This article is written by Shikha Pokhriyal pursuing law from Delhi Metropolitan Education, GGSIPU. This article will explore the consequences of domestic violence on males and females.
Domestic violence is a term that has an end number of definitions. It includes brutal acts towards a person that causes them physical as well as mental harm and this is done by a person who is in intimate relation with the victim. This evil act has been prevailing in our societies and around the world for ages now. In many cases, victims of domestic violence suffer in silence. In the old times, no legal provisions were available for women to seek help. The people and the society never objected in earlier times when a male used to beat a female or torture them. But in today’s time, several legal provisions have been established to curb this social evil. Many protests have been organised to date to stop violence against women, because there has been, and continues to be, a want for women to be treated with respect and dignity. To stop violence against women, many legal provisions have been introduced. But even though the world has progressed, harassment and abuse still exist.
In this article, we will explore the social evil of domestic violence and the consequences of abuse on its victims. Also, we will analyze the requirement to enact gender-neutral laws.
Understanding domestic violence
Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse or intimate partner violence, can be defined as a series of behaviours that are used to maintain domination, power, and control over the other partner. Domination can be exerted using various forms of abuse, such as physical, sexual, economic, and mental abuse, which cause the victims harm and humiliation. Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of gender, caste, race, age, or class. It can happen in any relationship like marriage, live-in-relationships, dating, or living in a household with family members. In some cases, domestic violence may lead to the death of the victim or severe injury to their mental and physical state. Domestic abuse is not only given effect by inflicting injury on the body, but it can also involve emotional blackmailing or torturing the victim.
Victims of domestic violence often hesitate to raise their voices against it as they may feel ashamed of filing a complaint against a person who is very close to them, or they may feel unsure if their family or society will support them.
When someone hears a case of domestic violence, the first assumption is that the victim is a woman. The term was and still is, used to describe the physical assault committed by the husband on the wife. But it is not only limited to one gender. It is important to understand that domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of their gender. Domestic abuse can be committed by the females on their male partners or their family members. It can also happen in a relationship where both people are of the same gender.
The people who abuse their partners or family members can be of any class or caste. We often, in the cases of the high class (or caste), assume that domestic violence cannot happen in their households because they are wealthy and educated. But the perpetrators of domestic violence can be very literate and still feel a need to abuse their partners. What is to be understood here is that this behaviour to commit domestic violence comes from a desire to control or dominate the other partner. It has nothing to do with the education or wealth of an individual.
Domestic violence occurs when the victim and the offender share an intimate relationship, as previously mentioned. This can include relationships with partners, ex-partners, immediate family members, or family friends.
Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling behaviour that tends to threaten the life of the victims. Often the victims of abuse, in the name of love, do not ask for help and also because they are dependent upon the offenders.
Kinds of domestic violence
There are many kinds of domestic violence, such as:
Physical abuse includes inflicting harm on the body, like slapping, biting, pushing, burning, strangling, throwing a heavy object on or near the partners, threatening to hurt some close family member, etc.
Psychological abuse includes harming the mental health of the victim, like name-calling, insulting, or verbally abusing alone or in front of people, controlling actions, regularly threatening to leave, harassing by pointing fingers at their character, depriving the partner of the necessities, etc.
Sexual abuse occurs when a person wants to dominate and control their partners, and to do this they hurt their partners by sexually exploiting them. In the name of marriage or love, the offenders often forget about the term ‘consent’ and think they own their partner’s body. Sexual abuse includes unwanted touching, forcing the partner to do something sexually that they do not wish to do, denying to use any form of contraceptive measures, forcing to watch pornography, taking pictures, or recording videos without asking for consent, etc.
Financial abuse occurs when the victim is dependent upon the other partner. The offender tries to control the financial freedom of the victim by not providing them with basic necessities sometimes. For instance, controlling how and where to spend money, restricting a partner to go out and work, misusing the victim’s name to commit any kind of fraud, withholding all the money, denying access to bank accounts, etc.
Impact of domestic violence
Domestic violence causes major health problems to its victims. These health problems include a great impact on the mental health of the victim as well. People who have been the victims of domestic violence suffer from interpersonal trauma and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Domestic violence is called a series of abusive behaviour because at first it starts from basic yelling, shouting, or threatening (known as displaying psychological aggression) and then it escalates to more severe abuse, such as physically and sexually harming the victim. The offender follows a certain pattern. The offender follows the theory of power and control. This theory was developed by Ellen Pence and Michael Paymar after working with the victims of domestic violence. This theory states that the behaviour of the abusers is not random or arbitrary, but is derived to fulfill some purpose. This theory is used to understand the behavioural pattern of the abusers that are used to establish control or dominance over their partners or any other family member.
The pattern of behaviour that an abuser follows is that they first show their aggression in the form of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. After abusing, the offender feels guilty of hurting so they go and apologize and their behaviour after this becomes normal as if nothing happened. Again the abuser finds out some way to abuse as it gives them mental and physical pleasure. This is the cycle that an abuser follows. An abuser thinks that whatever they are doing to the other person is not wrong.
