Domestic violence laws in India and how they operate
Domestic violence is too widespread a phenomenon in India, and it is too regular an occurrence in most communities for it to be taken to be something truly cruel and heinous. It has become a habit, almost, to hear of such cases, and tut about them for a bit before going on with our lives.
The sexist ideology is so deeply entrenched in the societal mindset, that a man beating a woman up is considered to be natural in most places. While amongst the lower classes this issue is so widespread that it is not even considered an issue, even amongst the higher classes, domestic violence does exist.
In India, for a very long time, the idea that domestic violence should be addressed at a legal, judicial level had not set in. It was such a common occurrence and patriarchy was so deeply entrenched within not just male mindsets, but also female mindsets, that it was almost considered to be rightful for a man to beat up, or emotionally and psychologically abuse his wife, or any other female member of his family. These episodes would more often than not have dowry as the root cause of the unrest. And the practice of dowry itself is so deeply entrenched within the culture of the society, that violence because of dowry was considered legitimate.
Despite the acceptance and resignation to domestic violence, however, women’s movements started growing in strength and scope, and these movements rallied for all those victims of domestic violence who had been suffering in silence for years. More and more victims came up to demand their right to justice, and this lead to the formation of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. The parliament passed this act in 2005, and the president’s formal approval was given in the same year. According to the act, the respondent will be held guilty for domestic violence if the respondent physically, or otherwise, harms his wife/partner in any way, if he pushes the person to the brink of resorting to immoral tactics, and if he harms the person in any other way. This shall not be taken into account if the respondent did what he did as self-defence.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was passed keeping in mind not just wives but also accommodates domestic violence against live-in partners, and because of the extent of domestic violence in the country, it also includes other female relatives such as sisters, mothers, and widows. The act also covers forms of domestic violence other than physical, namely, emotional, sexual, verbal and even economic. The act also makes sure that no amount of domestic violence is caused due to the practice of dowry, which in itself has been made illegal. Some important clauses in the document, which have been created, keeping the social scenario of the country in mind, are, the clause which states that a woman can live in the matrimonial house and that her permission to live there can also be brought in from a legal point of view. The court also provides the victim with all kinds of protection, including monetary protection, and the respondent is not allowed to disturb the victim, or people close to the victim, in any way. The act also covers support in the form of government bodies and NGOs which are to get in touch with the victim to help her. But the problem is not so much of the law as much as the implementation of the law.
According to a census conducted by a body of the UNICEF in 2012, 57% of the young boys believe that it is perfectly justified for a man to hit his wife, while as many as 53% of the girls say the same thing. The mindset is still bent in such a way that social evils such as domestic violence need to be removed through an elimination of the sexist attitude which prevails throughout the country. It is only then that these comprehensive acts will be used to its fullest potential.