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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL HISTORICAL

PERSPECTIVE
Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between
men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by
men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against
women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a
subordinate position compared with men.

-Declaration on Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993
1

...States should pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating
violence against women and, to this end, should:
(d) Develop penal, civil, labour and administrative sanctions in domestic legislation to
punish and redress the wrongs caused to women who are subjected to violence; women who
are subjected to violence should be provided with access to the mechanisms of justice and, as
provided for national legislation, to just and effective remedies for the harm that they have
suffered; States should also inform women of their rights in seeking redress through such
mechanisms:

-Article 4, Declaration on Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993
2

Bride tortured to death for dowry, School going kid succumbs to her injuries after beaten
by father
All these and what not, turn to any newspaper at random and you would find the reports of
such kind of violence all over the country. These are all what we come to know through
different forms of media. There are more such cases which go unreported every day. In fact,

1
Handbook on Law of Domestic Violence- Lawyers Collective, LexisNexis Butterworths Wadhwa, Pg. No. Xi
2
Ibid
include the cases which we our self indulge in, or the ones which we witness in the
neighbourhood but are hesitant in taking even a single step to reduce their occurrences.

In our society, violence is bursting. It is present almost everywhere and nowhere is this
eruption more intense than right behind the doors of our homes. Behind closed doors of
homes all across our country, people are being tortured, beaten and killed. It is happening in
rural areas, towns, cities and in metropolitans as well. It is crossing all social classes, genders,
racial lines and age groups. It is becoming a legacy being passed on from one generation to
another.

The term used to describe this exploding problem of violence within our homes is Domestic
Violence. This violence is towards someone who we are in a relationship with, be it a wife,
husband, son, daughter, mother, father, grandparent or any other family member. It can be a
males or a females atrocities towards another male or female. Anyone can be a victim and a
victimizer. This violence has a tendency to explode in various forms such as physical, sexual
or emotional.


LEGISLATION ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Indian women have always been considered to be the downtrodden section of our society.
Mens treatment of women has always been akin to the treatment of dirt under ones feet.
Deplorable is a mild way of stating the condition of women in Ancient India. Although,
efforts were made even in Shastras & Puranas, to electrify and exalt the image of women by
associating it with Goddess Durga. Yet, it is ironic that essentially India is a patriarchal and
purely male dominated society.

For a long time, the fairer sex has suffered at the hands of men, the exploitation ranges from
physical to intangible abuse like mental and psychological torture. Women have been treated
as child bearing machines, preferably male child bearing machines, property to barter and
essentially, nothing but animals at the hands of men. Domestic violence is one of the gravest
and the most pervasive human rights violation. For too long now, women have accepted it as
their destiny or have just quietly acceded their right to raise their voice, perhaps, because of
the justice system or the lack of it or because they are vulnerable, scared of being ostracized
by their own because domestic violence still remains a taboo in most families in India and the
collective society conscious still does not accept it.

The incidence of domestic violence has been increasing over years and no legislation dealing
with it exclusively and in detail was available. Womens organizations had been pressing the
need for the enactment of a specific legislation to deal with the problem exclusively, for a
long time.
This form of domestic violence is most common of all. One of the reasons for it being so
prevalent is the orthodox and idiotic mindset of the society that women are physically and
emotionally weaker than the males. Though women today have proved themselves in almost
every field of life affirming that they are no less than men, the reports of violence against
them are much larger in number than against men. The possible reasons are many and are
diversified over the length and breadth of the country. According to United Nation Population
Fund Report, around two-third of married Indian women are victims of domestic violence
and as many as 70 per cent of married women in India between the age of 15 and 49 are
victims of beating, rape or forced sex. In India, more than 55 per cent of the women suffer
from domestic violence, especially in the states of Bihar, U.P., M.P. and other northern
states.
3

Also as expressed by Rebecca J. Burns in the following lines, When I am asked why a
woman doesnt leave abuser I say: Women stay because the fear of leaving is greater than the
fear of staying. They will leave when the fear of staying is greater than the fear of leaving. A
common Indian house wife has a tendency to bear the harassment she is subjected to by her
husband and the family. One reason could be to prevent the children from undergoing the
hardships if she separates from the spouse. Also the traditional and orthodox mindset makes
them bear the sufferings without any protest.
4



3
http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2010/02/domestic-violence-in-india-causes-consequences-and-remedies-
2/visited on 12th march 2012
4
Ibid
THE SOCIAL IMPACTS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary.
The evil it does is permanent.
-Mahatma Gandhi
Domestic Violence isnt just hitting, or fighting, or an occasional argument. Its an abuse of
power. The abuser tortures and controls the victim by calculated threats, intimidation, and
physical violence. Although both men and women can be abused, in most cases, the victims
are women. Children in homes where there is domestic violence are also abused or neglected.
Although the woman is usually the primary target, violence is sometimes directed towards
children, and sometimes toward family members and friends.

