Domestic violence, or intimate partner violence (IPV) as it is sometimes called, is a worldwide problem. Intimate partner violence is referred as a threatened physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse of a woman by their intimate partner.
Domestic violence in India includes any form of violence suffered by a person from a biological relative, but typically is the violence suffered by a woman by male members of her family or relatives.
The greed for dowry, desire for a male child and alcoholism of the spouse are major factors of domestic violence against women in rural areas.
IPV in India
• Domestic violence or IPV is currently defined in India by the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005.
• A 2014 study in The Lancet reports that the reported sexual violence rate in India is among the lowest in the world, the large population of India means that the violence affects 27·5 million over women their lifetime. The instance of violence was reported to be lowest among Buddhist and Jain women, and highest among Muslim women in India.
• According to United Nation Population Fund Report, around two-third of married Indian women are victims of domestic violence and as many as 70 per cent of married women in India between the age of 15 and 49 are victims of beating, rape or forced sex.
• In India, more than 55 percent of the women suffer from domestic violence, especially in the states of Bihar, U.P., M.P. and other northern states.
• Physical injury is the most visible form of domestic/Intimate partner violence.
• Emotional abuse has been gaining more and more recognition in recent years as an incredibly common form of domestic violence within the private home throughout developing nations such as India.
• Most of the risk factors for intimate partner violence identified in slums appear to be similar to those identified in non-slum settings in India. For example, women’s employment has been found to be a risk factor for intimate partner violence in both slums and non-slum settings in India.
• In Indian families with patriarchal norms, women with higher income or status relative to their partners are more likely to be seen as gender deviant and to face violence (NFHS).
• In Indian families with patriarchal norms, women with higher income or status relative to their partners are more likely to be seen as gender deviant and to face violence.
National Crime Records Bureau
• The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, which is relied upon by the Court, indicates that in 2011, a total of 1, 14,372 cases were registered under crimes against women in matrimonial homes.
• The Court does not correlate the data from NFHS-3 which indicates that in the same year there were at least 59 million women who experienced some form of physical or sexual violence in the preceding 12 months.
• Relying on the findings of the NCRB, the Court concludes that several complaints are “false”.
• It is one thing to say there is no evidence to prove the allegations beyond reasonable doubt, but another to say that a complaint is false makes a lot of difference.
• Uncritical acceptance of these statistics has led to an incomprehensible judgment based on police data alone.
• The power of the police is limited to finding evidence; insufficient evidence does not render the complaint false.
• Lastly, the Court appointed two lawyers with no expertise on violence against women as advisors.
• No effort was made to get a contrary point of view before giving a judgment which virtually rewrote the law and goes consciously contrary to criminal jurisprudence. The sooner the judgment is overturned, the better for the rule of law.
Impact of Domestic violence on Women’s Health
• In a study conducted in India reported that women with a lifetime history of IPV were more likely to have reported poorer physical and mental health compared to those without a lifetime history of IPV.
• Violence against women is a significant public health problem in India with prevalence estimates ranging from 6 per cent in one State (e. Himachal Pradesh) to 59 per cent in another (i.e. Bihar).
• In the National Family Health Survey, the prevalence of violence against married women in various slum areas in India was reported to be between 23 and 62 per cent.
• The factors associated with intimate partner violence were early marriage, husband’s alcohol use, women’s employment, and justification of wife beating.
• Norms related to gender roles, community attitudes and the broader social context, including the media, play a significant role in the acceptance and promotion of intimate partner violence.
Role of Self-Help groups to address IPV
• Strategies to address IPV have included legal reforms, awareness creation drives, and strengthening of women’s civil rights. As criminal justice solutions have largely been inaccessible to socially precarious women, a more inclusive alternative is to have collective-based resolution mechanisms. The potential of large-scale groups of women, such as self-help groups (SHGs), becomes critical in the Indian context.
• Many models of community dispute resolution mechanisms have been experimented in India like,
• The Nari Adalats (women courts) in various States,
• Women’s Resource Centres (Rajasthan),
• Shalishi (West Bengal), and
• Mahila Panchayats (Delhi)
They have seen IPV as a public issue rather than a personal problem.
