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Domestic violence and laws in India

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In India, more than 30% of women have been subjected to domestic violence at some point in their lives, per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data. Yet, nearly 75% of those who reported being subjected to domestic violence did not seek help from anyone. For those who do, by confiding in close family members, the crime often gets brushed off as a private or family matter that doesn’t require outside, legal intervention.

During the first four phases of the COVID-19-related lockdown, Indian women filed more domestic violence complaints than recorded in a similar period in the last 10 years. But even this unusual spurt is only the tip of the iceberg as 86% women who experience domestic violence do not seek help in India.

The phenomenon of violence against women within the family in India is complex and deeply embedded. Women are subject to violence not only from husbands but also from members of both the natal and the marital home. Girls and women in India are usually less privileged than boys in terms of their position in the family and society and in terms of access to material resources. Marriage continues to be regarded as essential for a girl; control over a woman’s sexuality and its safe transfer into the hands of husbands who are assumed to “own” their wives is of primary importance. Systematic discrimination and neglect toward female children is evident in a declining sex ratio of 900 women to 1000 males (2013-2015). Nevertheless, there are regional and community variations. Women in the north have relatively less autonomy than their counterparts in the south, and experience fewer opportunities for control over economic resources. A small segment of urban upper class women enjoy some of the benefits of education, careers, and economic independence.

Despite regional differences in women’s status, there is much less variation in rates of domestic violence. Overall, domestic violence is prevalent in all settings, regions, and religious groups. Although there are some differences in reporting by region—women in the south report fewer beatings than their counterparts in the north—in-depth qualitative studies have found considerable under-reporting in the data.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence (also called intimate partner violence (IPV), domestic abuse or relationship abuse) is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.

Domestic violence does not discriminate. Anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender can be a victim – or perpetrator – of domestic violence. It can happen to people who are married, living together or who are dating. It affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

The strict importance of the word Domestic Violence essentially implies any violent or forceful conduct of any individual inside the Home as the word here may be ‘Domestic’ or as such a brutal fight between a couple which may constrain a female companion to file for mental badgering fundamentally under Domestic Violence Act and different arrangements of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C). Essentially from ages, Domestic Violence has been Committed against ladies however in the present situation men can likewise petition for Domestic Violence which can go under the classification of Domestic Abuse, family viciousness fundamentally emerging in the connections, for example, marriage incorporating associations with relatives, family companions and so on and it can be in different structures, for example, physical animosities, sexual manhandle, psychological mistreatments and so forth.

Violence could of various types i.e. physical abuse, emotional abuse,  economic abuse, psychological abuse.

Laws related to domestic violence in India

In India, law on domestic violence has mainly evolved in 3 stages:

The Indian Penal Code Amendment in 1983

A unique area, numbered 498-A, that authoritatively made Domestic Violence a Criminal Offense was added to the Indian Penal Code in 1983. This Section of the law particularly covers Cruelty towards wedded ladies by their spouses or their husbands’ families.

An accommodating statement in this Section enables woman’s relatives to make the objection for them. This is greatly helpful in situations where the Woman is excessively anxious, making it impossible to talk up for herself, for reasons, for example, she could get captured by her significant other or basically can’t leave the house. One sort of Cruelty that can be punished is conduct that causes a woman’s death or genuine damage, or pushes her to confer suicide. Another kind is the sort of provocation identifying with threatening the woman or her relatives to surrender her property.

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

  • physical abuse;
  • psychological torture by threatening her or her loved ones (such as children);
  • not giving the woman food;
  • locking her in or out of the house as punishment; and
  • sexual abuse against the woman’s will.

Convicted punishers will be charged with imprisonment up to 3 years or fine or both.

The Protection of Woman from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

Domestic violence is defined by Section 3 of the Act as “any act”, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence in case it:

  1. 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
  2. harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person with a view 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
  3. has the effect of threatening the aggrieved person or any person related to her by any conduct mentioned in clause (1) or clause (2); or
  4. Otherwise injures or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved person.