Violence in the domestic sphere is usually perpetrated by males who are, or who have been,
in positions of trust and intimacy and power-husbands, boyfriends, fathers, fathers-in-law,
step-fathers, brothers, uncles, sons, or other relatives. Domestic Violence is in most cases
violence perpetrated by men against women. Women can also be violent, but their actions
account for a small percentage of domestic violence.

Violence against women is often a cycle of abuse that manifests itself in many forms
throughout their lives. Even at the very beginning of her life, a girl may be the target of sex-
selective abortion or female infanticide in cultures where son preference is prevalent. During
child-hood, violence against girls may include enforced mal-nutrition, lack of access to
medical care and education, incest, female genital mutilation early marriage, and forced
prostitution or bonded labour.
5


5
http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/digestoe.pdf visited on 15th November, 2012

Some go on to suffer throughout their adult lives- battered, raped and even murdered at the
hands of intimate partners. Other crimes of violence against women include forced
pregnancy, abortion or sterilization, and harmful traditional practices such as dowry-related
violence, sati (the burning of a widow on the funeral pyre of her husband), and killings in the
name of honour. And in later life, widows and elderly women may also experience abuse.
6


The results of these atrocities are ones that impact not only the victim but, as the case maybe
the child of the victim, her friends, family and relative. The pain is not something that is
easily erased and can lead to far reaching ramifications. The single most influential factor of
in society is the continuation of generation cycle of abuse and/or a history of abuse in family
of origin. Experiences during childhood, such as witnessing domestic violence and
experiencing physical and sexual abuse, have been identified as factors that put children at
risk. Violence may be learnt as a means of resolving conflict and asserting manhood by
children who have witnessed such patterns of conflict resolution.
7
Children who grow up in
an environment where control is maintained through verbal threats and intimidation and
conflicts escalate into physical violence are more likely to resort to the any methods of abuse
as adults. There are, however, a number of predictions that may lead to domestic violence:
8

1. An environment where violence is either taught, by example, or accepted as normal
will imprint upon a childs psyche. A young boy may see his father come home from
work drunk behaviour. The young boy is being taught that violence gets result results. He
is developing his own ideas about what makes a man.

6
Supra note 1
7
Supra 1
8
Dr. Suman Rai, Law Relating To Protection Of Women From Domestic Violence, Asian Law House, .p.4
2. Domestic Violence is often linked to poor self-esteem. A child growing up in a violence
home is likely to have a very little self-worth. He may be engaged in a pattern of
negative self-talk.
3. Drug and/or alcohol abuse may be a precursor to domestic violence. Substance abuse
leads to out-of-control behaviour. The number one communality within the dynamics of
the most alcoholic families is poor emotional; health. His leads to secondary anger,
which is an ineffective substitute for honestly with emotions.
4. Domestic violence is more frequent where individuals experience loss of physical and/or
wage-earning power. The frustration of the inability to make ends need increases
conflict in the home. Felling of helpless mount. Anger flares. In the face of inadequate
coping mechanism, violence erupt in the home and everyone losses.

MERITS AND DEMERITS OF THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT, 2005
MERITS OF THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT, 2005
Domestic Violence is one of the gravest and the most pervasive of human right violations in
India. Most victims of domestic violence are women who come from all social and economic
backgrounds.
9


The Domestic Violence Act, 2005 gives protection to women from domestic violence in a
step in right direction. By including the unmarried sisters, mothers, widows, etc. in the list of
women facing domestic violence, the Act has ensured full proof protection to the harassed
women.
10


While the intention of the Domestic Violence Act is laudable, the Act itself is draconian and
very harsh on men.
11
The Protection of women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is unique
and different from other existing laws. Some of the merits are mentioned below:
1. 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 house-hold 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.
12


9
http://sakshijuneja.com/blog/2006/10/26/domestic-violence-act-2005-big-brother-has-arrived/, visited on 20
th

November, 2012
10
http://www.ebcindia.com/practicallawyer/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8753&Itemid=54,
visited on 18
th
November, 2012
11
Ibid
12
http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=21508, visited on 18
th
November, 2012
2. 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.
13

3. One of the most important features of the Act is the womans right to secure housing.
The act provides for the womans right to reside in the matrimonial or shared household,
whether or not she has any title or rights in the house-hold. 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.
14



