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Another Pain by Another Stain in the Society: Domestic Violence

- Anas Dhorajiwala and Arwa Hussain

INTRODUCTION The cries of a woman broke the silence between the sounds of passing cars. It wasn't high-pitched or loud. It meant that she was being beaten up again. Someone was subjected to domestic violence.The voice didn't last long enough to be followed. I did what I could, printing helpline numbers on posters and hoping they made it far enough down the narrow lane that housed us both. Domestic violence is a global phenomenon and has been discussed nationally and internationally including the ‘Vienna Agreement, 1994’ and the ‘Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 1995’.The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women recommends that countries take measures to protect women from all forms of violence, especially domestic violence. There’s a realization that the fate of Indian women is heart breaking and urgent action is needed to protect and redress the exploitation of women. Exposure of women to domestic violence is a pervasive problem. In India, most of the victims do not seek redress1. Among many reasons, this is because they are uneducated, unfamiliar with the legal process, and lack trust in the legal system. Having to go through onerous procedural laws and being forced to endure a series of delays, timely justice seems unachievable.

In the 1980s, much attention was paid to domestic violence against women which is reflected in changes that created new crimes in the IPC. The Legal remedy available to women against domestic violence was to rely on provisions of the IPC including Section 498A2 and Section 304B3. Given the socioeconomic realities of women's lives, these provisions provided limited protection for women. After a collective effort against domestic violence by the women's movement in India, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was passed.

AUTHORITIES' ROLE IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASES: The Victims can lodge complaints through NGOs, police stations, protection officers, or directly in court. If a complaint is filed with a law enforcement authority, the following steps must be taken to file a lawsuit:

After receiving the charge sheet from either the protection officer, service provider, or police, the court will commence court proceedings which are to be settled within 60 days. DISCREPANCIES IN THE PWDV ACT'S IMPLEMENTATION (2005) 1. Dilatory process The Government introduced a law to protect women from domestic violence in 2005, but the implementation process is slow. The following figure shows a total of 533 cases registered under the PWDV Act, 2005 in 20214. The conviction rate is 30.4 percent under the PWDV Act5. The judicial process creates a delay in awarding justice and cases are not being addressed properly.

Between January and May 2021, 2,383 complaints of domestic violence were filed with the NCW which is a new 21-year high since 2000.6

2. Ambiguous responsibility and disparities The Protection Officers must prepare the domestic incident reports (DIR) in the prescribed form and make an application to a Magistrate7. Service providers have the power to record the DIRs if the victim desires so8. Therefore, the duty of each role still seems undefined. The Protection Officer is to be appointed by the state government as necessary9. Protection Officer preferably should be a woman10. Currently, 72% of Protection Officers are male. There are major disparities in the implementation of the law in various states. While Maharashtra appointed 3,730 Protection Officers, Assam only had 22, and West Bengal had 20 Protection Officers11. 3. Increasing crimes & Decreasing budget Thus, what seems counter intuitive is that the Government of India (GOI), under the MWCD, spends marginally on women’s safety.In this year’s Union Budget,the budgeted expenditure on the MWCD is ₹25,172.28 crores, which is 0.6 percent of the overall budget. The government has allocated ₹3,184.11 crores on women’s protection and empowerment measures, which includes women’s safety, accounting for only 0.08 percent of the ministry’s overall budget. On the other hand, a total of 4,28,278 cases of crime against women were registered during 2021, showing an increase of 15.3% over 2020 (3,71,503 cases)12. It is disheartening to see that the budget for women's safety is shrinking with each passing year, while crimes against women are growing. The NCW reported more than twice the increase in Domestic Violence. About 86% of the victims never sought help from authority 13. It is heart-wrenching that every third woman, since the age of 15 faces domestic violence despite having more than a decade-old legislation14. Domestic violence is a societal issue and requires dedicated awareness campaigns. Most state websites don’t list the Protection Officer, service providers and shelter homes making it difficult for the victim to take protection under the DVP Act. Regarding the same, a PIL was filed by an NGO “We the Women of India”15 4. Shifting responsibilities The Act has mainly affected those who don’t have access to quality legal aid. Though the Act providesfor state legal aid16, the quality of services in such casesis poor. The state has entrusted this responsibility to the service providers. They must provide medical aid to abused women,arrange for short-stay homes, and arrangefor compensation17. This is burdensome for the providers who don’t have proper finances. Most lawyers are not aware of the concept of service providers and therefore don’t coordinate with them in providing adequate legal services18. Furthermore, the judiciary is hardly aware of the role of the service providers, in either filing in the DIR, or counseling. 5. Vulnerabilities of the victim The Courts haven’t been able to meet the PWDVA provision of a 60-day timeline for passing orders, resulting in a delay in delivering justice leaving the victim in a vulnerable position. This leads to emotional, financial, and mental harassment from family and society, weakening the victim's case and increasing the vulnerability to getting justice19. CONCLUSION There is an urgent need to strengthen the PWDV Act, provide family counselling services and set up separate shelter homes for women and children in all districts. Sufficient budget allocation is necessary for effective implementation of the Act. All officials and stakeholders working under PWDVA 2005 should be given an adequate budget on time. The budget has to be allocated for wider legal awareness among the public about the PWDVA, training for capacity building and the creation of proper infrastructure. There is an urgent need to strengthen the Act because even after more than a decade of the legislation, the domestic violence complaints came second on the list of top ten categories of crime against women20 India needs to address the gaps in the administrative data to effectively respond to the Sustainable Development Goals target five to eliminate all forms of violence against women. Indian Law protects women very well, yet they are oppressed from time to time and it has become a complex problem.

“Whatever glory belongs to the race for a development unprecedented in history for the given length of time, a full share belongs to womanhood of the race.”

-Mary McLeod Bethune.

Anas Dhorajiwala and Arwa Hussain are second year students at Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai.

1 National family health survey 2015-16 2 Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty 3 Dowry death 4 NCRB report: Crimes in India 2021, statistics, volume 1, Table 1.3 5 NCRB report: Crimes in India 2021, statistics, volume 1, Table 3A.7 6 National commission for women 7 Section 9 (1)(b) PWDVA Act, 2005 8 Section 5(a) PWDVA Act, 2005 9 Section 8 (1) PWDVA Act, 2005 10 Section 8 (2) PWDVA Act, 2005 11 4545/6279 were males. Press Information Bureau;GOI; MWCD; 1.03.2013 12 NCRB report:Crimes in India 2021, statistics, volume1, Table 3A.1 13 National Family Health Survey, India 14 National Family Health Survey, India 15 Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No(s). 1156/2021 16 Section 9 (d) of PWDVA Act, 2005 17 Section 7 of PWDVA Act, 2005 18 LCWRI, 2013 19 LCWRI, 2013 20 National commission for women annual report,Table 2

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