Domestic violence is generally synonymous with women. Up until recently, women have struggled to draw attention to the savagery towards them. Gradually, they have been able to secure some protection under legislations in modern times. Meanwhile, there arose another concern which was partially a consequence of safe guarding their rights. Cases of domestic abuse towards men slowly began to unfold.
Domestic abuse, often known as "domestic violence" or "intimate partner violence," is defined by the United Nations as a pattern of behaviour designed to establish or retain power and control over an intimate partner in any relationship. Abuse is defined as physical, sexual, emotional, financial, or psychological acts or threats against another individual. The relationship between the abuser and the victim is the crucial to the distinction between assault charges and domestic violence.
According to a research conducted, males suffered violence at the hands of their wives/intimate partners 51.5 percent of the time and 10.5 percent of the time in the last year out of 1000. Emotional violence was the most prevalent type of marital abuse (51.6%), followed by physical violence (6%). Physical attacks occurred in just one-tenth of the instances. In over half of the instances, the spouse was the one who started the physical and mental abuse. The possible reasons for the violence are suggested by the research included low family income, middle-class education, nuclear family unit, and a perpetrator under the influence of alcohol. Bidirectional physical aggression is more likely when one partner earns money and has a high school diploma. In India, an estimated 3 crore men are subjected to domestic violence. According to the National Family Health Survey of 2004, this violence isn't always performed by the female partner/wife; rather, the male spouse is regularly assaulted or threatened by a male relative of the wife.
In a study conducted by My Nation and Save Family Foundation (Delhi) on dome, 1,650 men were questioned and their personal conditions examined between April 2005 and March 2006. According to the findings, Indian women were the most aggressive and domineering. Domestic abuse has been experienced by 98 percent of the respondents from all across India at least once in their lifetimes. The study included Indian husbands from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, although the majority of the participants were from the upper middle and middle classes, according to the researchers.
Men are also subjected to verbal, physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse. Men are the silent victims of these harmful actions since they do not report them. Attention drawn to domestic violence against men is insignificant. This can be attributed to the stereotypical society that we inhabit. Consequently, men who are victims of domestic violence fear backlash and ridicule by the conservative people who constitute most of the society. To add to their woe, the laws are not gender neutral and adhere to protecting the women. . Domestic abuse legislation protects both men and women in most nations across the world. Courts can also issue restraining orders, which prevent the abusive perpetrator or wife from abusing the male victim or even approaching the male victim. In India, however, domestic violence against male is essentially legal since there is no law that protect them.
Forms of Abuse
Abuse can take different forms -physical, mental, emotional etc. Abuse may not only be directed towards the male alone but may also include violence towards the child or other loved ones. Violence may not necessarily be arising out of acts of the spouse; it can also be harassment by the family members or friends of the wife. Some of the most common modes of abuse are -
Threat and coercion
This includes making and/or carrying out threats to do something to hurt him. For example, threatening to leave him, to commit suicide, to report him to welfare, making him do things under threat to institute domestic violence proceedings against him and/or his family, threatening to take the children away etc.
Cause fear or apprehension through actions and gestures. Smashing or breaking things deliberately to destroy his property or to cause harm to the property.
Humiliating him in public gatherings or in front of friends and family; intentionally putting him down by making cruel belittling remarks; framing him to make him feel guilty or go insane; shifting responsibility for abusive behaviour saying he caused it.
Controlling his activities- what he does, who he talks to, where he goes; restricting his contact with outside world; repeatedly accusing him of cheating to limit his social life.
Using female privilege
Treating him like a servant, making all of the major choices, and defining his tasks.
Holding him from acquiring or keeping a job, providing him an allowance from his own earnings, forcing him to ask for money, and not letting him know about or have access to family revenue.
The Domestic Abuse Act, as well as other sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), allows a woman to file a complaint of domestic violence in India. These provisions have been used as a weapon by female spouses to harass their male counterparts, either mentally or physically or to extort money from them. There have been instances where they have threatened their husbands to do as per their wishes or otherwise face charges. In such cases, it is very rare that the court would absolve them of the crimes as they are looked at with suspicion due to the stigma associated with such situations. Moreover, there is no way for the husband to have recourse in these cases as the law does not provide enough protection to them, at the same time the fear that their spouse would institute malicious complaint against them is always dangling above their heads. The only solution available to them is divorce under the pretext of cruelty which is a very weak, yet the only ultimate solution to their misery.
