This article discusses the various forms of abuse which women have to face in
today’s society. Women have had to deal with both mental and physical abuse
since time immemorial. It shows how it can be difficult for the woman to prove
in the courts, private incidents which occur in the confines of homes. The
children in the family are also badly and negatively affected by these incidents
and develop psychological conditions themselves.
If there are problems of any kind of addiction to substances like alcohol and
drugs, then the condition and violence worsen. Many international treaties have
been signed to protect women from violence. Before 2005, women had no remedies
for the violence which they had suffered. But the of Protection of Women from
Domestic Violence Act 2005 aims to include all women and to sought remedies for
the violence which was tolerated. Although this Act was a good initiative and
has helped women a lot, there are still some loopholes which have to be
rectified for it to achieve its maximum potential.
Goddesses are worshiped in India, but Indian women have almost no protection
when it comes to domestic violence due to the lack of proper laws and its
implementation. There is a history of physical and mental violence against
women. Physical means something related to the human body, thus physical
violence is something which harms the body of the victim. It is done
intentionally to assert power when there is an imbalance of power and the weaker
person is hurt by the stronger one for maintaining the dominance of their power.
Domestic violence can be both physical as well as mental abuse. Even in modern
India, women are unable to escape the various types of crimes throughout their
lifetime like discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual harassment, human
trafficking, dowry deaths, female foeticide, mental violence and social
humiliation. This threatens the safety of lives of women throughout our country
and their well-being.
Physical abuse can be proved more easily in courts of law as compared to mental
torture as it is visible, but psychological abuse is equally traumatizing for
the lady as she is scarred for life. Women have to deal with insults by family
members and public humiliation, far more than the men, especially if they are
They are forced into isolation and not allowed to go outside as there are limits
on their mobility. They are always in a continuous threat of violence being
committed on them, both in the house as well as outside their homes, and also
denied economic resources. They are left helpless at the mercy of their male
These acts may be subtle but they are insidious in nature. As it can be
difficult to prove the mental abuse done, the woman is left powerless and the
abuser contends in court that the woman is not mentally stable. Even the kids in
the family are affected by this and suffer from anxiety and PTSD. Later on in
life, they too become aggressive and this cycle of abuse continues. Thus,
domestic violence is an initial stage of crime which is an abuse of power done
in a pattern of behaviors.
A national family health survey showed that; if the man suffers from drug
addiction, then it becomes even more difficult for the woman as she has to deal
with financial instability as well as abuse by her husband, when he is not in a
sane state of mind. Women whose husbands are addicted to alcohol are more likely
to be abused than women whose partners do not suffer from any addictions.
Unfortunately, in India, till the year 2005, if women suffered from any kind of
violence, the only way for them to get away from the problem was to file for
divorce or punish the perpetrator under Sec 498A of the Indian Penal Code but
did not receive any legal remedy. This was because there was no legal remedy for
the victims before 2005. Even the civil law did not address this problem in
whole. On top of all that, only legally married women could apply for Sec 498A.
Thus, there was differentiation between the classes of women who could benefit
from these laws.
In international treaties like Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), all classes of women are protected
in “violence against women”, thus if Indian laws don’t do that, it is a
violation of their fundamental rights to be protected against abuse of all forms
and not protecting their freedom. Thereafter, Protection of Women against
Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was brought about and it gave legal recognition not
only to live in relations, but it was also applied to mothers and sisters of the
Sec 5 of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 has defined
domestic violence as any act which causes hurt or injury or causes mental or
physical abuse. In Bhartiben Tamboli Vs State of Gujarat, it was ruled that this
Act has a very wide ambit and remedies have been given to the victims, which was
not included in the earlier laws. Under this Act, the victims have a right to
obtain free legal services, as per the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987. The
victim also has rights to go to a protection officer, who should preferably be a
woman, and find out about her legal rights.
As per Sec 14 of this Act, the magistrate can also ask the victim or the
perpetrator to receive counselling sessions with an expert. The judge can pass a
residence order where the accused is asked to move out of his shared household
with the victim. Monetary reliefs can also be provided to the victim as
compensation for the abuse suffered by her. If the woman has kids with the
accused, then the magistrate can make an application and order the custody of
the kids to be given to the victim.
But if the judge feels that the presence of the accused can make the kids
uncomfortable, then he can denythe visitation rights of the accused. Ex parte
and interim orders can also be granted if it is felt that such abuse can
continue in the future. If any of these protection orders are breached, it can
attract maximum fine of twenty thousand rupees or punishment which can be
extended to a year.
