The pandemic has been tough for all but merciless and inhumane to some. This ‘some’ includes women facing violence and abusive behaviour by a partner or other family members. This article focuses on the brutality faced by women who have been confined at home with their abusers during the coronavirus lockdowns.
India along with other nations around the world is encountering an ascent in the cases of domestic violence against women. The explanation behind this upsurge happens to be with shelter-in-place measures and across the board authoritative terminations identified with COVID-19. The cause is not only mere health stress but also other related risk factors like unemployment, frustration, reduced income, limited resource, alcohol abuse, and limited social support that are likely to add fuel to the fire.
UN Ladies Official Chief Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said in an announcement calling the viciousness against women ‘a shadow pandemic’ that, “Confinement is fostering the tension and strain created by security, health, and money worries which is further escalating isolation for women with violent partners, separating them from social resources that can best help them. It’s a perfect storm for controlling, violent behaviour behind closed doors”.
This family violence that women experience in the general public is fundamentally an aftereffect of male patriarchy winning in India. The degree is grave enough that even in the hour of a cataclysmic event like COVID-19 which is the most capricious occurrence that has happened all over the globe, women are having a genuine extreme time staying inside in the face of avoiding the spread of the virus but evidently are not safe anymore.
Thus, the path to resolving building crisis and turbulence lies in the effective implementation of The Prevention of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA) and other sources of aid that needs to be duly acknowledged by the authorities as well as co-citizens of the country.
Undertaking of the Act and its precepts
The origin of PWDVA lies in Article 15(2) of the Indian Constitution which allows making special provisions for women and children. It is a civil law which means that the objective of this act is to provide respite to the aggrieved party by providing a fourfold support system which is residence orders, custody orders, protection orders and monetary relief. It was passed on 13th September 2005 and was a first of its kind law in India as it intervened in the private spaces of individuals. This was a proof of acceptance by the government that there was a wide prevalence of domestic violence but was largely ignored in the public domain.
PWDVA cherishes standards of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which India approved in 1993. CEDAW’s twelfth general proposal required “the States parties to act to secure women against the viciousness of any sort happening inside the family, at the workplace or in some other territory of social life”.
PWDVA defined for the first time ‘Domestic violence’ and the definition included aspects like emotional and sexual abuse and not just physical abuse. Even a threat to violence is a part of the definition. This provides protection to women from Marital rape too as it is an exception under IPC but not PWDVA. Section 18 of the act gives the power to the magistrate to issue a protection order which prohibits a respondent from committing domestic violence. This is generally called a stop violence order.
Rights Granted to Women
Right to reside in a shared household (Section 17):
The act ensures a woman’s entitlement to live in the marital or shared family regardless of whether she has no title or rights in the family unit. A piece of the house can be apportioned to her for her own utilization. A court can pass a residence order to make sure about her privilege of living arrangement in the family unit.
The Supreme Court has governed that a wife’s case for elective convenience lies just against her significant other and not against her parents-in-law and thus, her entitlement to ‘shared household’ would not stretch out to self-acquired property of her parents-in-law.
Right to obtain assistance and protection:
A woman who is misled by demonstrations of aggressive behaviour at home will reserve the privilege to get the administrations and help of Cops, Security Officials, Safehouse Homes, and clinical foundation to record her own protest under Section 498A of the IPC for marital brutality.
Women can get the accompanying order delivered in her assistance through the courts, once the offence of domestic violence at home is by all appearances built up:
Utility of PWDVA in present circumstances
In the case of Hiral P Harsora & Ors vs Kusum Narottamdas Harsora & Ors, the apex court widened the scope of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005 by deletion of words “adult male” from Section 2(q) of the Act, which manages respondents who can be sued and arraigned for annoying a woman in her marital home. Thus, the women can file a case against the other members of the family too for projecting brutality and cruelty.
Paramount aspect of this Act is the appointment of a Protection Officer. The function of the Protection Officer is to ensure that the aggrieved person is aware of her rights, to provide all forms and applications and assistance required by her, make a safety plan for the aggrieved and enforce the orders of the court.
The uselessness of the law
The meaning of domestic violence at home incorporates physical as well as verbal, emotional, sexual, and financial viciousness. The effective usage of law and its granted rights are now being obstructed by social factors that casually manage the working of the police and the legal executive. Though this is a Central Act, the appointment is done by the State Governments and states have not been very efficient in working out proper mechanisms for the implementation. The situation has become worse for females amid this lockdown as they are being subjected to deal with intimate partner violence as well as performing all household chores. With the police stations being closed in light of unprecedented health risk, and on the other side, police personnel are looking forward to other pandemic related duties and other security measures to contain the virus, it has to be noted that this has added salt to the misery of women. Conclusively, the abusers are not reluctant in continuing the harassment and violence both physically and mentally.
It is very much evident from the above-stated powers granted by Domestic violence Act, 2005 that the act is efficient enough to curb the increasing brutality against women at homes but what lacks is the lack of attention paid to its implementation. Recently, The Delhi Court while addressing a petition filed by an NGO regarding the increasing crime rate directed the centre and the state governments to ensure effective implementation of the Domestic Violence Act. Thus, what’s needed is to break free from the patriarchal norms.
It seems we can see the other side of the bridge where both men and women are equal and free from violence, but the structure of the bridge is too weak to hold the sanctity of the legislature, i.e., even with all the acts in place, we fall short in its implementation, and what all left are just mere paper promises. Furthermore, under Section 11 of the Act it has been proclaimed that the Central, as well as the State government, shall take all possible measures to ensure that the provisions under the Act are given wide publicity through public media including the television, radio and newspapers at regular intervals. For ensuring better policy frameworks for mental health by professional mediators, psychologists and counsellors, the government must conduct effective co‑ordination between the services provided by concerned Ministries and Departments dealing with law and order, health and human resources to address issues of domestic violence. Thus, the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is very useful during times of distress, but the action required is effective implementation as a need of the hour.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Aditya Maheshwari is a student of National Law University, Jodhpur. His research interests are Intellectual Property Law and Constitutional Law. He is a Copy Editor at Comparative Constitutional Law and Administrative Law (CALQ).
Harshita Sharma is currently pursuing BA LLB (Hons) from Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow. Her research interests include Criminal Law and Human Rights Law.