Crimes against Women and Children: Domestic Violence

“Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women.”
The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, General Assembly Resolution, December 1993.

Domestic violence is one of the most common crimes against women which is inextricably linked to the perpetuation of patriarchy. Domestic violence refers to violence against women not only in matrimonial homes but also in live-in relationship. Domestic violence is recognized as the significant barrier in the path of women empowerment and also skews the democratic set up of the polity. India has specifically legislated Domestic Violence Act in 2005 to reduce the violence against women but the same has bore mixed result as of now.

Domestic Violence: The term domestic violence includes elaborately all forms of actual abuse or threat of abuse of physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic nature that can harm, cause injury to, endanger the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, either mental or physical of the aggrieved person. The definition is wide enough to cover child sexual abuse, harassment caused to a woman or her relatives by unlawful dowry demands, and marital rape.

Domestic violence can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial, or sexual. Being victimized by a situation of domestic violence can create feelings of helplessness and even self-doubt.

Physical abuse includes:

  • pushing, throwing, kicking
  • slapping, grabbing, hitting, punching, beating, tripping, battering, bruising, choking, shaking
  • pinching, biting
  • holding, restraining, confinement
  • breaking bones
  • assault with a weapon such as a knife or gun
  • burning
  • murder

Verbal or nonverbal abuse of a spouse or intimate partner may include:

  • threatening or intimidating to gain compliance
  • destruction of the victim’s personal property and possessions, or threats to do so
  • violence to an object (such as a wall or piece of furniture) or pet, in the presence of the intended victim, as
  • a way of instilling fear of further violence
  • yelling or screaming
  • name-calling
  • constant harassment
  • embarrassing, making fun of, or mocking the victim, either alone within the household, in public, or in front of family or friends
  • criticizing or diminishing the victim’s accomplishments or goals
  • not trusting the victim’s decision-making
  • telling the victim that they are worthless on their own, without the abuser
  • excessive possessiveness, isolation from friends and family
  • excessive checking-up on the victim to make sure they are at home or where they said they would be
    saying hurtful things while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and using the substance as an excuse to say the hurtful things
  • blaming the victim for how the abuser acts or feels
  • making the victim remain on the premises after a fight, or leaving them somewhere else after a fight, just to “teach them a lesson”
  • making the victim feel that there is no way out of the relationship

Sexual abuse includes:

  • sexual assault: forcing someone to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity
  • sexual harassment: ridiculing another person to try to limit their sexuality or reproductive choices
    sexual exploitation (such as forcing someone to look at pornography, or forcing someone to participate in pornographic film-making)

Basic Features of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005

1. Apart from the victim herself, the complaint regarding an act or act of domestic violence can also be lodged by ‘any person who has a reason to believe that’ such an act was committed or is being committed. This means that neighbors, social workers, relatives can also take initiative. And the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act make sure that ‘no criminal, civil or any other liability’ lies on the informer, if the complaint is lodged in good faith.

2. The magistrate has been given powers to permit the aggrieved women to stay in her place of adobe and she can not be evicted by her male relatives in the retaliation.

3. The respondent can be prohibited from dispossessing the aggrieved person or in any other manner disturbing her possessions, entering the aggrieved person’s place of work, if the aggrieved person is a child, the school. Also magistrate can bar the respondent to communicate with aggrieved person by “personal, oral, written, electronic or telephonic contact.”

4. The magistrate can impose monthly payments of maintenance. The respondent can also be ordered to meet the expenses incurred and losses suffered by the aggrieved person and any child of aggrieved person as a result of domestic violence. It can also cover loss of earnings, medical expenses, loss or damage to property.
Under Sec 22 magistrate can make the respondent pay compensation and damages for injuries including mental torture and emotional distress caused by act(s) of domestic violence.

5. Penalty up to one-year and/or a fine up to Rs. 20,000/- can be imposed under under the act. The offence is also considered cognizable and non-bailable while Sec 32 (2) goes even says that ‘under the sole testimony of the aggrieved person, the court may conclude that an offence has been committed by the accused”.

6. The act ensures speedy justice as the court has to start proceedings and have the first hearing within 3 days of the complaint being filed in the court and every case must be disposed off within a period of sixty days of the first hearing.

7. The act makes provisions for state to provide for protection officers and status of ‘service providers’ and ‘medical facility’.

8. Chapter 4 Sec 16 allows the magistrate to hold proceedings in camera “if either party to the proceedings so desires”.