WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
Domestic violence is also termed as Intimate Partner Violence, Domestic Abuse, Dating
violence and Intimate Partner Abuse. It is the violence practiced by someone who resides in the victim’s domestic surroundings. It is the intentionally violent or aggressive behaviour shown within the vicinity of their home, involving the violent abuse of a spouse,a partner or even a group or community which results in injury, death, psychological and physical harm,
maldevelopment and deprivation. In most cases, there stands a power gap between the abuser or offender and the victim. It also includes assault, criminal intimidation and criminal force. It occurs in heterosexual as well as same-sex relationships.
Legally, Domestic Violence is described as “any criminal offense involving violence or physical harm or threat of violence or physical harm” committed by one family or household member against another. Other terms used across the states include “domestic assault,” “domestic battery,” “domestic abuse,” or “assault against a family or household member.” The Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act of 2005 states the legal definition of Domestic violence
under section-3. The law is made applicable to every woman, irrespective of her marital status, age, ethnic or religious group. The act says that any act, conduct, omission or commission that harms or injures or has the potential to harm or injure will be considered as domestic violence by the law. Under Section 3 of the Domestic violence act 2005, the following are the constituents of Domestic Violence:
(a) Threats to Life, Health & Safety etc., whether Physical or Mental, incorporating Sexual
Abuse, Physical Abuse, Verbal and Emotional Abuse and Economic Abuse, or
(b) Harassment through any forms such as injuries, harms to the aggrieved person by coercing
her or any other person related to any unlawful demand for dowry or other property or valuable
(c) Otherwise injuring or causing harm, through Mental or Physical means to the Aggrieved
TYPES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Domestic violence can be categorised into mainly five categories of abuse namely: Physical,
Sexual, Mental/Emotional, Economic and Technological.
Physical abuse includes hitting, slapping, kicking, punching along with any other type of violent behaviour inflicted on the victim which may end up causing injuries or even fatalities. It includes assault and criminal force.
Mental, Verbal or Emotional abuse includes inflicting harm or deflating the victim’s state of mind by criticizing, embarrassing, shaming, blaming or severe manipulation. This may end up in severe traumatic episodes that might be chronic. Mental abuse can also alter the victim’s health physically. Adult victims might suffer from long term health problems like heart disease, chronic pain, stress disorders, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, dissociation and arthritis.
These problems require immediate attention from professionals but most of the victims end up getting none.
Whereas Sexual Abuse occurs when the offender coerces or tries to coerce the victim into
forced sexual contact without any consent from the victim. Sexual Abuse does not neccessarily come from an uncontrollable or unrequited sex drive, but is regarded as a crime committed to gain deliberate control of the victim. It includes assault, rape, sodomy, attempted rape, serial rape, marital rape and incest.
Economic or Financial abuse occurs when the offender/ abuser gains, exploits, sabotages or
restricts the victim’s access to economic resources, which may ultimately demolish the victim’s will and the offender to gain coercive control from it. The law interpreted not giving food to the aggrieved person, interfering or restricting the victim’s ability to get a job as a form of Economic abuse.
Technological or Digital abuse includes the oppression of the victim by involving means of
technology which will result in stalking, coercing, impersonation and harassment. Offenders may install spy tech on victims’ gadgets to Isolate, punish and humiliate them. Online abuse, Image based abuse and Cyberstalking are the types of technology facilitated abuse.
IMPACT OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ON SOCIETY, INDIVIDUALS AND VICTIMS
Domestic violence is increasing rapidly each day and one of the prime reasons for the growth of this menace is the pandemic. Since millions of people have been stripped off their jobs, left unemployed and restricted to one place, the mental frustration level has developed a growth spurt. With regard to the challenges that come along with the enforcement of the lockdown, women have felt additionally unsafe and in constant fear of being harassed at any point of the day. Being closed off between walls resulted in an undeniable increase in Domestic violence to the point of child abuse.
