This Article is submitted by –
- Shekhar Kumar
“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
–Nora Ephron (Journalist, writer, and filmmaker.)
Women have been the victim of violence in their matrimonial homes from centuries. Domestic violence includes any kind of violence suffered by a woman due to her husband/live-in partner, or his family, or his relatives. Domestic violence is not only about hitting the female spouse but it also includes emotional abuse, refraining her from work, sexual assault, dowry-related harassment, etc.
According to Section 3 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, “any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence in case it:
- harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse; or
- harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person to coerce her or any other person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any dowry or other property or valuable security; or
- has the effect of threatening the aggrieved person or any person related to her by any conduct mentioned in clause (a) or clause (b); or
- otherwise injures or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved person.”
According to an observation done in 2006 by the Union Minister for Women and Child Development, it was found that 70% of women in India believe themselves to be the victim of domestic violence.
History of domestic violence
In India, women have been suffering domestic violence of different kinds from centuries. Evil practices like:
- Sati – Burning of a bride alive at the time of her husband’s funeral,
- Female infanticide – Delebrate killing of female newborn children,
- Honour killing – Murder of a member of a family, due to the perpetrator’s belief that the victim has brought shame or dishonour upon the family, or has violated the principles of a community or a religion with an honour culture,
- Dowry death – Deaths of married women who are murdered or driven to suicide by continuous torture by their husband and in-laws over a dispute about dowry, etc,
had been a part of Indian society for ages. Unfortunately, many of these customs are still practised in some parts of India.
Forms of domestic violence
- Physical abuse– Physical injury is the most visible form of domestic violence. The meaning of physical domestic/intimate partner violence includes slapping, pushing, kicking, biting, hitting, throwing objects, strangling, beating, threatening with any form of weapon, or using a weapon.
- Emotional abuse– It has been gaining more and more recognition in recent years as an incredibly common form of domestic violence within the matrimonial homes. Psychological abuse can erode a woman’s sense of self-worth and can be incredibly damaging to overall mental and physical wellbeing. Emotional/psychological abuse includes harassment; threats; verbal abuse such as name-calling, degradation and blaming; stalking; and isolation.
- Sexual abuse– Domestic sexual assault is a form of domestic violence involving sexual/reproductive coercion and marital rape. Under Indian law, marital rape is not a crime, except during the period of marital separation of the partners. However, it is still a ground for divorce.
- Economic abuse- It is a form of violence when one intimate partner has control over the other partner’s access to income, which curtails the victim’s capacity to support themselves and forces them to depend on the perpetrator financially.
Causes of domestic violence
Although all of the causes of domestic violence may not be known, the need to take action is clear. There are various theories to explain the presence and extent of domestic violence. Some theories focus on individuals and look for personal explanations such as the use of alcohol or drugs, victim’s actions, mental illness, stress, frustration and violent families of origin.
Domestic violence during the lockdown
Sadly, during the COVID-19 lockdown reports of domestic violence have increased. It has been reported that the number of complaints of domestic abuse rose by 53% in the first week of the lockdown (March 23- April 1, 2020) in India. During the initial four phases of the COVID-19 related lockdown, Indian women filed more domestic violence complaints than reported in a similar period in the last 10 years. The reason could be the idleness caused due to complete lockdown announced by the government, otherwise, couples stay busy with their work which results in lesser conflicts. Alcohol and drugs may contribute to violent behaviour. A drunk or high person will be less likely to control his or her violent impulses toward their partner.
Effects over children
Children who witness or are the victims of violence may learn to believe that violence is a reasonable way to resolve a conflict between people. Boys who learn that women are not to be valued or respected and who see violence directed against women are more likely to abuse women when they grow up. Girls who witness domestic violence in their families of origin are more likely to be victimized by their husbands. Some parents with orthodox thinking, tutor their daughters to suffer from domestic violence as they believe men as a superior gender which further contributes to non-reporting of domestic violence complaints. Although women are most often the victim of domestic violence, gender roles can be reversed in some cases.
Remedies for domestic violence
Women suffer through abuse because they are afraid of moving things to the court as it is considered a social taboo in Indian society. However, action must be taken against such offenders so that they do not dare to attempt the same mistake twice. In the case of domestic violence, the aggrieved women have the following options:
- Counselling – A person from the list of available counsellors forwarded by the protection officer, shall be appointed as a counsellor whose first preference is to arrive at a settlement of the matter.
- Mediation – It can be filed by both the parties, as well as only by the aggrieved party. It works similar to counselling. The appointed mediator listens to both the parties and then aims for the best possible solution.
- Protection Order – The magistrate may, after hearing both the parties, pass a protection order in favour aggrieved party which may prohibit the respondent from committing, abetting or aiding of any act of domestic violence; entering the place of residence or employment of the aggrieved person; attempt to communicate with the aggrieved person; or committing any other act as specified in the protection order.
- Maintenance – As per Section 125 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the husband of a married woman is liable for her financial maintenance and she can claim it under this section. The court may pass an order in the favour of the aggrieved woman and the amount is decided by considering the income of the husband and the lifestyle and expenses of the applicant.
- Residence Order – In Sabita Mark Burges vs Mark Lionel Burges (2013), the Bombay High Court held that no matter that a man may alone own a particular house, he has no right to be violent against his wife or the woman he lives with and if the Court sees any violence, he must be restrained from entering upon the residence essentially to secure the wife and children against further violence and similar disputes.
- FIR – In cases where counselling and mediation fails, the aggrieved woman shouldfile a police complaint as it is the first step towards punishing the offender. FIR can be lodged by dialling at 100, or by directly going to the police station, or by filing an online complaint at National Commission for Women’s website (link: http://ncwapps.nic.in/onlinecomplaintsv2/).
- Custody Order – Children often become victims in the conflict between their parents so it is reasonable to give custody of the children to the sound parent which is in most cases a mother. Deciding the custody of a child, a court considers many factors like the welfare of the child, wishes of the child, age and gender of the child, etc.
- Divorce – Getting separated is always a better option than suffering throughout life. When a relationship reaches the stage of “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” then divorced becomes a necessity. The physical or mental health of the aggrieved woman worth much more than an abusive marriage.
Concluding all, women have been suffering abuse in their matrimonial homes since forever in various forms like hitting, abusing, refraining her to work or get educated, taunting her for being of a different caste or giving birth to a girl child, dowry, etc. The awful fact is that the majority of the women do not report these incidents because they are afraid that their own family may not support them in litigation. The orthodox beliefs in our society can also be blamed as the foundation of the customs of suppressing the females in their own homes. However, non-reporting of such offences provokes the offender to repeat the violence. Action must be taken against such violators because the mental or physical health of the aggrieved woman and her life have worth much more than an abusive relationship.
“The views of the authors are personal“