Often, justice is not served because the victims have no idea what is the legal procedure involved or indeed what law is applicable. Vidya Raja starts off this column on laws that can help women fight crimes. Here is a low down on what the Domestic Violence Act (“Act”)means.

An overview of the Domestic Violence Act

The Act protecting women from domestic violence came into force in the year 2005. This Act besides being a revolution of sorts also heralded many changes in the lives of many women across the country. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence is a widely debated Act. However, very often we fail to understand what the Act means and stands for. Having said this, I must begin by explaining what ‘Domestic Violence’ means. Section 3 of the Act defines the term ‘Domestic Violence’. The salient features of the Act are as follows:

  • Only women are at liberty to seek refuge under this Act.
  • The Act seeks to protect women who are either in a live in relationship with an abusive partner or are married to men who are abusive in nature.
  • The Act also has provisions wherein the women who is being subjected to domestic violence can register a case against the husbands family members who are causing such abuse.
  • The Act 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.
  • The fear of being rendered homeless is a very real fear that many women face. This Act provides for a women’s right to reside in her matrimonial or shared household. This right can be exercised and implemented by a residence order, which is passed by the Court.
  • The Act also comes down heavily on those who flout it. Non-compliance of orders passed under this Act can result in imprisonment of upto one year and also be fined upto Rs. 20,000/-
  • All acts of abuse under this Act are non-bailable offences.

Domestic Violence is not curtailed to physical abuse alone; it includes the following types of abuses:

Physical abuse

  • Any kind of bodily hurt or injury
  • Threat of causing any bodily hurt or injury

Verbal abuse

  • Name calling (insults and ridicule)
  • Insults for not bringing dowry
  • Character assassination
  • Insults for not being able to produce a male child

Sexual abuse

  • Forced sexual intercourse
  • Forcing a woman to look at pornography
  • Outraging the modesty of the woman
  • Forced sexual acts aimed at insulting and degrading the woman

Economic abuse

  • Depriving the woman of adequate money for food, clothing, and shelter
  • Causing any sort of hindrance to employment opportunities that the woman might have
  • Forcing the women out of the house
  • Depriving the woman of comforts that she is accustomed to
  • Not contributing towards the household expenses

A woman can file / make a complaint about any of the above mentioned abuses to one of the following authorities:

  • Police
  • Protection Officer
  • Magistrate
  • NGO (service providers)

Women are no longer the weaker sex. Legislations of this nature ensure that women are empowered and are at a position wherein they can take action against any perpetrator of abuse against them. The Domestic Violence Act is a rather comprehensive Act, which looks into all the nuances in depth.

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