Domestic violence is one of the most appalling types of oppression one can endure. Surveys
show that not only women are subjected to domestic violence, men are also suffering from the same problem. Lack of legal and financial protection of transgenders and members of the LGBTQ community is what leaves them helpless when subjected to violence, making them face unique challenges. Working women in both rural and urban settings, both in the privileged and sub-merged sections of society are victims of domestic violence. Exposure to Domestic violence has varied impacts on individuals, victims and on the society as a whole. Victims of domestic violence are more likely to experience inconvenience raising their children and suffer family disruption. Children brought up in an environment that supports domestic violence are more likely to embrace and develop the same mentality like that of the oppressor. Some might grow up to be abusers while some are vulnerable to depression, anxiety, drug abuse and substance abuse disorders. Women tend to refrain from seeking help because of the constant fear of their children being the collateral damage.
Impact of domestic violence on children
- Anxiety or depression
- Sleep Paralysis
- Nightmares and flashbacks
- Physical complaints of stomach ache
- Wet beds
- Lowered sense of self worth
- Older children may indulge in alcohol or drug use, self harm by deliberate overdoses
- Aggression and trauma
According to the National Victims Centre, one woman is raped every minute and 30% of all
women murdered in India are murdered by the partners. Domestic violence can cause a number of long term and short term or immediate physical and mental health problems.
IMMEDIATE IMPACT: Some of the immediate impact of domestic violence results in physical
injuries including cuts, bruises, bite marks, concussions, broken bones, penetrative injuries such as knife wounds, organ damages due to penetration, loss of sight and hearing.
LONG TERM IMPACT: Domestic violence leads to a colossal amount of irreversible long term or chronic health issues like frequent migraines, permanent disfigurement, hypertension, heart disease, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) which can be fatal. Along with these physical problems come a number of mental illnesses like Trauma, PTSD, Anxiety attacks, social dysfunction, alcohol or substance abuse, sleeping and eating disorders and also suicide.
Victims develop reproductive issues and might not be able to conceive in the future because of the damage subjected to their internal organs, which then results in multiple miscarriages.
THE MALE VICTIM PERSPECTIVE
Women all around the globe suffer from domestic violence but it is rarely ever recognised that both the sexes suffer from this significant public health issue. Domestic violence is usually thought of as a male to female violence along with the statistics depicting the suffering of women at the hands of men all over the world. The spectrum of male victim perspective is under explored and the visibility of male victims diminishes in front of women as victims of men perpetrated violence. Researchers fail to acknowledge same sex relationships and how men can abuse men and women can abuse someone of the same sex as theirs. Male victims of domestic violence have been neglected by legal and public policies. In eastern countries, this subject is not given enough attention because of the patriarchal beliefs that run through the minds of people.
Males are often victims of Intimate Partner Violence which results in psychological, physical and sexual abuse of an individual by the partner. Men also suffer from significant mental disorders when subjected to domestic violence. They receive little or no legal protection from the justice system.
LAWS RELATING TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
“when it comes to abuse, you believe there is no way out. There is always help. There always is a way out.-Rev. Donna Mulvey.
Today when we are living in times where the cases of domestic violence cases are rising at an unprecedented rate and there are new cases which arise out daily in households all across the nation. With every passing day it is that the number of victims are increasing and the number is not stopping even when there are laws which are specifically made and passed by the legislature for the same purpose. As of now the various laws which we have pertaining to this issue is mentioned below:
Indian Penal Code
Dowry Prohibition Act 1961
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005
Before the coming up of the sperate domestic violence act the domestic violence cases were dealt majorly through IPC and the dowry prohibition where dowry related harassment, assaults or deaths thereby making the realm of law which would guide such offences very narrow which could not accommodate aspects and the issues which the women faced in the modern-day India.
The law is such that it always revolves through various amendments and the many landmark judgements which were given by the distinguished jurists of our country which have helped in coping up with these cases but even today the law is not sufficient when it comes to this.
Indian Penal Code
Talking about the provisions of IPC which are in relation to protect women from violence at their homes:
Section 498-A – this particular section was added up by the amendment of 1983 thereby incorporating the concept of cruelty. It covers the cruelty caused by the husband and his family to his wife. An interesting provision of this section is that it enables the relatives of the women to file a complaint on her behalf because it is seen that women who are the victims are not able to comprehend the situation at those times and are unable to file a complaint as there might be certain circumstances when there is any imminent danger to her which make her less able to do so. The act defines cruelty as:
(a) any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.]
DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT 1961
As the name of the act suggests it incriminates those who are involved in giving and taking of dowry. If the wife is forced for dowry by her husband and his family and faces harassment and torture then under this law relief can be seeked through the courts of Law.
