ibnlive » India

Jun 29, 2007 at 04:15pm IST

Women law brings hope for victims

New Delhi: Can the Domestic Violence Act really protect women from abusive husbands in absence of social change in a society where the position of women is still subordinate and where traditional mindsets dominate?

People like Monika Singh, a victim of domestic violence, do feel that this law can help women like her. Hers is a story that is familier with the experiences of many middle-class Indian women today.

"It began with the very first year of our marriage and I suffered for four years. And I do feel like a fool today that I did not have the courage to walk out after the very first slap" says Monika.

bullet So the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 has now been notified as of today, it is a law now.
bullet All crimes under this act are non-bailable and punishment ranges from a year's imprisonment to Rs 20,000.
bullet Defines domestic violence as actual abuse or the threat of abuse whether physical, sexual, emotional or economic.'
bullet Law provides protection to the wife or live-in partner at the hands of the husband or live in partner or his relatives.
bullet State will appoint protection officers to help women.
bullet Woman can approach courts without first going to the police.

Monika finally did walk out on her abusive husband, but in spite of being a highly acclaimed Odissi dancer and a financially independent woman, it wasn't easy for her.

She feels that though the new law against domestic violence is going to be a source of strength for many women like her, it might take a long time for such abuses to be wiped out completely.

"It became even more dangerous for me once I took the step. There were too many threats and SMSs saying 'I will do this and that to you'," she recalls.

Getting family support and social acceptance was another worry. "The police's first reaction was, 'This is your household issue, sort it yourselves'," Monika narrates.

This is indeed an issue. While the law could be good in letter and spirit, at times insensitivity of the law-enforcement agencies and various legalities can prove to be a big hindrance in the implementation of the law.

Says advocate Pinky Anand, "There is going to be duplication of legislation so we already have 498 A, the National Commission for Women, the State Commission for Women and then there are women who are approaching each and every forum."

Today even as Monika starts a new chapter of life, she hasn't forgotten the support she got from the most unexpected quarters – her tradition-bound grandmother.

"When I told her that I walked out on my marriage, she asked me why. I said he beat me and she said just one simple thing - 'you did a great thing. Why should you be beaten up'?" Monika recalls. It is this encouragement from someone very dear to her that helped Monika overcame the biggest hurdle in living her life with dignity - her own self-doubt.

Physical violence
For example: Beating, slapping, hitting, biting, kicking, punching, pushing, shoving or causing bodily pain or injury in any other manner.
bullet Sexual violence, including against children
bullet Forced sexual intercourse
bullet Forces you to look at pornography or any other obscene pictures or material
bullet Any act of sexual nature to abuse, humiliate or degrade you, or which is otherwise violative of your dignity or any other unwelcome conduct of sexual nature
bullet Child sexual abuse
bullet Verbal and emotional violence
bullet Insults
bullet Name calling
bullet Accusations on your character and conduct etc
bullet Insults for not having a male child
bullet Insults for not bringing dowry etc
bullet Preventing you or a child in your custody from attending school, college or any other educational institution
bullet Preventing you from taking up a job, forcing you to leave your job
bullet Preventing you or a child in your custody from leaving the house
bullet Preventing you from meeting any person in the normal course of events
bullet Forcing you to get married when you don't want to marry
bullet Preventing you from marrying a person of your own choice
bullet Forcing you to marry a particular person of his/their own choice
bullet Threat to commit suicide
bullet Any other verbal or emotional abuse
bullet Economic violence
bullet Not providing you money for maintaining you or your children
bullet Not providing food, clothes, medicines etc for you or your children
bullet Stopping you from carrying on your employment or disturbing you in carrying on your employment
bullet Not allowing you to take up an employment or taking away your income from your salary, wages etc
bullet Forcing you out of the house you live in
bullet Stopping you from accessing or using any part of the house
bullet Not allowing use of clothes, articles or things of general household use
bullet Not paying rent if staying in a rented accommodation

History of Domestic Violence Act
bullet NCW forwarded first draft to the govt in 1997
bullet Bill tabled in Parliament by NDA govt in 2000
bullet Women organisations criticise draft bill for being open to manilulations
bullet Referred to the Standing Committee on HRD
bullet Second draft sent to Ministries in 2004
bullet New Bill introduced by UPA govt in 2005
bullet Bill passed by the Parliament on August 24, 2005
bullet Time taken in framing rules delayed implementation of the Act
bullet Act implemented more than a year after the bill was passed
bullet One crime against women every three minutes
bullet One rape every 29 minutes
bullet One dowry death case every 77 minutes
bullet One case of cruelty by husband and relatives every nine minutes
Source: National Crime Records Bureau