“The time when domestic violence is most fateful is when the person is trying to relinquish the situation.”
The woman is the nourishing and the supreme power of this universe, gifted with a power to create, nurture and transform, clothed with strength and dignity. Then, if we look at the opposite side we live in a world where a woman is considered a canvas for unloading emotional baggage on, a sexual object to burst out one’s frustration.
Introducing you to a world where 70% of India’s women live in a system that is blameworthy to make the globe sick. It is a brutal world of domestic violence. A world where women keep fighting battles against sexism, violence and even inequality.
Today when the whole globe is amidst lockdown due to COVID-19, the condition of women has deteriorated further & this has become a significant issue… The WHO has said that in health emergencies violence against women tends to increase. This pandemic has trapped the violence on victims in hell with no escape.
WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
Domestic violence is the violence or other abuse, such as in marriage or cohabitation. Often used as a synonym for intimate partner violence which is committed by a spouse in an intimate relationship. It is termed just as another specie of rape, sexual assault etc. It is an act with catastrophic effects.
The vicious trap of domestic violence is basically a cycle of abuse, pleas for forgiveness and promises to bring a change and this continuing phenomenon that keeps on catching pace daily. The psychological dynamics of such a relationship are very miserable. Sustained and serious abuse further brings a rise in Battered Women Syndrome, a psychological condition that makes a woman believe that she deserves such abuse.
People who find themselves in an abusive relationship often don’t feel safe or happy. However, they may feel unable to leave for many reasons. These include fear & a belief that they are the cause of the abuse. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refer to this type of abuse that occurs within a relationship as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).
It generally occurs when intimacy is substituted by humiliation and beating. It includes the way the abuser manipulates the situation and the mind of the victim. The abuser ends up blaming the victim, ultimately making the perpetrator feel justified for his action and then the violence escalates at a rapid pace than ever before.
Women are treated as a sexual object, a punching bag and a target for emotional abuse. Besides all this, men also look at penetration as a justified punishment. That’s the time when sufferings become indescribable. This is when the victim faces something called ‘ownership rape ‘ rather than having ‘consensual sex’ with pleasure.
A woman keeps on suffering in this hell. The financial dependency of females on males is a major fact that makes battered wives suffer all their lives without taking any step towards change. Along with this, their emotional dependency on males adds on in worsening the situation.
That’s when she starts feeling bleak, helpless, and exposed to the outrages of sex and realizes that there is no one for her rescue. As if it was not a marriage but a mere transfer of ownership from one person to another.
Things actually go wrong when one forces something that is meant to be open, trusting, passionate and nurturing. When all this comes from one’s own intimate partner then it leads to falling dreams and rising nightmares.
LET’S BREAK THE PATRIARCHY
Now the question arises who stands at the actual fault for all this? It is basically the system we are living in. A system called the patriarchal society. In general terms, we refer to it as a male-dominated system of society. The fundamental rule says that one only dominates the person he finds inferior to him.
He can never do so with one whom he finds superior or equal to him. It’s all in the upbringing and yes of course in one’s own head, which in the last resort makes a man believe that his wife is always inferior to him and he can rule her the way he desires. There is an eminent need to eradicate this unjust perception of women being inferior to men.
If a man is the bread earner then the woman is the bread maker and things fall in place when these two march on the same pace together. Our society takes man as one to rule, command, and control his woman. There is a need to break this belief.
PREVAILING SCENARIO DURING PANDEMIC
Domestic violence is an indoor crime that is seldom reported. It involves a pattern of psychological, physical, financial & sexual abuse. Acts of assaults, threats, humiliation & intimidation are also considered as acts of violence. In fact, domestic violence is one of the most underreported crimes against women across the world.
Despite the fact that home may be considered a safe place for most, it is not safe for all. In fact, with the Covid-19 lockdown in place, there has been a surge in cases of domestic violence. Behind the closed doors of the homes across our country, people are being tortured, beaten & killed.
This Covid-19 lockdown has intensified due to the deficiency in the Anti-Domestic Violence Law, even education is fruitless unless it successfully destabilizes conservative values & teaches young people modern ideals like gender equality & respect for partners. The rise & abuse has been steep across jurisdictions from Brazil to Germany & Italy to China. Activists & survivors say that they are already seeing an alarming rise in abuse.
Not only women but sometimes children & old people of the family also suffer as a result of domestic violence on the spouse. The reason for this upsurge is because of the contributory factor to this issue is stress & associated risk factors such as employment, frustration, reduced income apart from alcohol abuse.