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005
The first law which was created to specifically deal with the women’s right to stay in their homes without violence and dignity and also make them available with maintenance, medical and also legal aid. It also enables their relatives to file complaints on their behalf. It was created in the year 2005 and came into existence in the next year. It is a long and comprehensive law containing various provisions, policies and procedures which in turn helps women to seek relief.
Another feature is that the proceedings need to begin within 3 days of filing of the complaint and the case is to be resolved within a period of the commencement of the suit.
The law provides with the definition of domestic violence under section 3 of the act. The various other important provisions of this act are:
Section 9 has the provision of a protection officers whose job is to file cases of domestic violence and should preferably be a woman.
Section 14- it provides for counselling for whichever party is required.
Section 19- for the purpose of protection a bar can be put up to stop the respondent from meeting the victim or contacting them.
Section 20 & 22 – they provide for compensation and damages and monetary relief to the victim
Section 21 – the victim gets the custody of the children and the respondent is allowed to meet only after taking permission.
Laws protecting children from domestic violence
The POCSO ACT of 2012 – it protects children under the age of 18 from any kind of harassment and exploitation. Special courts have also been set up under the POCSO Act.
2. The Offences against Children (Prevention) Bill, 2005 covers majorly all forms of abuse against children and also provides remedies against them.
The 2013 Law Amendment
Formed under the name of Justice Verma a small commission was constituted as a response to requests which were made which resulted in swifter and harsher punishments for those who were convicted for crimes and it also added certain crimes to IPC.
Other than this there have been few recent landmark judgements with regards to domestic violence have broadened its scope and brought more people under the ambit of law such as changing the definition of aggrieved person, providing of maintenance and also people living under live-in relationship can now file a case under the PWDV Act.
Talking about the impact which these laws ought to have on the society it is quite evident that there are two sides of the same coin which need to be looked down upon. The coming up of the domestic violence laws has brought both a positive and a negative impact on the society in which we all co-habit together as fellow citizens and go through the various thing which happen in our daily households. So to draw a out a difference as to how both positively and negatively these laws have taken their form in the society a contrast is to be drawn between them.
While, considering the positive impact which it has left on the people there are various things which are reflected today which are:
A proper and developed system of law under which the remedies and rights are established and the law guides as to how women and children can eek help when they become victims of domestic violence and are harassed by their husbands or any other person within their household. It has also helped them seek maintenance and protection from the abuser and also have protection for their loved ones. It has also provided with specialised protection officers in every district which has left a better impact on the society in way that people now feel that there is increased vigilantism and protection for their rights which are abused within their household.
While there was a time when women thought that beating up by the husband was justified and not an infringement of their rights to a point where they are now aware of the fact that it is not. It has led to an increase in awareness both in the rural and urban areas making it easier for women to reach out to the authorities and address about the issues they face and register complaints so that necessary action could be initiated against the abuser and justice be seeked. Also, due to the coming up of these laws the ones who would earlier harass, torture, or beat up their own family members have stopped so because now they have a fear of being prosecuted and going behind the bars. Through various campaigns and awareness programs the women are being made aware to know their rights and the remedies against the same making them vigilant citizens who are well aware of their rights.
Another significant impact which the society has seen is in terms of the various governmental organisations, and NGO’s spread all across the country who are working tirelessly for the upliftment of women and provide justice to the women who have ever been the victim of domestic violence. They also provide them with legal aid, medical aid, counselling, shelter and help them come up and raise a voice against the cruelty and barbarity which they had undergone. focusing on changing those cultural norms, attitudes and legal provisions that promote the acceptance of and even encourage violence against women, and undermine women’s enjoyment of their full human rights and freedoms. Specialised cells for complaints by women were made in which they could easily register their complaint:
Crimes against Women
National Commission for Women
All India Women Helpline Number (1091)
Apart from these government initiatives there are various private organisations and NGO’s which are working:
Action Aid India
And a lot more which are providing support to women when they need it the most.
Other than initiatives are being taken up to teach men about what is right and not by instilling in them moral values and teaching the young adolescent regarding gender equality is being done. moreover, the healthcare staff is being told as to how the victims of domestic violence are to be treated.
