Domestic Violence | Family Law

The blog presents the basic theory of Domestic Violence that forms the introduction of Family Law in India. This can be useful for students preparing for Law and other Competitive Exams.

Q1. What is violence against women ?

Ans. The UN Declaration on Elimination of Violence against Women was adopted in 1993 and defines “violence against women”. It is defined as any gender-based violence acts that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women.

Q2. What are the acts considered as violence against women ?

Ans. Any act that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women are included in violence against women. These acts can be done within the family or outside the family.

The violence can occur within the family and includes:

  • battering
  • sexual abuse of female children in the household
  • dowry-related violence
  • marital rape
  • female genital mutilation
  • traditional practices harmful to women
  • non-spousal violence
  • violence related to exploitation.

The violence can also occur outside the family and includes:

  • rape
  • sexual abuse
  • sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere
  • trafficking and forced prostitution

Q3. What is CEDAW ?

Ans. CEDAW stands for the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women. Formed in 1979, CEDAW is a United Nations treaty that defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.
CEDAW is often referred to as the international bill of rights for women and has 99 countries, including India, as signatories who have committed themselves to undertake various measures to end discrimination or violation of women’s rights amounts to violence and that the State is responsible for such violence committed both by State as well as private individuals.

Q4. What is domestic violence as per the UN Commission on Human Rights ?

Ans. The UN Commission on Human Rights defined domestic violence as :
“all acts of gender-based physical, psychological and sexual abuse by a family member against women in the family, ranging from simple assault to aggravated physical battery, kidnapping, threats, intimidation, coercion, stalking, humiliating verbal abuse, forcible or unlawful entry, arson, destruction of property, sexual violence, marital rape, dowry or bride-price related violence, female genital mutilation, violence related to exploitation through prostitution, violence against household workers and attempts to commit such acts”.

Q5. What is PWDVA ?

Ans. PWDVA stands for Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, adopted by the Indian Parliament in 2005. The objective of PWDVA is providing effective protection to the women victims of violence occurring within the family or anyway connected with the family sphere.

The adoption of PWDVA addresses two important concerns:

  1. The family law reforms of 1980s like the family Courts Act focus more on the need to “preserve the family” at all costs, hence do not emphasize on ending volence against women in private sphere. PWDVA accounts for this concern, i.e. it addresses violence occurring in the private sphere.
  2. Before 2005, domestic violence against women was considered “cruelty” and was punishable under criminal law and formed ground for divorce under family laws. However, there was no comprehensive law providing civil remedies for domestic violence for women, like monetary reliefs or compensation as well as other services that aid women who sufferers of domestic violence.

Q6. What is the definition of domestic violence as per PWDVA ?

Ans. The definition of domestic violence is provided in Section 3 of the PWDVA and reads as: any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence in case it :

  • harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse; or
  • harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person with a view to coerce her or any other person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any dowry or other property or valuable security; or
  • has the effect of threatening the aggrieved person or any person related to her by any conduct mentioned in clause (a) or clause (b); or (d) otherwise injures or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved person.

Q7. What are the support services provided to women by PWDVA ?

Ans. PWDVA recognizes that domestic violence affects women at multiple levels and provides various support services to women to help deal with the situation, in following ways:

  • Mandatory assistance by medical facilities and shelter homes
  • Provision for legal aid
  • Counseling on the direction of the court
  • Protection Officers and Service Providers to maintain a list and facilitate access

Q8. What are the salient features of PWDVA ?

Ans. The salient features of PWDVA are as follows:

  1. The PWDVA is a civil law. Its primary objective is to provide compensation as well as support to the woman. However, the rights and reliefs can only be initiated with the consent of the woman.
  2. PWDVA describes and protects ‘domestic relationships’ broadly to include, wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, and live in partners.
  3. The protection under the PWDVA is not limited to the matrimonial home but covers “shared householder” to include mothers, sisters and daughters as well.
  4. PWDVA provides for “Stop Violence” orders that offer emergency reliefs to stop violence immediately and enforce other laws, such as the divorce laws as well.
  5. For the effective implementation of this law, PWDVA offers both access to justice as well as access to support systems through Protection officers and Service Providers.
  6. PWDVA stipulates for the “single window clearance system” to aid women in accessing the justice system. This helps her avoid filing of multiple of suits in various forums.
  7. PWDVA provides that the magistrate may, at any stage of the proceedings of the case, direct either one or both the parties to the suit to undertake counseling with any member of the service provides who holds the required qualification and experience of counseling.
  8. PWDVA puts responsibility on the Central and State Governments for training and sensitization of the general public as well as the state authorities including the judiciary.

Q9. What is the case regarding Vishakha and others vs. State of Rajasthan and others ?

Ans. The case of Vishakha and others vs. State of Rajasthan and others, was decided by the Supreme Court of India in 1997. This case is a landmark judgement on sexual harassment of women at workplace.
In 1992, a low-caste woman in her 50’s, Bhanwari Devi who worked as  social or grassroots worker with the Rajasthan Government’s women development project, was gang raped by a group of upper-caste men because she tried to stop the devious practice of child marriage. The trial court set acquitted the accused offenders stating also that upper-caste men could not have raped a low-caste woman, and also because all, including the village authorities, doctors and the police rejected her allegation. Then, in the absence of any Indian law dealing specifically with violence against women, the Supreme Court referred to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women and delivered a set of standards, also called the Vishakha guidelines.

Q10. What are Vishakha guidelines ?

Ans. The Vishakha guidelines, included the following:

  1. It is the onus of the employer to include a rule in the company code of conduct
    for preventing sexual harassment.
  2. Organizations must establish complaint committees that are headed by
    women.
  3. Initiate disciplinary actions against offenders and safeguard the interests of
    the victim.
  4. Female employees shall be made aware of their rights.

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