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In this article, Krati Bhardwaj of New Law College, Bharti Vidyapeeth, discusses the actions to be taken when you see someone engaging in domestic violence.

Introduction

“Seen, heard, felt at some point still ignored.” There are people who have seen domestic violence at some point or heard about it from someone, and some of them even been the victim of this at some point but you know what is common among all these people? They all have ignored this issue, even the sufferer. Suicides committed by women is common in a patriarchal society like India where are women are daily beaten to death.

What is Domestic Violence?

According to the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, domestic violence is defined as violence or domestic abuse is the violence which occurs when one person physically or psychologically abuses another person. So it can be said that domestic violence is not limited to physical abuse, it also includes emotional, economic, verbal, sexual abuse like marital rape, beating or choking to death etc.

Who can be the victim of Domestic Violence

  • This type of violence can occur within a family, by spouse, ex-partner, also include cohabitants (people in live in relation).
  • This may sometimes take the form of child marriage or forced marriages.
  • It is seen globally that women are majorly the victim of domestic violence.
  • The cases of domestic violence go unreported so it can be considered to be one of the unreported crime.

Reasons

There is no particular reason which causes such violence but people generally finds a reason to cause abuse. Few of them are:

  • Some people find it the way to control their partner due to low self-esteem
  • Men believe they have the right to do anything to women irrespective of their consent
  • Violent behaviour due to drugs or alcohol
  • Financial issues
  • Disagreement between partners
  • When the husband is unemployed and wife is the sole earner, this causes envy and the person finds domestic violence way to dominate the women.

Children learn from their parents, if they see these kinds of situations prevailing in their homes then they will think that violence is the only way to resolve the dispute. Boys who witness this violence tends not to respect or value women. Whatever may be the cause but the action of the abuser does not justify his behaviour.

Laws related to Domestic violence

  • Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

This act aims at protecting women from domestic violence. If any person believes that someone has committed or is likely to commit such offence can inform to the concerned Protection Officer. The complaint can be filed against the partner or his family members but as per the recent judgment in Kusum Lata Sharma vs State & Anr, no sister can file a complaint against her brother’s wife or her own sister. A mother-in-law, however, cannot file a complaint against her daughter-in-law but she can file a complaint case against her son mentioning the name of the daughter-in-law as the agent of her son.

The ambit of the term “domestic violence” is wide and covers all sort of household arrangement. For instance, if the child is born out of a live-in relationship, he will be entitled to the property. Both the child and the woman cannot be threatened with economic abuse as per the judgment in Bharata Matha & Ors v. R. Vijaya Renganathan & Ors.

Features of the Act

  • Any person can file the complaint on behalf of the aggrieved party like the neighbour, social worker, relatives.
  • Every woman has the right to reside in the shared household without the fear of being thrown out of the house. Not only she has the right to reside in a house but also a part of it can be alloted to her for personal use even if no legal claim exists.
  • The respondent may be restrained from entering the area or room allotted to the aggrieved person or from having any type of communication including personal, oral, written, electronic or telephonic contact.
  • This Act also protects from the events that are likely to take place in future.
  • Speedy justice is aimed by this Act as the first hearing should take place within 3 days from the complaint being filed and it must be disposed within 60 days of the first hearing.

Remedies available

  • Monetary Relief: Respondent can be directed to meet the expenses incurred and losses suffered by the aggrieved person. The monetary relief granted should be adequate, fair and reasonable and consistent with the standard of living to which the aggrieved person is accustomed. Maintenance can be granted as per the nature and circumstances of the case either by the way of lump sum payment or monthly payment.
  • Compensation order: Aggrieved person can be compensated for the injuries sustained including mental torture and emotional distress, caused by the acts of domestic violence.

Penalty

  • Breach of protection order by the respondent is an offence under Section 31 of the Act and shall be punishable with imprisonment of one year, or with fine which may extend to twenty thousand rupees, or with both.
  • Protection officer shall be liable to imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to twenty thousand rupees, or with both if he fails or refuses to discharge his duty under Section 33.
  • Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code (IPC)

This Section makes domestic violence a criminal offence. Any cruelty to the women by the husband or the relative of husband will be punished with imprisonment upto three years or fine.

The word “cruelty” includes:

  • Any act which can induce a woman to commit suicide or cause danger to her life, health;
  • Harassing the woman to meet the unlawful demand for the property or valuable security.

