Battered Women Syndrome: Applying this Legal Doctrine in the Indian Context

12 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2016

Date Written: August 6, 2016


Over the last decade, a shift in approach towards domestic violence has taken place and several legal reforms have been directed to assist the survivors. The Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act is one of such law that has been enacted in the year 2005 to provide civil remedies to the survivors besides criminalizing domestic violence. While these legal reforms have been debated within the social as well as legal context, much furor has been created after the Supreme Court in Arnesh Kumar v State of Bihar pronounced that 'Section 498A has been misused by the disgruntled wives'. However, the other side of the picture has been completely overlooked in these deliberations. This discussion fails to acknowledge the fact that in the cultural context where women's subordination is a norm and often they are socialized to silently tolerate the oppression the law does not consider several significant elements into account. For example, the history of abuse, pattern of violence and a woman’s psychological state or experience are factors in domestic violence cases which may have major impact the outcome of the criminal litigation. The courts need to dwell on same while adjudicating. Nevertheless, in the countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States, the doctrine of the Battered Woman Syndrome has gained legitimacy in psychological and legal spheres and is applied to defend those women survivors of domestic violence who are held guilty of killing their oppressors under the law. The courts in India have not applied the Battered Woman Syndrome concept until recently when the Delhi High Court in its landmark verdict while applying this doctrine held a male accused guilty of abetting suicide of his wife. This work looks at this doctrine of the Battered Women Syndrome and its applicability in the Indian context.

Keywords: Domestic Violence, India, Battered Women, Battered Woman Syndrome, Court, Women, Law

Suggested Citation

Nigam, Shalu, Battered Women Syndrome: Applying this Legal Doctrine in the Indian Context (August 6, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Shalu Nigam (Contact Author)

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