News Excerpt
UN Secretary General António Guterres pointed out how the domestic violence cases surged with the simultaneous increase in coronavirus induced lockdown measures. He appealed to governments to pay attention to and prevent a “horrifying global surge in domestic violence” over the last few weeks amid lockdown measures imposed by several countries.

•    India has adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both of which ensure that women are given equal rights as men and are not subjected to any kind of discrimination.
•    Article 15 (3) of Indian Constitution gives power to the legislature to make special provision for women and children. In exercise of this power, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) was passed in 2005.
•    Definition of Domestic violence (DV) under the Act: It includes 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.
•    Who is covered under the DV Act: The Act covers all women who may be mother, sister, wife, widow or partners living in a shared household.  However, no female relative of the husband or the male partner can file a complaint against the wife or the female partner, for e.g. the mother-in-law cannot file an application against a daughter-in-law, but she can file an application against her daughter-in-law for abetting her son to commit violence against her.
•    The Supreme court ruled in D. Veluswamy v. D. Patchaiammal case that women in live-in relationships are also protected under Domestic Violence Act.
•    A child is also entitled to relief under the Domestic Violence Act. The mother of such a child can make an application on behalf of her minor child (whether male or female).
•    Against whom a complaint can be filed: Any adult male member who has been in a domestic relationship with the woman; Both male and female relatives of the husband or the male partner.

Relief available under the Act
    An aggrieved person or on her behalf a Protection Officer or service provider can request a person in charge of a shelter home or a medical facility to provide shelter or medical aid to her. Magistrate can issue a protection order, providing protection to the women.
    It is the duty of the protection officer and the service provider to provide all assistance to the woman who is a victim of domestic violence.
    Magistrate may direct respondent and/or the aggrieved person to undergo counselling.
    Woman shall not be evicted or excluded from the household or any part of it.
    Grant monetary relief and compensation/damages for the injuries, physical and mental, caused as a result of domestic violence.
    Grant temporary custody of any child or children to the aggrieved person.
    Breach of any order of the Magistrate is an offence which is punishable under the taw.
    The breach of a protection order or an interim protection order by the respondent is a cognizable and non-bailable offence punishable with jail or fine or both.

Some critiques of the Act and its actual working
    Though the Act covers physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal or emotional abuse as well as economic abuse, it does not speak anything regarding ‘forced sex’ or ‘sex without the wife’s consent’, that is, ‘marital rape’.
    The law-makers are looking upon domestic violence only as a legal problem and are concerned more about “protection” and less about “prevention”. A necessary preventive step to make the woman economically secure would have been to make available a fixed share of the husband’s salary.
    The larger section of victims who have used the PWDVA 2005 comprises married women. This is an indication of its wider non-acceptance yet or non-recognition of domestic violence in the non-marital plane.
    The success of any law is dependent to a large extent upon how effectively the law-enforcing agencies play their role. Effective implementation is still a far-fetched dream.
    Misuse of act to victimise male partner: The Madras High Court Bench has observed that Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 suffers from inherent flaws which tempt women to misuse the provisions.
    There are some fundamental problems with this law –
a) It is overwhelmingly gender biased in favour of women,
b) The definition of domestic violence is too expansive and excludes the possibility of male being a victim of domestic violence.  

Sociological Explanation of Domestic Violence
    Patriarchal value system and practices, emphasizing male power and control.
    Lack of economic and social support,
    The inadequate responses of agencies of the state.
    Lack of economic independence of women

Way Forward
    Capacity development workshops for law enforcers (police, protection officers and magistrates), legal aid to women facing violence at home, and awareness-building campaigns about the law among women and the public.
    There should be appointment of Protection Officer (as provided for in the act) with exclusive charge. The persons appointed for this post must bear requisite academic as well as professional qualification and experience and should be equipped with certain facilities and working conditions to meet the requirement and expectations of the Act.
    The shelter home, established to provide immediate shelter to the aggrieved, should be free from the formalities of documentations and direction of the court as these things can be completed later on. Adequate medical facilities and security should be available at shelter homes.
    Coordination among the Agencies like Protection Officers, Service Providers, Police, Medical Facilities and Shelter homes etc. There should be a common training programme, clear jurisdiction and specific role of every stakeholder.
    Social and economic empowerment of the women will address the root cause of domestic violence.

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) on Domestic Violence
Domestic violence against women figures as the top category of violence against women in 2018.
The crime rate per lakh women population is 58.8 in 2018 in comparison to 57.9 in 2017

UN secretary general’s suggestion to counter Domestic Violence
    Increasing investment in online services and civil society organisations
    Continuation of Judicial prosecution of the abusers
    Creating safe ways for women to seek support without alerting their abusers
    Setting up emergency warning systems in pharmacies and groceries
    Declaring shelters as essential services.

The Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 1986; Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987; Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994, Section 292, 498A, 509, 510 of IPC.