Monday, 1 July 2013

Women and Domestic violence Act

Ruby chaudhary

Balzac wrote in "Physiology of Marriage
            Pay no attention to a women's murmurs, her cries, her pains, nature has made her for our use and for bearing everything children, sorrows, blows and pains inflicted by man. Do not accuse yourself of hardness. In all the codes of so called civilized nations man has written the laws that ranged woman's destiny under the bloody epigraph: "Vae-Victus" woe to the weak"1
            It is sheer shame that woman who constitute one half of the world have been submitting to the indignities, insults, injuries and humiliation with a stoic patience without any complaint. They are the unquestioning victims of generations of conditioning in which a girl/woman is unchangeably slotted. "The true women" Simone  de Beauvoir remarks "is an artificial product that civilization makes, as formerly eunuchs were made - Her presumed "instincts" for Coquetry, docility are indoctrinated as is Phallic Pride in man" 2  Women are glorified as sublime sufferers, selfless slaves, tireless workers and are expected to curb their needs as well as their entire personality. The salvation of a woman lies in maintaining stoic silence - a silence which breaks only after she completes her journey of life. They suffer all through their life and quit this world without uttering a single word in protest.
            Of late however the scenario is changing and the world is gradually waking up after its long dark slumber of ignorance and there has been an increasing consciousness regarding the status of woman which is amply reflected in global debates over the issues of woman empowerment. The empowerment of women is essentially the process of upliftment of economic, social and political status of women - the second class citizens in the society. It is an attempt to guard women against all forms of violence and worst of which is domestic violence because it happens within four walls and often goes unnoticed. The irony of a women's life is that the house which she turns into a "home", a "paradise" often turns out to be hell for her.
            The tragedy of India lies in the fact that though the top most position in the country is held by a women - Mrs. Pratibha Patil who is the Honourable President of India but unfortunately in India hundred of girls children are daily suffocated to death even before they open their eyes because their expectant parents hope for a son instead. The following lines of a poem reveal the undesirability of a girl child "Whenever someone gives you a sorrow name that sorrow daughter"3.
            My paper dwells on the various aspects of domestic violence including female infanticide - even though this unfortunate practice has crossed the domestic boundaries and is a burning social issue. Domestic violence is one of the heinous and the most pervasive human rights violation, for long women have been suffering the indignities meted out of them in their abodes either accepting it as their destiny or because of the defective system of justice which harasses the poor victim more. The legal system however made a landmark change in August 2005 with the passing of Domestic Violence Act which received the assent of President on 13th September 2005 and came into force on 26th October 2006. This Domestic Violence Act was further strengthened by Right to Information Act 2005 and both these effective weapons have given women some degree of freedom to stand up and fight for her rights and against social evils.
            The Domestic Violence Act is a comprehensive law and addresses all issues related to women. The Act is an extremely progressive one as it embraces a wide range of wrongs committed against women. This Act also covers women who are in a live-in relationship and also provides protection to other women in the household including sisters and mothers thus the Act is not just limited to marital relation only, it includes relations of consanguinity, marriage or through relationships in the nature of marriage adoption or joint family thus all "domestic relationship " are covered within this Act.
            The Act has given a new dimension to the word "abuse" because unlike the old view abuse now includes actual abuse or threat of abuse, whether physical, sexual, verbal economic and harassment by way of dowry demands. One of the outstanding feature of the Act is that it provides a woman right to live in the matrimonial or shared household, whether or not she has any title in the household. This law also covers those women who are or have been in a relationship where both parties have lived together in a shared household and are related by marriage or adoption. Any one guilty found of domestic violence  can be put behind bars for a year and a fine of Rs. 20,000 will also be imposed, all crimes mentioned in the Domestic Violence  Act are non-bailable.
            This Act gives a very wide definition of physical, sexual, verbal and economic violence committed against women. The physical violence is defined as any act or conduct which is of such a nature as to cause bodily pain, harm or danger to life, limb or health of the person aggrieved, or that includes assault, criminal intimidation and criminal force. Under this law sexual violence includes forced sexual relationship within or outside marriage, forcing any women to watch obscenity or any act of sexual nature to abuse, humiliate or degrade a women's integrity. The most important feature of this Act lies in the definition of verbal abuse which was regarded as insignificant uptill now but now this Act specifies verbal violence as name calling, any remark on character of a woman, insults for not bringing dowry not allowing to marry according to her choice and remarks regarding her infertility or girl child also come within this Act.
