When one talks about domestic violence, it is a systematic method to instil fear and subservience in an individual in a domestic setting like a household.Behind this violence can range from the compulsion to maintain the power structure of an individual over the other or to instil/coerce another individual for self-gratification purposes. Domestic Violence in India typically means violence suffered by an individual at the hands of their biological relatives but specifically covers the violence suffered by women from the male members or relatives in her family.
Domestic violence has been defined by the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Prior to the Domestic Violence Act, the law governing cases of domestic violence in India were governed by Section 498-A of the IPC. There are two shortcomings of Section 498-A. First being the absence of any provision providing relief or compensation for the victim under this provision. Secondly, section 498-A was applicable only to married women. To overcome these defects the domestic violence Act, 2005 was enacted by the Centre. The reliefs provided by the Domestic Violence Act include shelter, medical facilities, protection order, compensation order, etc.
Types of Domestic Violence against women
Physical abuse: Physical abuse is the most prominently visible form of domestic violence against women. It has been defined in the Domestic Violence Act to include any act that causes bodily pain or danger to life, limb or health or development of the victim. Assault, criminal force, and criminal intimidation are forms of physical abuse.
Sexual abuse: Sexual abuse against women is in the nature of sexual/reproductive coercion. Generally, marital rape should come within the ambit of sexual abuse. However, marital rape is not outlawed unless the wife is below 15 years of age. According to the Domestic Violence Act, sexual abuse is any abuse of a sexual nature that ‘abuses, humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the dignity of a woman.
Verbal and emotional abuse: Verbal abuse includes remarks/threats made by the domestic relations during domestic violence against women. Verbal abuse further leads to emotional abuse and in an incredibly common form of domestic violence from the human rights perspective.
Causes of Domestic Violence in India
There is no uniform or single reason that leads to domestic violence. It is a combination of various factors that lead to perpetration of domestic violence against women.
Sociological/Behavioural Factors: The sociological, behavioural and cultural factors include factors like anger issues/aggressive attitude etc, difference in status, controlling/dominating nature, drug addiction, upbringing and psychological instability (bipolarism, depression, stress, etc.) among others. Neglect of conjugal responsibilities due to extra-marital affairs or lack of trust also contributes to domestic violence.
Religious Factors: A subtle form of domination on women, if not direct and glaring, reflects in the religious sanctifications. This also contributes to perpetration of domestic violence against women.
Cultural Factors: Cultural Factors leading to domestic violence include the desire for a male child. This obsession resulting from the lack of awareness and inherent male superiority leads to perpetration of domestic violence against women. This is not an exhaustive list of factors and the motivations or triggers behind domestic violence may vary.
Dowry: Dowry is a form of socio-cultural factor. But it becomes important to separately mention it because of the rampant domestic violence cases resulting from illegal demand of dowry. This was realised by the Parliament also because dowry- related domestic violence has been made a separate head in the scope of abuse resulting in domestic violence under the Domestic Violence Act.
Under the Domestic Violence Act, any woman who is aggrieved or anyone who has been a witness to the act can approach the nearest Police Station, Protection Officer and a Service Provider. The court can appoint a protection officer to enforce its orders. The protection officer is a special post created to serve as a liaison between victims of domestic violence and the system. One can also file a complaint directly with the magistrate for obtaining orders of reliefs under the Domestic Violence Act. Anyone who provides information about the offence committed to the concerned authorities is absolved of any civil/criminal liability
Can a man lodge a case for Domestic Violence?
The Domestic Violence Act, 2005 makes no provision for men to lodge cases of domestic violence against women owing largely to the fact that The Domestic Violence Act is primarily welfare legislation. Although, an aggrieved man can file for divorce/Judicial Separation on the ground of Cruelty, i.e., Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act(2).
Indian domestic violence laws are silent on the protection required to men from domestic violence. However, the Supreme Court of India has recognized the need for protection to men from acts of domestic violence in Narayan Ganesh Dastane V. Sucheta Narayan Dastane and more recently in Hiral P Harsora vs Kusum Narottamdas Harsora. In the former case, the Apex Court for the first-time recognized cruelty against men. Cruelty and violence against men should be recognized by law in clear words for gender-neutral society. Additionally, with the decriminalization of homosexuality in India, it becomes pertinent that the domestic violence advocacy of men’s right for protection from domestic violence gains traction.
What acts constitute violence against men?
Violence against men is not considered serious because of its different manifestation. In most cases of violence against men, more mental, verbal, and emotional violence occurs as compared to physical violence. The impact of violence against men is less apparent and is less likely to come to the attention of others. In some cases, humiliating a man emotionally can be more devastating than physical abuse. Unkind and cruel words hurt in different ways and linger in different ways. In most cases, men are more deeply affected by emotional abuse than physical abuse.
Consequences of Domestic Violence against women
Short Term Consequences: The short-term physical effects of violence can include minor injuries or serious conditions. They can include bruises, cuts, broken bones, or injuries to organs and other parts inside the body. Some physical injuries are difficult or impossible to see without scans, x-rays, or other tests done by a doctor or nurse. The long-emotional and verbal abuse might affect the woman’s mood and children’s mood in their day to day activities & might also reduce the efficiency
Long-term Consequences: Violence against women, including sexual or physical violence, is linked to many long-term health problems. Long-term mental health effects of violence against women can include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression or Anxiety.
This can further lead to the problem of substance abuse and drug addiction. Sexual violence can result in irreparable injury to sexual violence and a loss of self-worth