The aggrieved woman’s relative can file the complaint on her behalf. This is beneficial when a woman cannot file a complaint due to the fear of being caught up or being unable to escape from the house.

How to stop such abuse

No matter how old you are, what’s your caste, colour, sex, or whether you are educated or not, this can happen to anyone anytime. What matters is what steps we can take if we see our neighbour engaging in domestic violence.

  • Talk about it

Many people fail to disclose this issue because they feel this is how things ought to be. Many women bear this for the interest of their family and children. Ask the victim to talk about it with their friend or family if they are not willing to talk about it to any stranger. Support from family can help in relieving the victim from such torture. Moreover, friends and family are more aware than anyone else.

  • Whom to approach?
    a) Reach out to Police

It is the duty of the police to respond to every domestic violence complaint irrespective whether the complainant is the victim or not. The complaint should be taken by the police in writing and should contain the following information:

  • the relationship and sex of the parties;
  • the names of the parties;
  • the date, place and time the alleged conduct occurred;
  • information relating to the history of domestic violence between the parties;
  • the date and time the complaint was received; and
  • the type of abuse and the weapon used, if any.

Complaint & Investigation Cell under National Commission for Women

The Complaints and Investigation Cell of the commission process the complaints received oral, written or suo moto under Section 10 of the NCW Act.

The complaints received relate to domestic violence, harassment, dowry, torture, desertion, bigamy, rape, refusal to register FIR, cruelty by husband, deprivation, gender discrimination and sexual harassment at workplace.

The complaints are tackled as below :

  • Investigations by the police are expedited and monitored.
  • Family disputes are resolved or compromised through counseling.
  • For serious crimes, the Commission constitutes an Inquiry Committee which makes spot enquiries, examines various witnesses, collects evidence and submits the report with recommendations. Such investigations help in providing immediate relief and justice to the victims of violence and atrocities. The implementation of the report is monitored by the NCW. There is a provision for having experts/lawyers on these committees.

The State Commission, the NGOs and other experts are involved in these efforts.

The complaints received shows the trend of crimes against women and suggest systemic changes needed for the reduction in crimes.

The complaints are analyzed to understand the gaps in routine functioning of government in tackling violence against women and to suggest corrective measures.

The complaints are also used as case studies for sensitization programmes for the police, judiciary, prosecutors, forensic scientists, defence lawyers and other administrative functionaries.

As per the 1997 Supreme Court Judgment on Sexual Harassment at Workplace, (Vishakha Vs. State of Rajasthan) every employer is required to provide for effective complaints procedures and remedies including awarding of compensation to women victims. In sexual harassment complaints, the concerned organization are urged to expedite cases and the disposal is monitored.

What should the victim do

  • Call 100 or 1091(women emergency helpline number) and report it to the concerned authority.
  • If possible write down the police report or incident number and keep with your records.
  • One can reach to the below mentioned NGOs for help:
S.NO. Name Email id Contact No.
1. Maitri [email protected] 91 11 24122692
2. Breakthrough Trust [email protected] 91-11-41666101-06
3. All India’s Women Conference [email protected] 91-11-23389680 / 1165
4. Jagori Women’s Resource Centre [email protected] 91 11 2669 1219
5. CARE ——- 0120-4048250
6. Shakti Shalini [email protected] 011-24373737

Some other helpline numbers:

  • DIAL 1298 Women Helpline (Mumbai)
  • Dial 1091 Women Helpline (Bangalore)

Helpline numbers in Pune:

  • Aks Helpline Numbers: 8793088814
  • For legal advice, call: 8793088815
  • For psychological counselling, call: 8793088816

Reforms needed

  • Formulating laws will not work until a check is kept on them whether they are executed properly or not.
  • A different cell should be set up to for each state like that of Australia to address the issue of domestic violence
  • Laws cannot change the mindset of the people so it is really important for people in our society to change their thinking.
  • Family counselling centres should be set up
  • Awareness campaign should be conducted to educate the women about their rights
  • Education of girl child should be promoted

Conclusion

The issue of domestic violence needs a cooperation of people with the government to eradicate it from the root. This issue needs to be dealt properly otherwise this will be continued for generations. The victim should be aware of his/her right so that they are not exploited in their relationship. Our country needs to work a lot in this area to stop this horrendous abuse because there are places even today where child marriage takes place. Government can frame the law but this will not stabilize the mindset of the men in our patriarchal society. A changed mindset will give a new horizon for the betterment of the condition of women in our society.

References

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