13
Supra note
14
Ibid
CONCLUSIONS AND SUGGESTIONS
Domestic Violence is a widespread and serious problem that affects the lives of countless
women and is an obstacle to the achievement of equality, development and peace in all
continents. It endangers women lives and impedes the full development of womens
capabilities. It obstructs the exercise of their rights as citizens; it harms families and
communities and reinforces other forms of violence throughout societies, often with deadly
consequences.
15

Domestic Violence is not a new phenomenon. It has been hidden behind the walls of the
home. Those within do not wish to speak about it and those outside do not want to hear it.
Women in general, the victims of violence, the families, the communities, the courts, the
police and the Government all seem to be in one in keeping it under wraps. Each has a
rationale from family honour, intimate relationships, dependency, and the rights to
personal/family privacy to complexity of proving and implementing the law. Women have
been accustomed to bear with domestic violence without any protest. Social practices,
customs, beliefs, myths and patriarchy are the causative factors of domestic violence. It is
based on several theoretical perspective the causes of violence have been broadly classified
under biological determinants including hormonal factors; intra-physic determinants that
include personality characteristics of both the victim and perpetrator; behavioural positions
that take into account social conditions; and cognitive process that focus on factors such as
accepting other anger, faulty processing of social information, and so on. In addition to these,
the family and social situation play an important role in determining violent behaviours and
ways of expression. It appears in several forms and manifestations. Other than beating of
children, forms of violence are covert and not covert.
16



15
Dr Suman Rai, Law Relating To Protection of Women From Domestic Violence, Orient Publishing Company,
.p. 289
16
Dr. R. Revathi., Law Relating to Domestic Violence, Asian Law House, 2009, .p. 219
1.1 SUGGESTIONS:
The following are the pragmatic suggestions for the considerations of the policy makers, in
the direction of preventing domestic violence.
1. Creating Awareness: Though the protection of women from Domestic Violence Act,
2005 came into force, people are not aware of the law. As a result, people are invoking
more of penal provisions I matters relating to domestic violence rather than civil
remedies provided under the new law. Therefore, awareness of the provisions of the act
and how to implement the act is a problem. The need of the hour is the publicity about
this Act to increase awareness among women and to make the complaints forms easily
available.
2. Amendment To The Indian Penal Code: Section 304-B IPC which deals with dowry
death need to be amended enlarging the scope of cruelty referable to other situation of
harassment. The scope of section 498-A should be widened to include harassment of
unmarried daughters too in their parental home. At present, the law covers only married
women who face harassment in their marital homes. It should include divorced and
widowed women too who may be harassed in their natal or matrimonial homes. The
explanation (b) to section 498-A is unduly restrictive as women are harassed not just to
meet unlawful demands for property but often merely to assault authority. Such
harassment takes different forms, such as denial of food access to children, access to
matrimonial home or threats to dispossess a woman from the matrimonial home. The sub
section should be amended to make any harassment of woman as an act of cruelty,
whether such harassment is with a view to coerce any person related to her to meet an
unlawful demand for property or not. Amendment to the IPC is to be made providing for
marital rape.
3. Amendment To The Dowry Prohibition Act: The definition of dowry in section 2 of
the Dowry Prohibition Act needs to be amended covering wedding present, traditional
gifts etc, given in the name of custom and practice and in guise of voluntary presents.
Mere demand for dowry should constitute an offence, irrespective of the fact whether it
was accepted or not by the other party, whether given in connection with the marriage or
not, given before or subsequent to marriage.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

STATUTES CONSULTED:-
Article 15(3) and 16(3) empower the state to make special provisions for women and
children and equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
Preamble to Constitution of India, 1950.
The Constitution of India, 1950.
The Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.

RESOLUTIONS CONSULTED:-
Section I, para 18 of Vienna declaration programme of action.
U.N. GENERAL Assembly Resolution 34/180, dated 19
th
December, 1979.

BOOKS CONSULTED:-
Dr. Suman Rai, Law Relating to Protection of Women from Domestic Violence,
Orient Publishing Company, 2009, .p.541
Dutta, Asharbani, Domestic Violence as a Human Rights Violation: A reality that
bites, Cr. L.J. 2005.
ECLAC ( Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) (1992),
Domestic Violence against women in Latin America and the Caribbean: Proposals
for Discussion, Social Development Division, Santiago, Chile. (Supra 1).
Handbook on Law of Domestic Violence, Lawyers Collective, LexisNexis,
Butterworths Wadhwa.
Heise (1994).