Violence against women is common not only on the roads and public places but also within the confines of their homes. India is said to be one of the most unsafe places for women. Be it a mother, daughter or a wife, according to statistics, every Indian woman has faced some sort of violence at her home and through the hands of her loved ones.
This is particularly true for women living in matrimonial houses, under the care of their husbands and parents-in-law, or women living with alcoholic/drug abusing male members. A woman invariably falls prey at the hands of abusive family members, who consider her an easy target and a weaker gender. However, the Indian Constitution provides various fundamental rights to women in order to protect them from various notorious elements and stereotypes of the society.
While violence against women on the streets is aptly dealt with the Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code, in order to specifically address issues of domestic violence, the domestic Violence Act was introduced in 2005. The Act aims to provide a better and more robust framework of legal protections to women in order to make the promise of constitution a living reality.
The act comprehensively defines Domestic Violence. Under the act, any woman can face violence in the ‘domestic’ setting, such as her matrimonial house, non-marital house, at the hands of her immediate family members, relatives, people she is connected with through blood, marriage, adoption or otherwise (including wife through second marriage, live-in female partner, illegitimate daughter). Further, the accused need not be only a male member. It can also be a female member of her house-hold who can be made liable for the violence.
The definition of domestic violence is not limited to only physical violence. Given the fact that patriarchy is systemic, the act recognizes that violence can be inflicted through explicit and implicit acts, omissions or failures to perform one’s duty towards the woman. The Domestic Violence in question can be sexual, physical, verbal, emotional, mental, psychological, and economic. Thus, even forced sex with one’s wife amounts to domestic violence under the act. Further, if the legal guardian of the wife fails to take care of her (father, brother, mother, husband, parents-in-law of a widow etc.), then also the failure or omission will amount to Domestic Violence.
The Act requires the female victim to prove only two things: A valid domestic relationship between her and the accused, and secondly, the fact that the victim shares a household with the accused. After this, only a prima-facie (Prima-facie is a legal term meaning ‘based on first-impression) case needs to be established.
Once the victim of domestic violence has established the necessary facts to the court, she is entitled to the following reliefs by the court:
- Right to Protection: The victim of domestic violence can seek restrictions of the accused from entering or frequenting any place she lives at or visits, aiding or covertly attempting any act of violence against her, communicating with her, using her property or assets to influence her, threatening or using violence upon her relatives, or committing any act mentioned in the order.
- Right to Residence: A woman who is a victim of domestic violence doesn’t lose her rights to residence. The court ensures that she has a residence or place to stay without any fear of undue displacement. The shared household remains her vested interest. The expenses for her separate residence are to be borne by her family in-charge of her daily maintenance.
- Right to Monetary Relief: This is a fundamental relief to the woman facing domestic violence. She is entitled to receive compensation for her necessary expenses, along with the medical or material expenses suffered due to the act of violence upon her. The court fully ensures the victim’s financial security.
- Right to Custody: The aggrieved woman is entitled to temporary custody of her children. Any person who applies for protection on behalf of the woman is also entitled to such custody.
- Right to Damages and Compensation: As stated earlier, the victim has a right to seek complete compensation for the damages suffered due to acts of violence against her.
If you are facing domestic violence, you can simply lodge a complaint of domestic violence at your nearest police station or contact any lawyer to help you.
Written By — Arunika Misha
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