Domestic Violence - Rights of Victm And Urgent Measures

One of the major fallouts of Covid - 19 pandemic, has reportedly been the increase in domestic violence within households which can also be termed as Intimate partner violence (IPV).

One of the major fallouts of  Covid - 19 pandemic, has reportedly  been the increase in domestic violence within households which can also be termed as Intimate partner violence (IPV). In a patriarchal social set up like that of India, the obvious victim of such  violence is the woman who suffers at the hands of any of her family relatives but especially at the hands of her husband or live in partner. Domestic violence need not just be  physical beating or physical abuse. The term domestic violence includes within its ambit every form of abuse and trauma including  emotional trauma, mental abuse and sexual violence.. Going by the wider term, as provided under the legislation it includes economic abuse as well. Basically, domestic violence is any form of injury or harm inflicted upon an individual whether through physical assaults or mental abuse or economic transgressions. In light of the patriarchy prevalent in India, a shocking revelation has come to the forefront delivered through a survey conducted by the National Family Health survey ( NHFS-4)  in the year 2018 that every 3rd woman since the age of 15 has faced domestic violence of one form or the other during her lifetime. The Cases of such abuse are more prevalent in rural rather than urban India with 29% of the cases in rural areas and 23% reporting in urban areas respectively. However, the instances of such cases has only been on the rise ever since then.

Pandemic lockdown and Rise in Domestic Violence :

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Govt of India declared a lockdown from  March 2020 in the country causing staying at home all the time and social distancing compulsory. On one hand where the world is fighting thespread of a deadly virus with India being no exception, women have been fighting a duel battle with both the virus and the Domestic abuse in various forms during these tough times. The economic uncertainty along with the forced confinement has been causing a lot of mental stress and has therefore led to aggression and frustration within such toxic environments. This has led to furtherance of fights and traumatic situations within households which has only perpetrated instances of such domestic abuse.  This chaos and confusion has thus resulted in a sudden rise in  in the Domestic violence(“DV”) cases not only in India but all over the world, including countries like the United States, Australia, China ,United Kingdom and many other countries which have reported an insurmountable increase in the number of such cases.  DV impacts the society at large as it has economic, social and health consequences which affects not only women and children but also their families in entirety.

As stated by the French Secretary of Equality Marlene Schiappa; "Confinement is a breeding ground for domestic abuse."

There is no excuse for such behavior and onslaught of such abuse over any individual since abuse is an offence which cannot be justified no matter the duress or chaos prevalent in the household.  Following are the very few reasons mentioned to illustrate various reasons why such abuse could arise:-

  • Anger issues
  • Violent childhood
  • The need to assert power over a supposedly weaker individual.
  • The habit to dominate over another person.
  • Finding pleasure while inflicting pain over others.Economic distress.
  • Extra marital affair
  • Alcoholism
  • Abuses arising out of dowry related issues

To add to the list which seems never exhaustive , is the ‘confinement’ and ‘depleting resources’  which has further accentuated Domestic violence as if the domestic burden on the woman was otherwise not enough .

Hurdles faced by victims amidst the lockdown

The National Commission for Women which rec­eives complaints of domestic violence from across the country recorded a more than twofold rise in gender-based violence during the initial lockdown period. The total number of complaints from women rose from 116 in the first week of March (March 2-8), to 257 in the final week (March 23-April 1). Although, despite the numbers provided by such studies, it is imperative to understand that there might be a lot of women who are unable to reach out due to the restrictions on movement imposed by the government. The woman locked down with the abuser would not get the space and time to rescue herself free from such abuse and would face distress along with limited access to financial resources and social networks. Apart from this, she may mostly, lack the courage to seek help from rescuers as well. . Due to the lack of privacy inside homes, the stressful plight of not being able to travel to their parental homes and uncertainty over legitimate access to a mobile phone amongst the poor, adds to the victimization of women. India has acute gender based crimes which leads to fear in the minds of women to approach the police and concerned authorities to seek help.Womenneed to be at ease and feel safe in order to report and approach the police which is a far seen situation in this pandemic.

According to centre’s counsellor , Mrs Rakhi Sharma , A shocking trend has emerged during the pandemic wherein distress calls are being received from married women asking to be rescued from their parental homes meaning thereby that the woman is not safe with their parents and siblings too.

Laws protecting Domestic Violence :

Indian govt has put in  various laws and provisions in place to protect the women against such crimes under Various sections of Indian penal code which deals with various such abuses arising out of  social and economic reasons .To name a few we have

  • sec 313-316 of IPC which deals with female infanticide where in the termination of pregnancy has been made punishable .
  • Sec 304 B of IPC taking care of dowry deaths .
  • 305-306 related to abetment of suicide due to such abuses
  • Sec 340, 349 of IPC for wrongful confinement and wrongful restraint respectively

Sec 498 A of IPC comes to the rescue of the women which entitles her to file a complaint for cruelty due to domestic violence .The Act aids the victim to initiate criminal proceedings against the offender if she wants the offender to suffer rigorous imprisonment.