The earlier stigma regarding domestic violence is now less as compared to the time before and with the awareness people in society itself ask their knowns who have been victims to take a step forward and lodge complaints for the same.
Now, when we look at the overall positive impact which the law has made on the society is that it has specified the various rights and remedies available to women thus further empowering them to come forward and make their voice heard for the suffering caused to them and has also sensitised people about the issue and creating awareness which is the need of the hour to bring the next generation on the right path a to how women and children are to be treated within the realm of their household.
The domestic violence laws while having a positive impact on the society do have a other face of hem thereby having a negative impact on the society as well. There have been various reasons for which the expected implementation and the outcome of these laws is yet to be achieved and in return what we have got are the problems which the society is suffering due to the certain loopholes in the law and the law also being misused at times. A few reasons are listed for the same:
Delayed justice- though the provision of the law states that justice is to be provided within a period of 60 days from the initiation of the suit it is seen that in many such cases filed they have been going on from years and no justice could be seeked because of which the victim has to also go through the trauma of appearing before the courts ad also at times the abuser(respondent) fails to appear before the court and thus delaying the means of justice. It is because of this reason many women refrain themselves from a filing a case under the DV act as it would drain them of their earnings and also har their own mental health. Therefore, most of them prefer filing a suit for divorce and start a new life.
False Cases – during the recent times the courts have discovered that out of the total cases which are filed under the DV act most of the cases which are filed by the women are mere false accusations and claims made by them against their husband and his family for the purpose of financial gains and robbing them of their wealth which in turn brings out a negative effect. Also, when it is proved that the accusations were false the husband can file a case for divorce and then it ultimately affects the life of the women who did so.
Used as a means to harass – nowadays women have started misusing the provisions of the law to harass their husband and his family to make their demands meet and they are under the constant threat that, if their demands are not met, they would be given a suit under the PWDV Act. With the help of this they are able to do whatever they want to.
Gender Biasness of the Law – during the past few there has been a spike in the cases where men have been the victims of domestic violence the law only protects women and children and men are not covered under the ambit of this law. There is a plethora of false cases where women falsely alleged a man for rape or for domestic violence and the sad thing is that these biased laws automatically assume that a man can never be the victim. Women do not need to give any sort of evidence to prove their authenticity. They are presumed to be true creatures by the biased laws. It is because of this fear that cases of domestic violence against men go unreported as it would lead ultimately to drain of their financial wealth, may cause divorce because of which the husband may not be able to meet his children and the litigation processes. It is a societal stigma that men can only be perpetrators and not victims.
The law in itself is never enough if it s not implemented in a way it ought to be and seek the desired result of it is s It is only possible through creating legal awareness, breaking the societal stigma, educating the youth at an early about gender equality should be done so that more women are willing to come out and report cases of violence. Also, an initiative at the level of judiciary would prove to be beneficial if separate courts are made which only deal with cases relating to domestic violence being taken up by a women magistrate. The police should be more vigilant and specialised police cells that take up complaints and are polite and helpful to the women in distress. Media which is a powerful tool can prove to be handy in such cases as it would help in large scale awareness. Also, a mechanism should be devised through which the authenticity of the accusations be checked as at times there are false accusations which are made. One of the most important change that must be made is to make domestic violence laws gender neutral so that even men could seek justice within this act as even they are victims at times. It is through various amendments which are to be made in the law so that there no loopholes and the ends of justice be met with.
Till now what can be concluded and observed is that domestic violence has perpetrated deep inside the roots of our society and it is phenomenon which existed, still exists and would still be present if adequate steps and measures are not taken up in the right direction. If not, then it would become inevitable to root it out and daily many women, men and children would have to go through this in their household leaving a deep impact on their mental, physical and economic wellbeing. The laws at the given time are well and good only if implemented in a proper way such that justice is provided at the earliest and everything works as per the provisions of the law so that justice is not delayed to these victims as justice delayed is justice denied. Also, it is important that is considered to make these laws not gender and bring in equality as it is something which any one can suffer and go through in their household. Most importantly the society in which we live today needs to break their old stigma and come forward to raise their issues and know that it is not okay to be okay where you are not respected and your rights and dignity not maintained. If the society does not come forward together as one it so that the laws leave a greater impact on the people and are not misused.
By Kabir Singh
Student BA.LLB(2ND year)