Consequences on females
The females in this world constitute the majority of the victims of domestic violence. Women in our country and worldwide have been subject to many kinds of abuse because according to the offenders’ mindset, women are weak and are not capable enough to fight. Intimate partner violence is the most committed violence against women worldwide. In ancient times, women were considered as the property of the husband or the burden on their father, and so no legal provisions were there at that time to protect females from domestic abuse. As mentioned at the beginning, at that time, it was considered okay when the husband used to beat their wife or abuse them verbally or sexually, because it was considered the right of the husband to treat their wives in whatever ways they like. Husbands considered their wives weak and they used to take out all their aggression on them. The females at that time were not aware of the fact that they could raise their voices as they were entirely financially dependent upon their husbands. After the feminist movement, females became aware of their rights.
In modern times, domestic abuse has not decreased against women but only increased. The majority of the women worldwide suffer from domestic abuse either at the hands of their husbands or in-laws. Still, women are considered less than men. Males of the family want the females of their household to do things according to their wishes, and therefore they impose certain restrictions on them.
Legal provisions available for women
Section 498A – Indian Penal Code, 1860
Many legal provisions have been enacted to protect women from domestic violence. In 1983, domestic violence was incorporated in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 under Section 498A. This provision aims to protect women from domestic abuse by the husband or in-laws.
The Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005
In 2005, the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act was enacted to prohibit various forms of abuse against women like physical, mental, or sexual abuse. Section 3 of the Act defines domestic abuse as mental or physical injury to a person or abuse in any form or harassing or threatening the person.
Section 2(s) defines the shared household as the house owned taken on rent by the husband or the house which belongs to the joint family of which the husband is a member; this was observed in the case of S.R. Batra v. Smt. Taruna Batra (2006).
This Act also covers women who are in live-in relationships. According to this Act, a suit for domestic violence can be filed against any adult male member who has the power to threaten the victim. This Act thus ensures that the females do not lose a roof over their heads if they raise their voice against domestic violence and can support themselves.
D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal (2010)
- In the eyes of society both the parties must behave like husband and wife and should be recognised as husband and wife by society.
- Both the parties must be of valid legal age.
- Both the parties must be eligible to enter into marriage.
- They have lived together for a significant period of time and in a shared household.
Indra Sarma v. V.K.V Sharma (2013)
In this case, the court stated that the Domestic Violence Act is enacted to protect women from abusive relationships and to prevent domestic violence from occurring in society.
Ishpal Singh Kahai v. Ramanjeet Kahai (2011)
In this case, the Bombay High Court explained the objective of the Domestic Violence Act by stating that the objective of the Act is to provide statutory protection to women victims of violence.
Mohd. Zakir v. Shabana & Ors (2017)
In this case, a petition was filed by the adult male under the Domestic Violence Act. The High Court of Karnataka had held that any person whether male or female, aggrieved of the domestic violence are eligible to invoke the provisions under this act. Later on, this verdict, passed by Justice Anand Byrareddy, was withdrawn by him.
Domestic violence against men
The term domestic violence, though gender-neutral, but whenever we hear it we presume women as a victim. Even the lawmakers of our country have limited domestic violence to crimes against women. This is because there has been stereotypical thinking that men are supposed to be strong, they do not cry, and a female cannot harm a man. The males in our society are pointed out by being called derogatory names when they express their emotions. So how will a man be able to tell the world that he has been getting abused in his own home? There is no law to decide the cases for males if they suffer from domestic violence or rape. Either our society thinks that a man cannot be abused or raped, or they just want to ignore this fact.
Why the existing laws on domestic violence are gender-biased
Human rights and gender equality say that no gender should be given preference, but just equality. In today’s modern world, when females are also getting equal rights and opportunities just like men, they are also abusing their partners or household members, be it for money, or for proving their dominance. These rights were not established so that they can be misused by women to harass or abuse their partners. In our country, domestic violence laws only protect women from their abusers, but no laws are available to protect husbands or other males. To promote equality there is a need to enact laws that will cover violence against men.
P. Sasikumar v. Union Of India (UOI) (2018)
The Madras High Court recently reviewed the case of P.Sasikumar v. Union Of India (UOI) (2018) where Dr. P. Sasikumar, the Director of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Sciences, filed a writ petition against his wife. He was forced to quit his job due to the criminal proceedings started by his wife accusing him of abusing her. The court observed that the wife was harassing the husband unnecessarily even after the family court had rendered the decision of divorce. But due to the non-availability of legal provisions, the husband remains helpless in these kinds of situations.
Justice S Vaidyanathan stated that unfortunately there is no legal provision that allows a husband to proceed against his wife concerning marital disputes. The cases of violence against men mostly go unreported because men hesitate to file a complaint or share it even with their close ones, as our society is male-dominated and it becomes hard to believe that violence has been committed against a man. Often, the males get insecure to register a complaint of abuse, as the females might take advantage of the laws that are enacted to protect them. Limiting the laws like Domestic Protection Act or Section 498A of IPC to women gives them an undue advantage to use these laws to cover up their offences. The majority of the violence indeed happens with a female but still, it does not mean that females are not capable enough to abuse men.
In this modern world, where women are as qualified as men and are getting equal opportunities, there is a need to widen the scope of domestic violence and not limit its definition only to women. In India, there is so much societal pressure that a person suffering from domestic abuse often stays quiet, be it a man or a woman. Our society has some preconceived notions about both genders and it seems to have already been decided how a man or woman should be. It is now the need of the hour that the legislature also recognizes that a man can also be the victim of domestic violence. This is also a huge social issue that needs to be addressed by breaking the norms of society and creating awareness amongst people.
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