            One of the most outstanding features of this Act is the inclusion of economic violence. As most of the women in India depend upon their men folks so by depriving women of her basic needs is the easiest way to humble her but no longer now as withholding such resources now falls under the category of economic abuse. This Act comes into play in instances of marital disputes where the husband intentionally tends to deprive the wife of necessary money as weapon. This law also holds guilty such husband who sells of their wife's jewellery or any other assets.
            The Domestic Violence Act offers remedy for the aggrieved by providing easy access to justice mechanism insisting on simplicity of procedures and urging upon expeditious hearing. Under the Act the law provides of the setting up and functioning of Protection Officers. The State Government will appoint Protection Officers to help the affected women. These Protections Officers will be appointed in every district and will assist the victim to file cases before the magistrate. This Act guarantees complete protection to the women. Her abusers would be ordered not to harass her, or communicate with her, he cannot enter the workplace or any other place frequented by the abused, even the relatives of the abused women have the protection rights and apart from this, the women can rightfully continue to live under the same roof with the man while fighting him in the Court. There are a lot of facilities provided under the Act like medical facilities, shelter home facilities counseling assistance by welfare experts, support by Protection Officer, police officers and service providers. Proceedings under the Act for relief may be initiated by an application addressed to Magistrate and appeal can be made by an aggrieved person, Protection Officer or any person on behalf of the victim. The Magistrate has to fix the first date of hearing within three days of complaint.
            The special features of this Act are that the crime committed under this Act is non-bailable offence and this Act also ensures that an aggrieved wife who takes recourse to the law cannot be harassed for doing so. A person who is accused of domestic violence cannot during the pending disposal of the case restrict the aggrieved continued access to resources to which she is entitled by virtue of the domestic relationship. A woman who is a victim of domestic violence will have the right to services of the police, shelter homes and medical facilities she also has the right to file her own complaint under section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code. Section 18-23 of the Domestic Violence Act provides a large number of avenues for abused women to get relief. She can get through the Courts, Protection Orders, Residence Orders, Monetary Relief, custody order for her children, Compensation Order and interim/ex-parte orders.
            The Government has tried to create a strong support system by passing this Act. This Act acknowledges the role of NGOs as service providers and it has been stated in the Act that the protection officer, police officer or a service provider will not only assist the aggrieved women in seeking relief measures but they will have to ensure that the benefits flowing out of the Act are actually made available to her. The Act prefers sensitized personnel for its implementation. That is why it lays stress on active participation of the women in the capacity of protection officers. The Right to Information has been given the status of fundamental right under Article 19(1) of the Constitution. Article 19(1) states that not only each and every citizen has the freedom of speech and expression, they also have the right to know about the functioning of the government. The aggrieved women also has a right to be informed of the facilities and services that may be available to her and in order to pursue the status of her complaint she can take recourse to the Right of Information Act 2005.
            I would like to conclude my paper by saying that though the Government has tried to make major changes but it is now left to the Media, Social Organisations to make woman aware of her rights. Instead of pondering over the grooms and brides of Rakhi Samant and Rahul Mahajan in their Swayamvars or  highlighting  the petty issues of non serious reality shows like Big Boss, Sach Ka Saamna  and so on, the media should highlight women's problem with dignity and make women aware of her strength instead of her just showing as a  jewellery decked beautiful doll with hardly any brains. A balanced and purposeful life will no longer be a utopian fancy for a woman if she liberates herself from the stereotyped conditioning of society and is not dependent on her fathers, husbands, brothers and sons any more.
1.Quoted from Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, Trans. H.M.Parshley London; vintage 1997, P 285
2. Simone de Beauvoir, op. cit, P 428
3. Rukshana Ahmad, Trans. And Ed, We Sinful Women; Con
4 Temporary urdu feminist poetry, including the original Urdu; Rupa paperback [New Delhi .1994] P 107
Senior Lecturer
Bhavan's Mehta Mahavidayala
Bharwari District : Kaushambhi