Drinking & domestic abuse these two often go hand in hand. The WHO says alcohol can be a contributing factor. It may increase the frequency & severity of violence and be more likely to result in injury.
There are also ample statistics proving these hexed realities. According to India’s National Commission for Women (NCW) the number of domestic violence cases has shot up during the lockdown in India.
During the first four phases of the COVID-19 lockdown, Indian women filed more domestic violence complaints than recorded in a period of the last 10 years. 1 in 3 women worldwide experience physical & /or sexual abuse from their intimate partners (WHO 2017).
Domestic violence is endemic in societies worldwide. The control exerted by the perpetrator over the victim and sometimes family ties that unite them create a very complicated situation, often complicated further by alcohol or drug abuse.
LAWS ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
In India, we have the Indian Penal Code (Section 498A) as well as the Dowry Prohibition Act, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 etc for protecting the rights of women especially married women as well as protecting them from various offenses which affects them both mentally & physically. Victims of domestic violence are protected under both central & state laws and one can seek relief in civil as well as criminal court.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
Also known as Domestic Violence Act 2005 which recognizes domestic violence as a human rights violation. It is defined under Section 3 of the Domestic Violence Act 2005 .
The origin of the Act lies in Article 15(2) of the Constitution of India, which clearly says that “State can make special provisions for women & children” towards promoting equality, indiscrimination & dignity towards their lives.
The Act defined “Domestic Violence” for the first time in Indian law. It is a comprehensive definition & includes not only physical violence but also other forms of violence such as emotional, verbal, sexual & economic abuse.
The following are the features of the Act such as victim resources in which victim should be provided with shelter, medical facilities, legal aid whenever required; counseling as directed by Magistrate in Section 14, Protecting officers under Section 9 whose duty is to file a domestic violence incident report & to provide the victim with medical & legal aid whenever required, with that compensation under Section 22, Section 16 in-camera proceedings if either party so desires, Section 21 custody of children is given to the victim & monetary relief under Section 20.
But the Act is mainly censured on the grounds that it is not been backed up properly. There is no attempt by the government to protect it effectively. Important factors such as appointment & the training of the protection officers, police officers, service providers & judicial officers have been ignored.
The authorities lack the initiative to spread awareness. In some states, where protection officers have been appointed, they are not aware of their legal duties & the legal remedies that are available to the victims of domestic violence.
Section 498A of IPC
For protecting the interest of women against the cruelty they face behind the four walls of their matrimonial home, the IPC was amended in1983 & inserted Section 498A which deals with the husband or relative of the husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty (Matrimonial cruelty) & shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years & shall also be liable to fine. The offense is a cognizable, non-bailable & non-compoundable offense.
“Cruelty” means any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
the act of harassment would amount to cruelty for the purpose of this section. Drinking & coming late habits of the husband coupled with torturing, beating, and demanding dowry have been taken into consideration as amounting to cruelty within the purview of this section.
The Dowry Prohibition Act
Enacted in the year 1961 to prohibit the giving or taking of dowry. In this act, ‘dowry’ means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly by one party of marriage to another party of that marriage at or before or after the marriage in connection with the said party.
The original text of the Act was widely judged to be ineffective in curbing the practice of dowry. As a result, the legislation underwent subsequent amendment in the year 1984. It also established minimum & maximum punishments for giving and receiving dowry as well as created a penalty for demanding dowry.
Despite the revisions, the practice of dowry & dowry-related violence still occurs in varying degrees within several communities.
On the whole, it depicts that the situation of Indian women is quite acute in terms of violence that they experience in the marital home. Today domestic violence is being viewed as an epidemic disease that needs to be controlled. A crucial question in light of rising instances of domestic violence is what should be done to control and minimize it.
We need more stringent laws to curb domestic violence in order to protect the rights of women. Even section 498A of the IPC & the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 has been misused because of the circumscribed definition of the abuse that the women are subjected to.
We need to make women educated and financially independent so they can take a step ahead and protect themselves from being victims of such evils of society. Awareness programs to make women aware of their rights under the laws of the country along with more shelter homes to provide accommodation to such women in parts of the country.
Training needs to be provided to develop the skills of the professionals to provide key support to the victims of domestic violence to build a healthy and safe nation for women to live in.
By Divya Katariya and Sanjali Jain, 3rd year B.A.LL.B. (Hons.), Faculty of Law, The Maharaja Sayajirao University Baroda, Vadodara.