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Importance of –The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

A 2nd year student of W.B.N.U.J.S, Kolkata

 Reported Crimes Against Women”[1] – Year 1999-2000: 1,55,553[2]; Year 2005: 1,41,373[3]; Year 2010: 2,13,585[4]; Year 2013: 2,95,930.[5]On perusing the above data it can be seen that, crimes which are committed within the four walls of a woman’s house are categorised   under merely two heads, namely – Homicide for Dowry/Dowry Deaths or their attempts (Section 302/304-B IPC) and Torture, both mental and physical (Section 498-A IPC).  Even though the number of ‘reported crimes’ against women are increasing at an alarming rate and considering the fact that in our patriarchal society more crimes are being committed than are  reported,social activists, feminists and several non-governmental organisations have  persistently  demanded  bringing amendments to the present criminal laws and if needed, also to enact  specialised legislations.

Before the introduction of ‘The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Bill, 2000’, several other amendments and new laws were introduced such as the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and the Criminal Laws Amendment Act, 1983 – which specifically worked towards  improving the laws that govern domestic violence against women. To some extent they did a good job; for example, by inserting Section 498A of IPC, violence in the form of ‘torture’ was introduced and it provided stern punishments to offenders causing dowry death, suicides or tortures inflicted on women in pursuit of dowry demands.

But does restricting the definition of ‘torture’ to merely mental and physical suffice in dealing with several other harms such as economic and sexual? What about the woman who is not the wife of the man she is living with? Violence inflicted towards her cannot be   for the purpose of obtaining of dowry and hence, neither the Indian Penal Code, 1860 nor any specialised laws can come to the rescue of such women. ‘The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005’ (hereinafter written as DV Act) was drafted keeping in mind all these issues. It widens the scope of ‘cruelty’ – in the name of domestic violence. It has categorised abuses as physical/sexual/verbal/ emotional and economic.[6]It has addressed a woman in general – she can be someone’s daughter, wife, mother and even a live-in partner. The DV Act has taken care of the hindrances and social apathies that a woman faces after reporting a criminal complaint and how these problems discourage other women to raise their voices against such crimes. The DV Act introduced provisions such as alternate residence for ensuring that the victim is not  thrown out of her house by the alleged offenders[7], protection of victim and her children by appointing ‘Protection Officers’[8], monetary reliefs such as loss of earnings, medical expenses[9], custody of children till the final court hearing[10] etc.These provisions have become a great boon for all those women who had earlier found it impossible to get out the vicious circle of the society and file a criminal complaint against their own relatives and live-in partners. The DV Act has also given a fair chance to all those voluntary organisations which have always worked selflessly and intervened to help these women in their misery. These organisations are empowered to act as intermediaries[11] between the alleged offenders and the victims in domestic violence matters.

But since perfection is hard to be achieved, the DV Act has led to debates on topics, such as the non-availability of provisions where the relatives of the man (such as his mother, father, sister etc. who are also living with the couple) can come to court complaining domestic violence inflicted against them by a woman residing with them (that can be their daughter, daughter-in-law, live-in partner of their son/brother etc.). Also, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, post-2005 and till date, do not indicate that crimes against women in the name of domestic violence have reduced to a satisfying number. But it is equally unfair to blame an Act if one finds several lacunae due to the lack of budgetary provisions[12]to successfully implement the Act.

[1] “Although Women may be victims of any of the general crimes such as ‘Murder’, ‘Robbery’, ‘Cheating’, etc., only the crimes which are directed specifically against Women are characterised as ‘Crimes Against Women’.”http://ncrb.nic.in/ciiprevious/Data/CD-CII2005/cii-2005/CHAP5.pdf [Last seen on July 5, 2014].

[2]http://ncrb.nic.in/ciiprevious/Data/CD-CII2005/cii-2005/CHAP5.pdf [Last seen on July 5, 2014].

[3]http://ncrb.nic.in/ [Last seen on July 5, 2014].

[4]Id.

[5] Id.

[6]The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 § 3.

[7]Id., § 6, § 17, § 18, § 19

[8]Id., § 2(n), § 8 & § 9.

[9]Id., § 2(k) and § 20.

[10]Id., § 21.

[11]Id., § 10.

[12]BhumikaJhamb, The Missing Link in the Domestic Violence Act, EPW, August 13, 2011, 33. The writer here has provided extensive insight regarding lack of central as well as state government funding so as to fulfil requirements regarding successful implementation of DV Act. Fore.g. – Funding’s to construct shelter homes, allowances to be provided to Protection Officers etc.