The Chairperson of the National Commission for Women, in a recent statement said that the number of domestic violence cases have increased significantly following the implementation of the lockdown. Out of the 250 complaints received by the commission, 69 complaints were regarding domestic violence perpetrated against them. With this rampant rise in cases, it is important to take a look at the laws pertaining to domestic violence in our country.
The prevailing law with regards to domestic violence is The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. The Act was passed in the year 2005 and came into force in 2006 after a strong public movement in support of the legislation. The Act broadens the definition of domestic violence to include any familial relationship and not restrict it to the marital relationship of a husband and wife. It includes mothers, wives, sisters-in law etc. it also includes couples in a live-in relationship. The Act provides immediate and to an extent short term relief to victims of domestic violence. The other significant law which addresses violence against women is the Indian Penal Code, 1860 specifically Section 498 A, which makes the harassment of a woman in her marital home a non-bailable, cognizable offence. Most lawyers do not use this section of the IPC and hence the PWDVA tends to provide the necessary relief.
Fifteen years after the passing of the law, the situation does not seem to have changed, because inspite of the law being progressive in nature by providing for free legal aid in situations of domestic violence or providing Magistrates with the power to issue protection orders the system is still embedded with patriarchal thinking and norms. The process of implementing the legislation has multiple stakeholders starting from the victims who report the said crimes to non-governmental organisations who assist the law enforcement agencies through counselling and other services. But this entire system fails when victims are either not aware or are hesitant to go to the concerned authorities. In a study by the International Centre for Research on Women, they discovered that in most cases the victims do not go to law enforcement authorities as a first resort. This either means there is a lack of belief in the system or lack of awareness or a combination of the two.
The judiciary too is part of the problem with the judges having the power to issue the kind of order they would like to issue, they do so without completely understanding the kind of abuse the victims face as they have been part of this patriarchal system for far too long.
We’ve come a long way from a time where women had no political and civil rights to being pegged as equal under the law, yet we as a society cannot ensure they are protected. It is about time the system changed for good.
Tags : domestic violence, gender based violence, NCW, ICRW