The Act goes on, through the section Explanation 1, to define “physical abuse”, “sexual abuse”, “verbal and emotional abuse” and “economic abuse”.

Other provisions for safety of women

  • There are different controls or arrangements being made for protection of women against domestic violence under the statute, for example, Sec.304B of IPC relating to endowment passing.
  • Under segment 313-316 of IPC female child murder has been made culpable which implies mightily ending the pregnancy of a lady.
  • Different areas of IPC managing these issues are segment 305-306 identified with abetment of suicide and 340,349 of IPC individually wrongful restriction and wrongful limitation.
  • An objection can likewise be recorded under area 498A of IPC for cruelty which additionally falls under aggressive behavior at home.

THE 2013 CRIMINAL LAW AMENDMENT

As a reaction to the solicitations made by the Justice Verma Committee, a little Commission named after and headed by one of India’s most respected law specialists, a long rundown of alterations to the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Indian Evidence Act were presented in this 2013 demonstration.

The point of the Amendment was to give harsher and swifter discipline to those hoodlums who submitted mishandle against ladies. Insights with respect to rape and assault were elucidated and included onto. For example, “assault” was given a superior and more thorough legitimate definition, to incorporate non-consensual infiltration utilizing non-sexual items, and also non-penetrative sexual acts.

Punishments for offenses, for example, assault, attack, and inappropriate behavior were expanded. Specifically, heavier sentences were announced for attackers, notwithstanding including capital punishment for especially irritating cases, for example, group assault where the casualty was left in a vegetative state after the wrongdoing.

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

  • acid attacks
  • stalking
  • voyeurism
  • publicly and forcefully disrobing a woman

What should victims do when they are attacked?

What victims of domestic violence must remember is, to not blame themselves for what is happening to them. Violence is unacceptable and the perpetrator is 100 per cent responsible. Victims must not make excuses for the actions of the perpetrators, as there are none. Acceptance of such actions may lead to a vicious cycle of abuse.

  • The option of reporting domestic abuse to the police is always available. However, if the victim does not intend on that course of action, they can create a safety plan for themselves, with a safe word to alert people they live with when faced with a threatening situation.
  • It is advisable to keep a friend, family, neighbour or someone in proximity informed in case of escalating risk. It is also helpful to discuss this with trusted family member/s or friends and build perpetrator accountability. There are also a number of helplines for domestic violence and free online counselling websites that victims can use for relief.

Addressing domestic violence

An effective response to violence must be multi-sectoral; addressing the immediate practical needs of women experiencing abuse; providing long-term follow up and assistance; and 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.

The health sector has unique potential to deal with violence against women, particularly through reproductive health services, which most women will access at some point in their lives. However, this potential is far from being realized. Few doctors, nurses or other health personnel have the awareness and the training to identify violence as the underlying cause of women’s health problems.

The health sector can play a vital role in preventing violence against women, helping to identify abuse early, providing victims with the necessary treatment and referring women to appropriate care. Health services must be places where women feel safe, are treated with respect, are not stigmatized, and where they can receive quality, informed support. A comprehensive health sector response to the problem is needed, in particular addressing the reluctance of abused women to seek help.

Role of public health personnel

Domestic violence against women has been identified as a public health priority. Public health personnel can play a vital role in addressing this issue.

Since violence against women is both a consequence and a cause of gender inequality, primary prevention programs that address gender inequality and tackle the root causes of violence are all essential. Public health workers have a responsibility to build awareness by creating and disseminating materials and innovative audio-visual messages, which project a positive image of girl child and women in the society. An integrated media campaign covering electronic, print and film media that portrays domestic violence as unacceptable is the need of the hour. The role of increasing male responsibility to end domestic violence needs to be emphasized.

Hence, the responses to the problem must be based on integrated approach. The effectiveness of measures and initiatives will depend on coherence and co-ordination associated with their design and implementation. The issue of domestic violence must be brought into open and examined as any other preventable health problem, and best remedies available be applied. As a responsible citizen we should keep our eyes open for signs of violence around us too.

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