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Addressing domestic violence: A forgotten agenda while locking India down
Context: Rise in domestic violence cases amid lockdown.
The National Commission for Women (NCW), which receives complaints of domestic violence from across the country, has recorded more than twofold rise in gender-based violence in the national Coronavirus lockdown period. From March 24 till April 1, 257 complaints related to various offences against women were received.
This brings us to the questions of domestic violence in India. In this article, we will explain the below:
- What is domestic violence?
- What does the Indian law says about domestic violence?
- What is the recent statistics related to domestic violence?
- What is India’s position in Global gender equality?
- What are the measures taken by NCW to tackle the rise in cases of domestic violence?
What is domestic violence?
- According to WHO, Intimate partner violence which is reffered as domestic violence is one of the most common forms of violence against women and includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviours by an intimate partner.
- Domestic violence can also encompass child or elder abuse, or abuse by any member of a household.
- The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, defines “Domestic Violence” for the first time in Indian law. It is a comprehensive definition and captures women’s experience of abuse and includes not only physical violence but also other forms of violence such as emotional / verbal, sexual, and economic abuse. It is based on definitions in international law such as the UN Declaration on Violence Against Women and a Model Code.
- The Act recognizes domestic violence as a human rights violation. It recognizes a woman’s right to live in a violence-free home. To realize this right, the Act recognizes a woman’s right to residence and her right to obtain protection orders under the law.
What does the Indian law says about domestic violence?
There are three laws in place in India that deal directly with domestic violence: The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005; The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 And Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
- The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is a civil law that provides protection to women in a household, from men in the household. This law not only protects women who are married to men but it also protects women who are in live-in relationships, as well as family members including mothers, grandmothers, etc. Under this law, women can seek protection against domestic violence, financial compensation, the right to live in their shared household, and they can get maintenance from their abuser in case they are living apart.
- Dowry Prohibition Act: This is a criminal law that punishes the taking and giving of dowry. Under this law, if someone takes, gives or even demands dowry, they can be imprisoned for 6 months or they can be fined upto Rs 5,000.
- Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty). This is a criminal law, which applies to husbands or relatives of husbands who are cruel to women. Cruelty refers to any conduct that drives a woman to suicide or causes grave injury to her life or health – including mental health – and also includes harassment in the name of dowry. If convicted, people can be sent to jail for up to 3 years under this law.
What is the recent statistics related to domestic violence?
- According to the Crime in India Report 2018, published by the National Crimes Research Bureau (NCRB), every 1.7 minutes a crime was recorded against women in India, every 16 minutes a rape was committed and every 4.4 minutes a girl is subjected to domestic violence.
- The crime rate per lakh women population was 58.8 in 2018 in comparison to 57.9 in 2017.
- Domestic violence topped in the category of violence against women in 2018.
- The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), 2015-16 highlighted that 30% women in India in the age group of 15-49 experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
- The NFHS-4 report suggested that among married women experiencing physical, sexual or emotional violence, an alarming 83% claimed that their husbands were the main perpetrators of such forms of abuse, followed by abuse from the mothers (56%), fathers 33% and siblings 27% of the husbands.
- The major crimes reported by women in India are cruelty by husband or relatives 32.6%, assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty is 25%, kidnapping and abductions 19% and rape 11.5%.
What is India’s position in Global gender equality?
- According to UN, gender equality is a fundamental human right and a much-needed foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
- The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 seeks to “eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women in the public and private spheres, and to undertake reforms to give them the same rights to economic resources and access to property by 2030”.
- According to the 2020 Best Countries report, people around the world still believe that Arab nations, as well as other countries such as India and South Korea, have a long way to go.
- India is the fourth worst country (after United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia) for gender equality (ranked by perception).
What are the measures taken by NCW to tackle the rise in cases of domestic violence?
- The National Commission for Women (NCW) launched a WhatsApp number on Friday to report cases of domestic violence, which have seen a rise during the coronavirus lockdown period.
- The Whatsapp Number is in addition to the online complaint links and emails which are already operational.
- NCW is looking forward to explore the possibility of providing counselling through online and phones services. Counselling in cases of complaints received is also important & all state commissions for women will nominate counsellors.
- NCW is moving ahead to fully utilise 181 women helpline and shelter homes, integrate with One Stop Centres (Sakhi Centres) for addressing grievance and distress.
It has been seen that violence against women tends to increase during every type of emergency, including epidemics. While the Indian government has made significant efforts in reducing the largely unchecked epidemic of violence against women, but there is still a long way to go.
The present pandemic has unviled the deep rooted psychology of male dominance, resulitng in rise of the domestic violence cases. The true numbers are difficult to imagine considering the various other factors in under-reporting of such cases.