Domestic Violence: The Hidden Pandemic
Domestic violence refers to any form of harassment that occurs between adults or adolescents in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship. With the introduction of section 498-A into the Indian Penal Code in 1983, it became a criminal offence. This section specifies that a husband or relative of husband who subjected a woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
Women are covered by the protection of women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Domestic violence affects not only Women, but also men, teenagers. On an average more than 2 million women and 8,00,000 men are subjected to domestic violence with death rates rising at an unprecedented pace. Domestic violence issues still exist in our country in various forms which I will be dealing in my article.
Any aggressive act, abusive behaviour, or harassment in different forms between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality, is considered domestic violence, it is committed by someone in the victim's domestic circle and they maintain a domestic relationship.
It is not just the physical violence or the visible injuries which are treated to be domestic violence but actions such as taking control over the spouse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or isolation and coercion, threatening would all come under domestic violence. This is not just pertaining to an area, a city or a country this is a global topic that transcends national borders, socio-economic, educational, ethnic, and class divisions it is widely spread and strongly rooted.
Most of time it's the women who suffer either in their own house or in their in -laws' homes by intimate partners in various forms. United Nations report says that around 70% of women around the globe have suffered domestic violence at some point in their life.
Intimate partner abuse or domestic violence is most often caused by marital dispute or discord in a relationship. Studies have shown that domestic violence mostly happens in a family with low level income and low educational level, so in situations when a woman has a higher educational status, she tends to be less affected by such problems but few other studies have shown that women with higher educational qualification are abused more by their intimate partners.
In India, for example, approximately 75% of working women are harassed as a result of their job status. The reason for this can be attributed to prestige where men feel that they are dominated by the working women. There are few men who are also subjected to domestic violence by their partners but they don't report it as in a male-dominated society they consider reporting to be shameful.
In the present scenario, the pandemic and the lockdown has led to increase in the cases of domestic violence, the population has been confined to their homes as a result of the pandemic, which has resulted in a rise in domestic abuse, making it more common and dangerous. In the month of April 2020, Europe saw a 60 percent rise in emergency calls from women who had been victims of domestic abuse.
The reasons to this could be because of increase in stress levels as there had been serious problems faced by the citizens. The situation in India was even worse where the cases of domestic violence had an increase of 100% as per the reports of National Commission of women of India. Measures were taken by NGO'S, Police and other higher authorities but it did not show the results as expected.
There are several women all over the globe who have not even come forward to register a case. Domestic violence affects more than 55 percent of Indian women, mostly in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and other northern states. Apart from men and women, children are also subjected to domestic violence. According to a UNICEF report from2006, 275 million children worldwide are vulnerable to domestic violence. Children who have been abused are more likely to develop distrust problems later in life.
Women are protected by various acts one such Act is Protection of women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 or Prevention of Domestic Violence Act 2005 (DV Act) was enacted Under Section 3 of the DV Act, here the woman should be in a domestic relationship or should have been in such relationship with the person who subjected her to domestic violence, section 3 of this act gives definition of domestic violence. This law protects such women and keep them in safe hands.
There are few drawbacks to this law, for instance, marital rape is not specifically defined even if sexual abuse is considered as domestic violence, also this act is not gender neutral in a country where even men, children are subjected to domestic violence.
There are other laws too which protect women from domestic violence such as:
Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961
The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 etc
Children too have many acts which prohibit abuse against children which covers majorly all forms of abuse against children.
Despite numerous technological advances and numerous laws and regulations aimed at improving the lives of women and children, violence against them continues to rise on a daily basis. There has been increase in the literacy rates since the past few years but there's no decrease in rate of domestic violence.
Women being major victims, men, teenagers are also victims of domestic violence. Women should be encouraged to come forward to report the offences happening against them, only then necessary action can be taken and they can be protected. The laws should be neutral having with regard to all genders, including men, to encourage men to speak out against the atrocities which their partners have suffered. Indian laws still have to be improvised so that victims subjected to domestic violence can grow and evolve in a safer environment.