Disclaimer: The names used in this article are hypothetical and the incidents stated are used purely for the purpose of understanding. Any resemblance of the said names or incidents in real life are purely coincidental and not intentional to harm the reputation of any person living or dead. The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the author and do not constitute a legal advice.
In today’s ultra-modern age of the 21st Century where women are not only the equal workforce but they are also considered to be more efficient and thanks to the women’s rights activists we have legislations which give absolute right to a women over her own body and hence her consent is primary and conclusive in case of an abortion of a foetus. We are recognising the basic but significant medical needs of women through the #FoP campaign which talks about giving the First day of Period off to working women.
In the light of these new age laws for women, one of the most significant Law is on Domestic Violence against women. During my work on the project on Lok Adalats, it was significantly observed that Domestic Violence is highly prevalent among the modern, educated and financially independent women. But there is no reporting or open discussion about the abuse due to two major reasons. Firstly women consider talking about this as a social stigma and secondly lack of awareness about their rights. The other side of the coin also shows that there is increasing abuse of process of law where few women are using it as a weapon to harass their husbands/partners. But again there are other laws on marriage, custody of children etc which have had similar effect.
Hillary Clinton once famously said, ‘Human Rights are Women’s Rights and Women’s Rights are Human Rights. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely – and the right to be heard’.
The Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005, famously referred as the ‘DV Act’ was enacted on the basis of several International Conventions such as the The Vienna Accord of 1994, The Bejing Declaration and the Platform for Action (1995) and the recommendation by the United Nations Committee on Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Before this law was brought into force, any woman who was subject to cruelty by her husband or his relatives, could seek relief under the S. 498A of the Indian Penal Code. The DV Act stems from the fundamental rights of equality, right against discrimination and right to life and personal liberty guaranteed under Articles 14, 15 and 21 the Constitution of India.
Under the DV Act Domestic Violence includes actual abuse or even threat of any physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic abuse. Which means it’s not necessary to be physically harmed for being a victim of domestic violence. Any or all the above categories of abuse constitutes as domestic violence.
Illustration 1: Shanti is a school teacher and lives with her husband and 2 children. Shanti’s husband is a well earning Businessman, still he refuses to share or pay for any expenses in the house or for the children. Shanti is a victim of economic abuse and hence can get relief under the DV Act.
Illustration 2: Shanti is a housewife and stays in a shared household with her husband, children and in-laws. Shanti’s husband is a post master. Shanti’s in-laws are always taunting her for being poor and forcing her to get dowry for the husband. Shanti is also being subject to name calling and ill treatment from her in-laws for having both her children as females and not having a son. Here although Shanti is never physically abused but still she is a victim of severe mental/emotional and economic abuse. Shanti can get relief under the DV Act.
Illustration 3: Shanti is an MBA degree holder and works in a good portfolio in an MNC. Shanti is financially independent and contributes to the household expenses. Shanti is always taunted and ridiculed for not being able to cook tasty food for her in-laws and husband. One day Shanti’s husband threatens to drive Shanti out of the house for not cooking food as per his liking. Here Shanti although not physically abused is a victim of Domestic Violence and can get relief under the DV Act.
The above illustrations make it amply clear that scope of DV Act is quite wide. The DV Act defines and states that any woman who is or has been in a domestic relationship with the abuser (person who commits domestic violence) and who alleges being victim of domestic violence from the abuser is an ‘aggrieved person’ and can claim relief under the DV Act.
It is very important to know and understand that any person who has witnessed or believes that an act of domestic violence has been, is being or is likely to be committed then that person can complain about the incident of domestic violence on behalf of the victim. Such a person may not be related in any way to the victim and is protected against any civil or criminal liability for giving information of an act of domestic violence in good faith. The complaint of domestic violence can be made to the concerned Protection Officer appointed by the State Government.
The DV Act defines and states that any person who is or has been in a domestic relationship with above said aggrieved person is liable under this Act if found guilty of committing domestic violence. This is the latest amendment made in year 2016 in the DV Act, where not only an Adult Male but Women also can be prosecuted under the DV Act. But at the same time the Act does not provide for the Male/Husband and in-laws to complain against his wife or daughter-in-law under the DV Act. This latest amendment has further widened the scope of the DV Act and can be misinterpreted or misused if not used diligently.
The DV Act can be a true boon for women who are suffering the unseen violence and are left to the mercy of their own family members. The DV Act provides for several reliefs such as monetary compensation, protection orders, most significant being the relief of getting right to shelter and equitable share to reside in the shared household whether the aggrieved woman may or may not be legally entitled to the same.
I will discuss more about the relief of residence in my next article. I am looking forward for the feedback, discussions and/comments from my readers.
Until next time…’Smile and the world smiles with you’.