Under Section 498A of IPC
‘Marital Cruelty' to women is addressed in Section 498A. The sole section of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, that recognises domestic abuse against women as a crime is Section 498 (A). Section 498A was inserted with the intention of preventing cruelty against married women by her husband and in laws, and later adjustments to the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1972 were also made as a result of the same alteration. The most straightforward approach to harass is to include the husband's relatives in this provision, even if they are bedridden grandparents or relatives who have lived overseas for decades. Women's attempts to trap males with false claims have evolved into a weapon for them to exploit the legal system for financial benefit throughout time.
Under Section 3 of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005
Domestic violence is defined by Section 3 of the Domestic Violence Act as any act, omission, action, or behaviour by the responder that:
threatens or endangers or injures the aggrieved person's health, safety, life, limb, or well-being, whether mental or physical, and includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse, and economic abuse; or
harasses, damages, injures, or puts the aggrieved person in risk in order to force her or any other person linked to her to comply with any unlawful demand for dowry or other valuable security; or
through any behaviour listed in clauses I or (ii), threatens the aggrieved person or any person linked to her; or (iii) otherwise injures or causes injury to the aggrieved person, whether physical or mental.
In the case of Sushil Kumar Sharma vs. Union of India and others, the Supreme Court held that the purpose of the provision of Section 498A of the IPC is to prevent the threat of dowry. The court, however, agreed to the contentions of the petitioner who pointed out that, numerous cases have come to light in which the complaints were not genuine and were made with an ulterior intent. It further observed that acquittal in such cases does not always erase the humiliation he endured during and before the trial.
Another problem faced is false accusation of demanding dowry. Dowry is prohibited in India and is a serious problem even today in many regions of the county. Every coin has two sides, similarly, these dowry laws as much as they provide protection in legitimate cases; it can also be misused to the advantage of parties to receive undue gains from it. Some urban educated Indian women have turned the tables and are using these rules as a weapon to unleash personal feuds on their spouses and innocent family members.
Why Is It Tolerated?
The answer to it is not just one reason and is definitely not something that just emerged in a flash. Years of patriarchy and stereotype in the society has made it difficult for men to shed light on their suffering. They rather endure all the violence in silence than be subjected to derision. It cannot be forgotten that this is the same society that teaches young boys that they are not allowed to cry or express pain and that such display of emotions by men is harmful for their “manliness”. This has inculcated a sense of shamefulness in men to admit that they have been abused by their female counterparts. They tend to feel guilty for not conforming to the society’s standard of a man who is expected to be strong, protective and assertive.
Some of them fear losing their children if they take any action against their spouse. It is a harsh reality that a mother would be a preferred custodian for a child, over the father. It might even happen that they may be prevented from meeting their children hence holding them back from taking any steps. In addition to this most married couples live with their parent under the same roof. Interference by the parents and pressure from their side to mend things gets the better of them.
Another important factor is the fear of being accused of dowry harassment. These cases take years to complete and more often than not, women tend to win these cases. Moreover, the stigma attached to it has a long lasting impact on the image of the person in the eyes of the community.
As it has been stressed on earlier, there are no laws that protect men against such violence. The laws dealing with such violence are largely gender-biased and hence the question of seeking specific remedy for it does not arise. The cases of harassment by wife have come up for discussion in various divorce cases, where the husband approached the court seeking for a decree of divorce on grounds of cruelty. In the famous case of Dastane v Dastane while granting divorce to the husband the Supreme held that acts of the wife including threats to commit suicide, verbally abusing him and other acts amounted to mental cruelty.
Need For Gender Neutral Laws
To address this growing issue, gender neutral laws protecting both men and woman equally against these offences is a stepping stone. The inclusion of men in the category to protect against domestic violence in the Domestic Violence Act and in the sections of IPC could be a great start. Even rape laws and sexual harassment laws need to be made gender-neutral to strengthen the protection on men.
Meanwhile, to prevent abuse of the existing provisions that protects women, the Supreme Court has given certain directions in Rajesh Sharma v State of UP. To prevent abuse of Section 498A of the IPC the Court directed that complaints under the section and related matters be investigated by an exclusive Investigating officer. Further, in cases where there hasn’t been apparent death or injury to anyone the bail proceeding of the accused should be processed on the same day as far as practicable.
Other possible remedies are suit for defamation against the wife under Section 500 of the IPC, criminal conspiracy under 120B, Section 191 for submitting false evidence and criminal intimidation under Section 506 of IPC.
Lastly, even if there are gender neutral laws its effectiveness can only be appreciated if men are able to come out in open to talk about their suffering. At the most, society has to normalize men being sensitive and emotional. The notion that men are tough and emotionless needs to come to an end. Only when the society begins to forgo the toxic ideas of patriarchy can problems be solved from the root.
Supritha M A , 3rd year BBA.LLB
M S Ramaiah College of Law, Bangalore