• Several NGOs have co-opted these models so that women can resolve cases of violence without getting entangled in tedious legal processes.
• SHGs are the most widely present collectives across regions. The experiences of large-scale programmes offer valuable insights into action for IPV redressal within SHG-led development models.
• Collectives of women need adequate investment for building their capacities and mediation of IPV requires specialised structures to avoid manipulation by kinship relations and political affinities.
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005
• The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to protect women from domestic violence.
• It was brought into force by the Indian government from 26 October 2006.
• The Act provides for the first time in Indian law a definition of “domestic violence”, with this definition being broad and including not only physical violence, but also other forms of violence such as emotional/verbal, sexual, and economic abuse.
• It is a civil law meant primarily for protection orders and not meant to penalize criminally.
There are two fundamental problems with this law which paves way for its misuse
• It is overwhelmingly gender biased in favor of women.
• The definition of domestic violence is too expensive.
Current scenario Misuse of Anti-dowry law: World Health Organization report on Elder Abuse finds misuse of dowry laws by daughter-in-law as the main reason for the elder abuse in India.
• As per the Union home ministry, there were 361 cases across India in the year 2015 under the Dowry Prohibition Act that was declared as false cases by the police after investigation.
• India’s Supreme Court has ordered the authorities to stop misuse of the anti-dowry law after concerns that a large number of false cases were being filed.
• On 27th July, 2017, the Supreme Court asked the states to set up a family welfare committee in each district to address these concerns.
• District Legal Services Authorities will set up the panels.
• There should be a designated officer to investigate such complaints and more caution should be exercised while dealing with matters of bail.
Objectives of the panels
• The committee will sift the genuine cases from the trivial ones.
• The complaints police or magistrates receive under 498A must be referred to the panels, which will look into them and submit reports.
• Till report of the committee is received, no arrest should normally be executed.
• Bail must be granted in one day, regardless of whether the dowry is recovered or not.
• The committee must speak to all parties involved in a harassment case because “uncalled for arrest may ruin the chances of settlement”.
• Personal appearance of all family members and particularly outstation ones may not be required for trial.
• To be noted: These directions will not apply in offenses in where there is tangible physical injury or death.
Demerit of having a welfare committee
• By far the most devastating impact of appointing welfare committees drawn from the civil society is their potential to become non-state vigilante groups.
• It has happened with the “gau rakshaks”, who have received recognition by law to perform the functions of cow protection.
Ill effects for misuse of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence
• It has resulted into large number of divorce cases. Once the members of the husband’s family are arrested, chances of surviving the marriage became remote and marriage comes to an end.
• It increases corruption in police and society as police threaten persons involved that if they would not pay money, their bail will be delayed.
• Many lawyers, in lieu of getting commission on the money received by women by misusing this provision, encourages to complaints. It causes disgrace to profession of advocates.
• Many suicide cases have been registered due to the harassment by women in such false cases.
• The academicians need to expose and reveal unnatural and unreasonable growth of law.
• With view to granting equal status to women, laws consciously or unconsciously are drafted having effect of gender-bias.
• Now-a-days, filing cases under the Domestic Violence Act by women has become a common one.
• Therefore, a neutral and an unprejudiced law is needed to protect the genuine victims of domestic violence irrespective of their gender.
• Time-bound trial should be made a statutory requirement in all these domestic violence laws in order to avoid unnecessary litigation.
• The trial under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 should be made in pursuant to the Evidence Act instead of the Criminal Procedure Code so that the sole testimony of women is not considered true but is backed by proper evidence.
• This is a very sensitive issue. Even though it is true that sometimes a few provisions of any law can be misused but the law rightly serves women security.
Violence against women is an extreme manifestation of gender inequality in society and a serious violation of fundamental human rights. Not all groups of women become safe spaces to discuss violence. SHGs must first become enabling spaces where the economic and social concerns of women are stated as priorities.
Freedom from violence must be stated as a necessary component of empowerment. It takes time for most women to recognize that violence is unacceptable. To enable them to understand this, there must be investment in specific training, and gender analysis processes. SHGs are mostly seen as administrative entities. Their social role can be enhanced to tackle the widespread problem of IPV.