Legal shield against domestic abuse

Legal shield against domestic abuse

In our country, women are worshipped like goddesses, but one just needs to do some digging to see how ironic and spurious this pedestal is.

Marriage is a social institution where the husband vows to take responsibilities of his wife. After the marriage, the husband cannot escape from his responsibility towards his wife. Unfortunately, along with the marriage, a social stigma i.e., Dowry is still exist. The woman is ill-treated, harassed and killed in the name of dowry.

Almost every day, several women victimised domestic violence in one or other way. Even at the time of COVID-19 Lockdown where whole country is going through major issues, the domestic violence cases are not decreasing. Recently, the National Commission of Women (referred as NCW) has provided the data in mid-April whereby it is suggested that almost 100% case of domestic violence has increased during the lockdown.

In 25 days i.e., between March 23 to April 16, the NCW received 239 complaints, mainly through email and a dedicated WhatsApp number. This is almost double the number of complaints (123) received during the previous 25 days, from February 27 to March 22.

Statistics may not reveal the actual extent of the problem because the women either restrain from reporting the case due to social stigma attached to the society or have no means to reach out.

 

Legal remedies available in Indian laws:

Till the year 2005, the remedies available to a victim of domestic violence were limited. The women either had to go to the civil court for a decree of divorce or initiate prosecution in the criminal court for the offence punishable under Section 498A of IPC. In both the proceedings, no instant relief is available to the victim. Also, the relationships outside the marriage were not recognised.

Having regards to all these facts, the Parliament of India enacted whole new act i.e. “Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act” (DV Act) to protect women from domestic violence. It came into force on 26th October, 2006. This Act for the first time provided a definition of “domestic violence” in Indian law. The main aim of the act is to protect women from violence irrespective of the relationship she shares with accused.

 

Who can file a complaint under DV Act?

Section 2 (a) of the Domestic Violence Act defines “aggrieved person” as any woman who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the Respondent and who alleges to have been subjected to any act of domestic violence by the respondent.

DV Act covers not only those women who are or have been in a relationship with the abuser but it also covers those women who have lived together in a shared household and are related by consanguinity, marriage or through a relationship in the nature of marriage or adoption.

Even those women who are sisters, widows, mothers, single women, or living in any other relationship with the abuser are entitled to legal protection.

 

Live-in relationships

Supreme Court in the judgment of D. Veluswamy vs. D. Patchaiammal enumerated five ingredients of a live in relationship as follows:

      1. Both the parties must behave as husband and wife and are recognised as such in front of society.
      2. They must be of valid legal age of marriage.
      3. They should qualify to enter into marriage i.e.,none of the partner should have a spouse living at the time of entering into relationship.
      4. They must have voluntarily cohabited for a significant period of time.
      5. They must have lived together in a shared household.

 

The Supreme Court also observed that not all live-in-relationships will amount to a relationship in the nature of marriage to get the benefit of Domestic Violence Act. To get such benefit the conditions mentioned above shall be fulfilled and this has to be proved by evidence.

 

Against whom the complaint can be filed under DV act?

As per Section 2(q) of the DV Act, the “respondent” can be any adult male person who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person and against whom the aggrieved has sought any relief under this Act.

Provided that an aggrieved wife or female living in a relationship in the nature of a marriage may also file a complaint against a relative of the husband or the male partner. The Supreme Court in its judgment of SandhyaWankhede vs. Manoj Bhimrao Wnakhede held that proviso to Section 2(q) does not exclude female relatives of the husband or male partner from the ambit of a complaint that can be made under the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act.

 

To whom can a complaint be made?

Complaint under the DV Act can be made to a police officer, protection officer, service provider (NGO) or a Magistrate.

 

Types of abuse under DV Act

  • Physical abuse: Any act or conduct which is of such a nature as to cause bodily pain, harm, or danger to life, limb, or health or impair the health or development of the aggrieved person and includes assault, criminal intimidation and criminal force.
  • Sexual abuse: Any conduct which is sexual in nature that abuses, humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the dignity of woman.
  • Verbal and emotional abuse: Insults or ridicule humiliation especially with regard to not having a child or a male child; and repeated threats to cause physical pain to any person in whom, the aggrieved person is interested.
  • Economic abuse: It includes not providing money for maintaining wife or her children, not providing food, clothes, medicine etc. or preventing from accessing or using any part of the house, preventing or obstructing one from carrying on employment. Non-payment of rent in case of a rented accommodation, selling or pawing stridhan or any other valuables without informing and without consent.

 

The protection of women from Domestic Violence Act not only grants an number of rights and protections against dowry death and extreme cruelty but also defines domestic violence in broader way include everything from physical abuse to emotional injuries to economic threats.The main obstacle in its successful implementation is the deeply rooted patriarchal mindset of the Indian society.It is imperative to dismantle such mindset and to ensure efficient functioning of courts and government authorities prescribed under act towards rendering complete justice to women.

 

 

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