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EditorialRedefining Domestic violence

Redefining Domestic violence


Redefining Domestic violence

The Supreme Court, in an important verdict,  has widened the scope of the Domestic Violence Act by ordering deletion of the words ‘adult male' from it, paving the way for prosecution of women and even non-adults for subjecting a woman relative to violence and harassment. The apex court has ordered striking down of the two words from Section 2(q) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, which deals with respondents who can be sued and prosecuted under the Act for harassing a married woman in her matrimonial home.

The court opined: ‘The microscopic difference between male and female, adult and non-adult, regard being had to the object sought to be achieved by the 2005 Act, is neither real or substantial, nor does it have any rational relation to the object of the legislation.'

Changing legislation is only a small step towards changing societal behaviour. Domestic violence is a layered issue. In rural , wife bashing is seen as a rightful act. In 2005, when the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, was passed, it was viewed as a legal tool of women empowerment, against the oppressive control of patriarchy. Few came forward to make use of the Act. As late as 2014, the Ministry of Home Affairs was urging the Records Bureau to collect data on domestic violence. In the same year, the NCRB showed almost negligible, 426 cases of domestic violence.

Now that the Supreme Court has struck down the expression ‘adult male person' from a provision in the Domestic Violence Act, it makes the law controlling domestic violence free of gender and adulthood stipulation. The change should protect senior citizens, often at the receiving end of cruelty of daughters-in-law. Under the new provision, a woman can file a case of domestic violence against her daughter-in-law and vice versa, eliminating menfolk from the domestic battleground. The 2005 legislation, intended to protect the rights of women, was often misused by male adults, who used women as a shield to achieve the goal of forced eviction of another female relative, subverting the law.

Sadly enough, violence is a socially accepted tool in Indian families to control women and children. Laws rarely come to the rescue of the victim, for lack of awareness and their implementation by the administrative body, protection officers, etc. Even neighbours witnessing domestic violence treat it as a personal matter. Women fear destroying ‘domestic peace' by reporting violence. There is usually lack of preparedness among the First Class Judicial magistrates and Metropolitan magistrates, in dealing with the sensitivity of such cases; the government continues to push for their training through judicial academies. In the meantime, putting women and minors on an equal footing as perpetrators of domestic violence will ensure a higher number of cases reported. Curtailing domestic violence is another matter.

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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