Two-thirds of all married women in India are subjected to domestic violence and a shocking 57% of them think it is justified. These figures reveal that not only are the women of this country unsafe within their homes, many of them have been conditioned to accept their fate silently.
Domestic violence is very common in Indian society. But the common Indian woman is terrified of reporting it to the police or filing for divorce. Instead they become victims of the crime for their entire life and develop suicidal tendencies because of the taboo associated with a divorced woman and the fear of sustaining herself and her kids.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 was brought into force by the Indian government from October 26, 2006. The Act was passed by the Parliament in August 2005 and assented to by the President on 13 September 2005. As of November 2007, it has been ratified by four of twenty-eight state governments in India; namely Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha. Of about 8,000 criminal cases registered all over India under this act, Rajasthan had 3440 cases; Kerala had 1,028 cases, while Punjab had 172 cases registered.
Primarily meant to provide protection to the wife or female live-in partner from domestic violence at the hands of the husband or male live-in partner or his relatives, the law also extends its protection to women living in a household such as sisters, widows or mothers. Domestic violence under the act includes actual abuse or the threat of abuse whether physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic. Harassment by way of unlawful dowry demands to the woman or her relatives would also be covered under this definition.
The salient features of the Protection from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 are as follows:
The Act seeks to cover those women who are or have been in a relationship with the abuser where both parties have lived together in a shared household and are related by consanguinity, marriage or a relationship in the nature of marriage, or adoption; in addition relationship with family members living together as a joint family are also included. Even those women who are sisters, widows, mothers, single women, or living with the abuser are entitled to get legal protection under the proposed Act.
"Domestic violence" includes actual abuse or the threat of abuse that is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic. Harassment by way of unlawful dowry demands to the woman or her relatives would also be covered under this definition.
One of the most important features of the Act is the woman’s right to secure housing. The Act provides for the woman’s right to reside in the matrimonial or shared household, whether or not she has any title or rights in the household. This right is secured by a residence order, which is passed by a court. These residence orders cannot be passed against anyone who is a woman.
The other relief envisaged under the Act is that of the power of the court to pass protection orders that prevent the abuser from aiding or committing an act of domestic violence or any other specified act, entering a workplace or any other place frequented by the abused, attempting to communicate with the abused, isolating any assets used by both the parties and causing violence to the abused, her relatives and others who provide her assistance from the domestic violence.
The draft Act provides for appointment of Protection Officers and NGOs to provide assistance to the woman w.r.t medical examination, legal aid, safe shelter, etc.
The Act provides for breach of protection order or interim protection order by the respondent as a cognizable and non-bailable offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to twenty thousand rupees or with both. Similarly, non-compliance or discharge of duties by the Protection Officer is also sought to be made an offence under the Act with similar punishment.