Domestic Violence in India: Will Law Alone Change the Situation?
25 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2009 Last revised: 15 Apr 2010
Date Written: September 3, 2009
India faces a very ironical situation when it comes to the status that women enjoy in our society. Indian mythology places women on a very high pedestal and they are worshipped and honoured like- Saraswati is a goddess of learning; wealth is Lakshmi; power is Parvati, but when it comes to the protection of their domestic rights the situation is totally different. Now they are facing all forms of domestic violence from physical to psychological which has various dimensions like female foeticide, selective abortion, dowry harassment, dowry deaths, physical abuse, mental violence, human trafficking and social humiliation. While the impact of physical abuse may be more ‘visible’ than psychological scarring, repeated humiliation and insults, forced isolation, limitations on social mobility, constant threats of violence and injury, and denial of economic resources are more subtle and insidious forms of violence. The intangible nature of psychological abuse makes it harder to define and report, leaving the woman in a situation where she is often made to feel mentally destabilized and powerless. Domestic violence also affects the children who witness domestic violence leads levels of anxiety or posttraumatic stress disorder. Children that have suffered domestic violence, tend to be more aggressive in their relationships later in their life. Drug abuse is yet another problem leading to domestic violence. Women married to men who get drunk frequently experience domestic violence comparatively more than women whose husbands do not drink alcohol at all.
In case of domestic violence laws, till 2005 the only recourse for victims was section-498A of the Indian Penal Code. This only provided for punishments to the abuser but no remedy or relief to the victims. The civil law does not address the problem in its entirety.
The laws considered only married women as the subject of the concern and only legally married women could sue under these laws. The law failed to comply with the definition of ‘violence against women’ in the international treaties like Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which looks at it as a violation of rights and fundamental freedom of women. To eliminate these loopholes the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was enacted. It is a progressive act not only because it recognizes women who are in live-in relationships but also extends protection to all the women in the household, including sisters, mothers, i.e., relations of consanguinity, marriage, or through relationships in nature of marriage, adoption or joint family.
Though there are a lot of positive aspects to this law it has had extreme opposition from a large section of the society. The opposition is that this law is being used by the educated women as a tool against their husband. As is visible in the statistics, since 2006 the cases filed under Domestic Violence have increased tremendously. Thus, this law has been rightly called a draconian law as it is not female-oriented but male bashing law.
Keywords: Violence, live together concept, violence against men,mental abuse, physical abuse
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