Considering the rising hardships faced by the women in India and how the above provisions were not taking care of all the aspects of this menace , The Parliament of India  in 2005 has enacted a specific Act dedicated to this cause “ The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act , 2005

 The Act for the first time provided the broader definition of term ‘Domestic violence’ as defined under section 3 as  any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent that harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal or emotional abuse and economic abuse.

 Any woman who has lived in a household with the offender can file a DV complaint.

The law provides for protection of women from these offenders by assigning Protection officers and shelter homes to women in need. According to chapter IV of the said Act, the victim can approach the court for obtaining orders and relief.

In DV cases are sensitive and the victims are vulnerable and might fear public recognition or life. They can ask the courts not to allow general public into the hearing or to have proceedings held in camera. In certain cases immediate protection is given to the victim whereby a Protection Officer is appointed.

Special Measures and need to hear the cases on urgent basis  :

The rise in domestic violence due to pandemic is such that it warranted the intervention of courts apart from various NGO’s and women welfare committees working throughout to reduce the instances of such violence .

The Hon’ble Delhi High Court in All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties and Social Justice vs. Union of India, W.P(C) 2973/2020 observed the measures taken by government, some of which are enumerated below:

  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in collaboration with NIMHANS has started a helpline 080-46110007 to provide psychological support to victims of domestic violence.
  • Advisory dated 30.01.2020 has been issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to all private satellite TV channels and FM radio channels to give adequate publicity to the ERSS(121) in women safety and persons in distress.
  • The Delhi State Legal Services Authority(DSLSA) has introduced that one toll free helpline number 1516 with a view to help vulnerable sections of society and another whatsapp number 9667992802 wherein any victim of domestic violence can approach DSLSA through SMS or just giving a missed call.

The Women and Child Department took the initiative to curb the rise in DV cases in Odhisa by introducing a whatsapp number to file complaints amidst the lockdown.

"The WCD Department introduces a WhatsApp number 7205006039 for reporting cases of domestic violence. It already has a Women Helpline Number 181. Under lockdown experts feel instances of domestic violence may increase and this will be a useful tool for women in distress," tweeted the department.

The Pune Rural administration had passed an order that if a man was found engaging in domestic violence during lockdown, he shall be sent to an institutional quarantine.

"In rural areas of Pune, we have taken pro-active measures to prevent any form of domestic violence against women. We would be pro-actively reaching out to all women and ensuring that they do not face any kind of domestic violence," Ayush Prasad, Zila Parishad CEO, Pune.

Another campaign “ Bell Bajao “ ( Ring the bell) calls upon the men and boys to take a stand against the Domestic Violence .

Similarly the UP police also launched an initiative “Suppress Corona , not your voice”asking the battered women to call a helpline number to enable women police officers to reach them .

There is a grave urgency and need for the Courts to hear the DV cases due to the tremendous rise in the complaints and the silent plight of the victims. Cases like these can damage life, well-being, mental and physical health of victims and in the present scenario where we have no certainty for the lockdown to reopen, there must be strict measures taken to curb and safeguard the victims.

Remedies available to the victim:-

In dire cases wherein the abuse is intolerable and the victim seeks to protect herself and avail off any remedy provided to her, it is advisable for such a victim to protect herself via the following means:-

  1. The victim may head at the earliest to the nearest police station and file an FIR and in case of any issue pertaining to the jurisdiction, she may even insist upon filinf for a Zero FIR wherein the details would be mentioned and later sent to the appropriate police station.
  2. In case the victim feels that her complaints are not being mer adequately, she may even file a direct complaint with the magistrate in order to seek relief at the earliest.
  3. Further, in instances wherein the victim is not comfortable with filing a complaint directly, she may even approach an NGO to do the same on her behalf and take the necessary action.
  4. The victim has every right to claim protection, maintenance, custody, shelter and even divorce.
  5. In order to provide the victims with effective remedies at any place and time, most states even have the facility to file FIR’s online.

Thus, there are a number of ways in which the victim can seek relief for the abuse suffered by her. The government has made innumerable remedies available to such victims to better their lives by taking the appropriate action required for safeguarding their rights.

Conclusion

Domestic violence is an issue which needs to be given higher importance to in these times. Illiteracy, alcoholism, monetary problems, dowry, extramarital affairs etc, are the major reasons behind domestic violence. Although there have been many legislations to curb and safeguard DV cases,  due to a lack of awareness and illiteracy, the victims can’t take advantage of the same. There is a need to implement stringent measures to spread awareness and make the legislations stronger and protect the status of women and take cognizance of their plight in light of the trauma suffered by them.