Written By – Dakshita
Domestic Violence Act, 2005 – A Sociological Perspective
Since the outbreak of the deadly corona virus, human social life as we know it, has come to an abrupt halt with countries imposing lockdowns everywhere, restricting social gatherings, all in an attempt to curb the spread of the deadly virus. At the surface, it seems as if a public health crisis and an expected economic crisis are the only problems that countries worldwide would have to face. However, if you pry deeper into the situation, from a sociological perspective you may find the sudden increase in crimes against women existing in this state of lockdown. While being at home might be a reason to be relieved or happy for many, the increasing domestic abuse being faced by women worldwide, during the corona virus lockdown, proves that many women do not share the same feelings about being in their homes during this pandemic. On the outside they face a deadly virus, however on the inside they face an equally deadly physical/mental abuse from their “family”.
According to the World Health Organization , domestic violence against women, is a severe human rights violation and includes any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. It is not necessary that these acts of violence be physical and can vary from sexual, mental or any other behaviour which may be done with the purpose of gaining the dominant/more powerful position against a spouse or partner. While the acts of domestic abuse may be gender specific, ie, Domestic Violence victims can only be women according to law, morally speaking, crimes against the human body do not see gender, and men can be victim of such abuse too. Majority of Domestic Abuse incidents are targeted towards women as the World Health Organization reports that almost 1 in every 3 women worldwide have suffered from domestic abuse at least once in their lives. Instance of domestic violence against women mainly stem from reasons such as poor education, alcohol and substance abuse, male privilege, women’s unequal status, patriarchy, misogyny, along with the notion that women always need to adjust and “boys will be boys” etc.
In India, domestic violence has been an unfortunate yet chilling reality, that Indian society loves to ignore, partly because of the strong patriarchal culture that the Indian society has been living in and mostly due to the high level of desensitization, acceptance and normalcy that has been created in Indian homes, concerning the issue of domestic abuse. Therefore, the introduction of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 in this patriarchal condition of the Indian society becomes an important step towards the protection of women against domestic violence. The act provides for a very expansive and broad definition of domestic abuse to include any physical, mental, sexual, verbal or economic abuse being committed against the victim. The definition of domestic violence under the Domestic Violence act becomes important because it addresses such forms of domestic abuse which were not earlier expressly addressed in other statutes. Sexual abuse such as marital rape was not explicitly included under the Indian Penal Code but is now given a legal recognition under this Act.
Similarly the long standing practice of dowry and dowry deaths is dealt with under the ambit of economic abuse, which states that any acts done with the intention to abuse the victim or any other person related to her with the view to obtain assets or resources shall be considered to be economic abuse under this act. The provision against dowry death is also included in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 under section 498-A as cruelty towards the spouse, but the domestic violence act provides an explicit definition to it. The inclusion of economic abuse in Indian laws regarding domestic violence become especially important considering the Indian societal construct and the long term practice of demanding dowry from the woman and her family. This also becomes a key point of difference between the global and Indian definitions on domestic violence and during these periods of global lockdown, the problem of domestic violence, irrespective of the form, just keeps on increasing.