BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL
Jaan Maria Boban
First year, Symbiosis Society’s Law College
The recent Act as regards Domestic Violence has brought into the limelight this age old problem faced by women from all sections of society. What exactly constitutes domestic violence against another person? Domestic violence can be defined as “abusive behavior - emotional, psychological, physical, or sexual - that one person in an intimate relationship uses in order to control the other. It takes many different forms and includes behaviors such as threats, name-calling, preventing contact with family or friends, withholding money, actual or threatened physical harm and sexual assault.”
Domestic Violence can be physical violence such as slapping, beating, strangling etc or sexual violence such as coerced sex through threats, intimidation etc. or emotional violence including threats, confinement to home etc and economic violence which includes acts such as denial of funds, food, basic needs etc.
The common thread that goes through is the pattern of abusive behaviour which keeps one partner in a position of power over the other partner through the use of fear, intimidation and control.
Domestic Violence against Women is a global issue reaching across national boundaries as well as socio-economic, cultural, racial and class distinctions. It is a problem that knows no boundaries. It is not an isolated, individual event but rather a pattern of repeated behaviors that the abuser uses to gain power and control over the victim.
RESPONSE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN INDIA
Domestic Violence is one of the gravest and the most pervasive of human right violations in India. Most victims of domestic violence are women who come from all social and economic backgrounds. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 was passed by the Parliament in August 2005 but came into effect from 26th October 2006 for the purpose of protecting women against physical, emotional/verbal, sexual and economic violence.
SALIENT FEATURES OF THE ACT
The below mentioned are the important features of the Act.
1 The Act seeks to cover those women who are or have been in a relationship with the abuser where both parties have lived together in a shared household and are related by consanguinity, marriage ,in addition to this, relationship with family members living together as a joint family are also included. Even those women who are sisters, widows, mothers, single women, or living with the abuser are entitled to get legal protection under the proposed Act.
2 "Domestic violence" includes actual abuse or the threat of abuse that is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic. Harassment by way of unlawful dowry demands to the woman or her relatives is also covered.
3 One of the most important features - Woman’s right to secure housing. She has the right to reside in the matrimonial or shared household, whether or not she has any title or rights in the household. This right is secured by a residence order, which is passed by a court.
4 Power of the court to pass protection orders that prevent the abuser from aiding or committing an act of domestic violence, isolates all the assets used by both the parties.
5 Provides for appointment of Protection Officers and NGOs to provide assistance to the woman through medical examination, legal aid, safe shelter, etc.
6 Provides for breach of protection order or interim protection order by the respondent as a cognizable and non-bailable offence.
Any offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to twenty thousand rupees or with both. Similarly, non-compliance or discharge of duties by the Protection Officer is also sought to be made an offence under the Act with similar punishment.
The highlighting point of this Act is that it not only provides protection to women who are legally married but also those who are in live-in relationship, The new law also addresses sexual abuse of children, or forcing girls to marry against their wishes as well. They are entitled to get legal protection.
The enactment of the law is a historic step towards ending gender discrimination. The law, if implemented properly, would be able to address not only issues directly related to domestic violence also many other problems faced by women, including trafficking, child marriage, public health and alcohol abuse. This act could be misused but that depends on how the loopholes are dealt with. The effectiveness of this act can only be judged once the implemented plans are put into action and the authorities in charge of enforcing the Act carry out their duty in a rightful manner. There’s a need to sensitize the police and judiciary in order to make the law a success.
The new Act has been formed keeping the current relationship culture in India and the irregularities in previous Domestic Violence Laws, in mind. The government should make people aware of the provisions of the new act through mass media. The women in villages need to be made aware of their rights and the various provisions available under the act. The message should reach grass-root levels otherwise the efforts made would be meaningless.
The law is indeed a bold step taken by the government and is written in a beautiful manner but only time will tell whether the Law is a paper tiger or if it really works.