Domestic Violence Act 2005 – Thanks, India!

| September 8, 2013

Article by Suman Das

What does it mean?

The Domestic Violence Act 2005 was brought into force by the Indian Government since Oct- 2006. Primarily meant to provide protection to the wife or female live-in partner from domestic violence at the hands of the husband or male live-in partner or his relatives, also extends to women who are sisters, widows, or mothers. It includes actual abuse or threat, whether sexual, verbal, emotional, or economic.

Pointers to remember

  • The expression ‘a relative’ in the Act, holds for a female relative as well. Hence, the wife can also get the husband’s mother/ sister / other female relatives prosecuted
  • “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 would also be covered under this definition. Hence, any form of harassment or violence can be trusted merely on the basis of the word-of-mouth of the aggrieved
  • The Act provides for breach of protection order or interim protection order by the respondent as a cognizable and non-bail able offence 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
  • Physical abuse” means any act or conduct which is of such a nature as to cause bodily pain, harm or danger to life, limb, or health or impair the health or development of the victim and includes assault, criminal intimidation and criminal force. Hence, if there is a verbal threat, or, an actual one, the aggrieved can get the husband prosecuted
  • The draft Act provides for appointment of Protection Officers and NGOs to provide assistance to the woman w.r.t medical examination, legal aid, safe shelter, etc. Hence, if you are out of shelter due to an abuse by your husband, these NGOs can provide you shelter and interim legal aid
  • The other relief envisaged under the Act is that of the power of the court to pass protection orders that prevent the abuser from aiding or committing an act of domestic violence or any other specified act, entering a workplace or any other place frequented by the abused, attempting to communicate with the abused, isolating any assets used by both the parties and causing violence to the abused, her relatives and others who provide her assistance from the domestic violence
  • The Act not only covers physical harassment but also mental harassment. Even a sophisticated judge may have difficulty deciding if an act really caused mental harassment. On several occasions, the judge changes his mind many times on deciding if an act is mental harassment or not, but the law says that she can go to the protection officer to file the case
  • In case a victim wishes to continue to live in her marital home, the magistrate may give a Residence Order, which protects her right to stay in the shared household or in an alternative accommodation to be arranged by her husband or male partner
  • Protection Order by the magistrate will prevent the accused from perpetrating further violence, and from disposing of her property
  • Monetary Relief Order will ensure reimbursement of medical expenses, and maintenance for the victim and her children
  • A Custody Order will restore the children to the victim
  • A Compensation Order can be given against the physical and mental injury and pain caused by domestic violence, and the loss of wages suffered thereof by the victim. The magistrate also has the authority to issue interim reliefs to protect the victim and her property
  • If the orders are violated by the perpetrator, he will be forced to pay a fine of up to Rs. 20,000 and/or imprisonment up to one year
  • All orders will only be passed against a husband, ONLY after the “Domestic Violence” have been proved

Flaws in this Law

As per this law, only a woman can file a complaint against her male partner. A man, who is a victim of domestic violence, has no rights under this law. The fact is that it has been comprehensively proven in numerous studies that women are no less abusive as men in intimate relationships. Giving such sweeping legal powers to women while withholding protection to male victims, is tantamount to systematic legal victimization of men. In the western world, the domestic violence laws are gender neutral and provide protection to the victims, both men and women. The fact that the Indian version explicitly prohibits any male victim to seek relief under this law defies all logic and is beyond comprehension

The second significant flaw in this law is that it lends itself to such easy misuse that women will find it hard to resist the temptation to “teach a lesson” to their male relatives and will file frivolous and false cases

A similar trend is already being observed in the case of anti-dowry law (498a), which is being misused to such an extent that the Supreme Court has termed it “Legal Terrorism”. To illustrate how easy it is to misuse the DV law, consider the scenarios below:

