By Harsh Dabas
Searching for Help;
On 18th April, Tara felt that it was enough and that the time had come to go online and hit the helpline for Domestic Violence survivors, just 3 weeks after PM Modi announced a lockdown on 25th March.
Her job usually kept her out of the household for most of the day, and the same was with her husband. However, this was barely a barrier for the latter to verbally abuse the former, including getting physical at times and harassing her for a long time.
However, everything escalated during the restrictions and lockdowns, as the harassment by her in-laws increased commensurately, and that’s when she decided to reach out for help and, to her luck, she found a Facebook page called, Invisible Scars and took the matter to them.
She was made aware of various legislations and restraint steps that could clamp down on the abuse and harassment that she faced from her in-laws, such as legal separation, police complaints, and even counseling sessions, as she recalls in a BBC report.
According to WHO, one in every three women in the world faces domestic violence, ranging from physical to sexual abuse.
In the Indian Households;
During the ’80s, there was an increase in reported incidents of dowry deaths, domestic violence, and marital rapes in India. Keeping the prevalent scenario, the Government decided to amend the Indian Penal Code, so a new section, i.e., Section 498 was inserted in the IPC.
To this date, this section remains the only stalwart to recognize domestic violence against women as a criminal offense. Also, the CrPC and the Indian Evidence Act were
altered and amended to deal with domestic violence matters more effectively.
Sec-498, although it’s the only section in IPC which deals with domestic violence, set the road ahead, and provided an early scope and definition for the cruelty faced by thousands of women in households across India.
Big Brother on steroids?
Another great revelation came in 2005, in the form of an Act, named the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
For starters, it is fundamentally the same as Sec-498 of IPC, but where Sec-498 was for
an average person in terms of scope and definitions, PWDVA-2005 is complete and absolute in
itself as it has more scope and definitions for the same offense and extends to more than just the victim.
The law extends to women living in a household, such as sisters, mothers, widows, and puts illicit dowry demands, made to the female or her relatives, in its definition as an offense.
It emerged as a major breakthrough by the media and the feminists, partly due to its deterrent provisions and innovative approach. Also, PWDVA-2005 puts the conduct left out by Section 498 as an offense, such as Marital Rape that isn’t covered by Section 498.
Over the years, the 2005 Act moved the road ahead in terms of legal recourse, for Domestic Violence victims. However, there were a few gaps inside which prevented its full-
Indira Jaising, the former additional solicitor general, said- “The law, when it was passed, was extremely futuristic for two reasons. One, it sought to collapse the gap between civil and criminal law. Two, it moved away from the adversarial system of justice and the judge was expected to have more of a role in an inquiry with the help of protection officers. That has not happened yet,”
“That’s where I would want the law to move. That’s my vision for this law.”, she added later.
Something worth thinking about;
To understand the issue of Domestic Violence, to its core, one must delve deeper into this social evil’s root, i.e., towards the causes.
There are various causes and the first is the sociological aspect- anger, economic hardships, dominating attitude of one partner over the other, lack of trust, and conjugal responsibilities.
There is a cultural aspect too, such as the desire for a male child, lack of awareness for the same, inherent male superiority complex and this all triggers the violence.
But, one of the worst impacts of Domestic Violence is on the children witnessing the violence in their homes, as research has shown that there are both short and long-term effects on cognitive, mental, and emotional health.
It has been observed that children may face difficulty in sleeping due to shock and fear, anxiety, and flashbacks of violence. While, the children feel insecure, guilty, and helpless, some may turn into an abuser as they saw in their household and become overly aggressive, which is a setback for them in the long run.
First of all, people need to change their mindset from – “it’s a relationship issue”- to – “it’s a crime and has legal consequences”.
There must be a reliable and rigid provision for emotional support, and it’s important to get to their aid at the time when they are at their most vulnerable and in need of support. Assistance must also be provided to victims, by self-help groups; through sessions to deal with domestic violence and childcare provisions. Another cure is the use of restraining orders against the abuser and legal assistance at Legal Authority Centres. Only then, the evil of Domestic Violence can be reduced, if not annihilated from India.