Domestic violence is sadly a reality in Indian society, a truism. In the Indian patriarchal setup, it became an acceptable practice to abuse women. There may be many reasons for the occurrence of domestic violence
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (or the Domestic Violence Act) is a laudable piece of legislation that was enacted in 2005 to tackle this problem. The Act in theory goes a long way towards protection of women in the domestic setup
Important definitions under the Act
- The definition of domestic violence is well written and wide-ranging and holistic. It covers, mental as well as physical abuse, and also threats to do the same. Any form of harassment, coercion, harm to health, safety, limb or well-being is covered. Additionally, there are specific definitions for the following:
- Physical abuse: Defined as act or conduct that is of such a nature as to cause bodily pain, harm, or danger to life, limb or health or impair the health or development of the aggrieved person’. Physical abuse also includes assault, criminal intimidation and criminal force.
- Sexual abuse: The legislation defines this as conduct of “sexual nature” that ‘abuses, humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the dignity of a woman.’
- Verbal and emotional abuse: Insults/ ridicule of any form, including those with regard to inability to have a male child, as well as repeated threats
- Economic abuse: Categorized as including deprivation of financial resources required for survival of the victim and her children, the disposing of any assets which the victim has an interest/stake in and prohibition/restriction of financial resources which the victim is used to while in the domestic relationship.
- The definition of “aggrieved person” includes any woman who is or has been in a domestic relationship with the respondent and who alleges to have been subjected to domestic violence by them. (See Section 2(a) of the PWDVA)
The definition of “domestic relationship” is any relationship 2 persons have lived together in a shared household and these people are:
- related by consanguinity (blood relations)
- related by marriage.
- Though a relationship in the nature of marriage (which would include live-in relationships)
- Through adoption
- Are family members living in a joint family.
The definition of ‘domestic relationship’ is broad enough to cover all sorts of household arrangements; for example, live-in relationships when the couple is not married. The inclusion of this, as well as relationships which fall under categories of fraudulent or bigamous, was a pioneering step.
With regard to live-in relationships itself, in a distinctive judgment passed in the case of Bharata Matha & Ors v. R. Vijaya Renganathan & Ors, it was decided that a child born out of a live-in relationship is entitled to property (the property owned by the parents, but not ancestral property). This means that a woman and her child in a live-in relationship cannot be threatened with economic abuse.