  • If she demands any amount of money from him, for any reason whatsoever, he is legally bound to pay that amount in full, failing which he can be imprisoned. Under the pretext of preventing economic abuse of women, this law legalizes the extortion of money by women. Interestingly, if he asks for money from her, he can be jailed for that as well. Furthermore, he is responsible for paying the rent if the couple resides in a shared rented accommodation
  • As per the law, she retains the right to the residence. This is a very convenient means of getting control of the house regardless of whether she has any legal right on the property. Moreover, if he is booked under DV, he is responsible for paying the rent as well, even though he may not be allowed to live in the house or he might even be in jail
  • If she decides not to cook and wishes to eat out in a restaurant every day, he cannot afford not to oblige, lest he invites the DV provision for “not providing food”, for which he could be jailed.
  • If she has an affair and he tries to prevent her from meeting her lover, he could be punished under the DV act, as he is preventing her from meeting someone
  • He can be booked under the DV act if she feels that she has been insulted. Insult is a relative term, which is totally left to her discretion. Interestingly, if she insults and abuses him verbally or even physically, he does not have any legal recourse in this law

The third major flaw in this law is that it provides an all-encompassing definition of domestic violence and some terms (insults, name calling) are extremely subjective. The radical feminists claim that 70% of women in India face domestic violence which comes as no surprise as even an insult is considered domestic violence. Interestingly, they are mum on how many Indian men suffer domestic violence using the same criteria. This law strikes at the very foundation of marriage by promoting intolerance and litigation for petty domestic disputes. It is universally recognized that from time to time differences arise in a marriage and sometimes people, both men and women, behave in hurtful ways towards each other. Most people, though, are able to work them out and lead a more or less happy life with their loved one. However, this law makes it very easy to escalate the domestic problems in daily life to such a level that it eventually leads to a breakdown in marriage. Once a man has been accused of domestic violence for something relatively minor (insult), while he might have been subjected to the same treatment from her, he will perpetually feel threatened by his partner and that is the beginning of the end. This law will lead to more divorces, broken homes and the children will pay the ultimate price by getting deprived of a pleasant childhood.

 FACTS and figures

  • More than 80% of Domestic Violence cases and more than 98% of 498a cases filed in India, in the last 5 years, have been found to be false
  • Article 21 of Indian Constitution says that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”. But every year, over 1 lakh innocent husbands are arrested under IPC Section 498A, including 4000 innocent senior citizens, and 350 children, without evidence or investigation
  • Article 14 of the Indian Constitution declares that “The State shall not deny to any person, equality before the law, or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”. But Indian laws against domestic violence blatantly deny protection to men against any form of domestic abuse
  • Every year, over 63,000 married men commit suicide due to verbal, emotional, economic and physical abuse, and legal harassment
  • Unbiased research on Domestic Violence shows that:
  1. Domestic Violence is not a gender issue
  2. Women initiate domestic violence just as frequently as men do
  3. Men and children are less likely to report the incident when they are abused by their wives/ girlfriends, and mothers, respectively
  4. Women’s organizations spread myths (e.g. Men are ALWAYS the aggressors, and women are ALWAYS the victims)
  5. Media coverage is often biased (A young married woman committing suicide is attributed to as a ‘dowry death’; a young married man committing suicide is attributed to financial/ family problems or ‘mysterious reasons’)
  6. Politicians and bureaucrats find no incentive in addressing domestic violence against men, children, and fellow women

Is this law to bring peace to the country, or to ruin the existence of men? I ask the Indian Government, and its lawmakers, Where is the “Right to Equality” and the “Right to Justice” for a married man?

Are we actually giving rise to something which would cause ‘death to boy child’? Does the Indian Government want India to be a woman-only country?

FOOD FOR THOUGHT!

Sources – Wikipedia, The Indian Express, The Times of India, The Hindu, lawyerscollective, dsw.gnu.ac.in, 498a.org, Save Indian Family.

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About the Author ()

Virag is a B.Tech (NIT Hamirpur) formerly Technical Architect in JDA Software India Pvt. Ltd. Currently, Virag is the Head, Gender Studies at Confidare Research. Virag has been associated with the men’s rights movement in India and is also associated with Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF), Bangalore, an NGO which helps distressed and victimized men. Virag has counselled more than 4000 distressed and victimized men by providing them with guidance and coaching that has enabled them to face the crisis situation powerfully. Virag has been invited by the Rajya Sabha Standing Committee for expressing his views on the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Law. Virag has also been part of a team that was requested to submit a research report on the misuse of Section 498A (Dowry law) and the changes required therein by the Law Commission of Karnataka. Currently Virag is one of the partners at Confidare India Men’s Rights Community Center – India’s first ever community center for distressed and victimized men. He is also the Head of Gender Studies, Confidare Research.

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