the failure of several state governments to appoint any functionaries under the act, to notify any medical facility or to provide any shelter homes or any infrastructure at all.”

“A successful implementation of the Act can only be brought about if all the authorities carry on these functions competently. Once protection officers and counsellors are appointed and medical facilities and centre homes are approved it is necessary to train all these functionaries not only about their duties regarding this Act but also about the human rights jurisdiction underlying the Act.”

  • Sexual harassment:

Senior Advocate, Nirmala Sawant Prabhavalkar, made people aware that sexual harassment at workplace didn’t just refer to the harassment that took place within office. Indeed 97% of the workplace is unorganized in India with work being carried on in a non-office set up.

Even women in rural areas in fields had the right to register sexual harassment cases. The Supreme Court has set guidelines to sexual harassment committees to facilitate women to register complaints by insisting for witness protection and that during the investigations the woman shouldn’t be asked obscene questions or victimised.

  • Moot court:

A special feature of this seminar was a moot court of divorce law by the Government Law College Moot Court Association. The fictitious case was that the husband Pranav and wife Archana were living in different cities for 25 years as their workplaces were located in Delhi and Chandigarh respectively.

The husband however did meet his wife at Chandigarh during vacations and the couple had a five year old daughter who lived with the mother. Ever since the birth of the daughter, the husband had been pressurizing the wife to leave her job as a lecturer in Chandigarh and stay with him in Delhi to be able to bear him a male child.

His wife didn’t want to leave her job and lose her financial independence especially when she was due for promotion, felt that a one-child family should be the norm in a highly populated country like India and it was very regressive and amounted to mental cruelty by her husband to insist for a male child.

A relevant point highlighted in this case was that despite women being highly qualified it was still expected that the wife should leave her job and relocate to be with her husband, but the husband wasn’t expected by society to do the same for his wife.

  • The final ‘verdict’- Equality and Empowerment:

The ‘verdict’ of this seminar was that equality and empowerment was the solution to gender based problems women faced. Justice Ruma Pal pointed out the disturbing fact that according to a UNICEF report the system of elimination of the girl child pre and post birth had lead to the phenomenon known as the ‘missing millions of women and girls’ with 60 million fewer women in the world than there should be under the general demographic trends.

Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, Associate Advocate General of Maharashtra said, “Despite laws women still just earn 1/10 of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property”. He went on to point out prevailing gender equalities under the Hindu Succession Act which deemed the son’s son’s son or son’s son’s daughter as A1 heirs but didn’t allow inheritance rights to daughter’s daughter’s son or daughter’s daughter’s daughter. Also widows of the deceased son and grandson were A1 heirs but the husband of a deceased daughter or a grand daughter weren’t legal heirs.

A.N.Roy, Commissioner of Police of Mumbai said, “Women need political and economic empowerment. They must be in the decision making situation. We have slum police panchayats. Among 10 slum representatives for the police, seven are women. As women are generally at the receiving end of all kinds of violence I feel that women are better naturally endowed to resolve issues. The women status has improved in those areas as the same women who were abused are now meting justice to the abusers.”

Justice B.N.Srikrishna, retired judge of the Supreme Court, while giving his vote of thanks said, “Lack of awareness and education prevents people from exercising their rights. So spread the knowledge you have acquired in this seminar to downtrodden women.”

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