The perpetrators in domestic violence are anyone who is in the adult age group.
It is important to note that some of them suffer from psychological problems
like depression, bipolar disorders or post traumatic stress if they have
suffered from abuse themselves in the past. It does not constitute only men as
these acts can be done by women also, like mother-in-law or sister-in-law. This
is because of the wrong perception of women in the state which is to bring down
In Sandhya Wankhede Vs Manoj Wankhede, it was held that the word
‘relative’ which is used in Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act,
2005 has a wide scope and thus, the complaint which was made against the female
members of the husband’s family is valid under the Act.
Tragically, men do not report these crimes being committed on them due to the
toxic masculine mentality which prevails in our society. It is estimated that
more than 8 lakh men have been victims in such cases. One should bear in mind
that some women have to inflict violence out of necessity in self-defence when
their partners were the ones who started the violence in the first place.
There have also been many criticisms about this Protection of Women from
Domestic Violence Act that it is allegedly used by educated women to falsely
fabricate their husbands. Statistics have shown that the cases reported for
domestic violence have rapidly increased since the year 2006. It is also
condemned for being only in civil nature when it was originally intended to be
in both criminal as well as civil. It is mostly civil, except when the
protection orders are breached, only then the criminal aspects apply or when
there is some other criminal offence involved in the case.
Protection officers are given the authority to properly implement and administer
this Act. They are usually government employees appointed by the state and work
part time. Thus, they are not qualified enough to fit into this sensitive role
as they have to look after the victim and provide services like counselling,
medical help and give them legal aid. They also have to assist the court and
instigate for action to be taken for the victim.
Hence, full time officers should be appointed who should be well versed in
dealing with such grave matters. It is also challenged that this law violates
Art 14 and 15 of the Constitution as only women can file a complaint under this
Act and it is discriminatory towards men. It assumes that such violence is not
committed on the male populace and only men can be the perpetrators in such a
In the case of Kamlesh Devi Vs Jaipal, 2019, it was held by the Supreme
court that there should be proof and not mere assertion that the accused in the
case under D.V. Act are family members of the woman and in an important
judgement passed by the Delhi High court of Binita Dass Vs Uttam Kumar,
it was stated that maintenance cannot be denied to the wife even if she is
educated and is capable of getting a job for herself.
This similar observation was held in Supreme court case of Megha Khandelwal
v. Rajat Khandelwal. The Calcutta High court in the case of Haimanti Mal Vs
State of West Bengal awarded one lakh rupees compensation to the victim who
suffered from mental agony by her husband as per Sec 22 of the D.V. Act which
provides remedies of compensation for damages suffered. It was held that when
the compensation is being determined, it should be rational in nature.
In an interesting case of Manju Sharma Vs Vipin in Delhi High court, the
husband who actually earned a crore annually, showed his income as ten thousand
rupees for giving maintenance under D.V. Act to his wife. When his real high
income was revealed, the maintenance amount was increased threefold. The Bombay
High court has held in Sadhana Vs Hemant that a divorcee does not have any right
to file a case under the D.V. Act.
In a very recent judgement of Satish Chander Ahuja Vs Sneha Ahuja of
2020, a three judge bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan of the Supreme court
of India has held that even if a Residence order is passed under Protection of
Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, it does not stop the victim from starting
or continuing any proceedings related to this subject matter. The petitioner
filed a suit against the defendant, who was his daughter in law; demanding for
injunction and mesne profits because the defendant had complained under the
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.
In the D.V. case, the appellant was ordered not to dispossess the defendant. The
appellant pleaded that the occupation of his daughter in law on the property in
dispute is very lenient in nature and the daughter in law is not entitled to the
benefit of residence, and the father in law stated that he has no responsibility
of maintaining the woman.
On the other hand, the woman said that she has a right to stay in the house as
it is a shared household under Sec 2 (s) of Protection of Women from Domestic
Violence Act 2005.
It can be summarized that the Act is actually very promising and can be amended
to reach its full potential which it was aiming for, at the time of its
implementation. It was brought about in good faith at the time when there were
no other remedies available for women. This law has combined the civil remedies
and criminal procedure to ensure protection of women. There has to be proper and
widespread application of this law to succeed.
Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organization noted that
local police officers in India do not start an investigation by filing an FIR,
specially if the victim is not from a privileged background. If all these issues
are solved, only then we can surely deliver timely justice to the women of our
country who have suffered abuse time and again.
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