Women fight atrocities committed at home with Domestic Violence Act

Life had become a challenge for Parvathi (name changed) as she struggled to deal with her husband’s curious habit. He sent anonymous letters to all her acquaintances aiming at her character assassination.

Parvathi dared to come out of his clutches to seek justice. She was able to secure a stay in her in-laws house and also recovered 23 sovereigns of jewels from her husband.

Both in the interim and main order, the court directed Parvathi’s in-laws to allow her a safe stay in their house or build a new house for her to stay.

Today, Parvathi heaves a sigh of relief, the Domestic Violence Act 2005 came to her rescue.

Says Protection Officer Vasuki, “Women prefer to fight atrocities at home committed especially by their husbands with the Domestic Violence Act 2005 as it promises speedy solutions.”

Between 2008 and December 2012, the Department of Social Welfare received 516 applications. Of these 332 cases were disposed off through counselling and 184 Domestic Incident Reports (DIR) were filed for legal action.

The predominant cause of friction among couple is alcoholism that leads to mental and physical abuse, ego clash and misunderstanding which is further fanned by relatives and third party interference and wrong guidance. “Nowadays dowry demand is not the main reason but certainly it is one of the reasons,” says Vasuki.

As domestic violence is a criminal and non-bailable offence, lawyers and police officials direct women to use the act as a weapon. Aiming to hit back at their wives men prefer to file a divorce case. In most cases, the shock treatment yields results.

Women are forced to withdraw the cases on the pretext that husband would also withdraw the divorce case.

“In present times, individuals are in a hurry. They also lack knowledge about marriage as an institution and the value of it,” says Vasuki and adds “the couple comes into marriage in a hurry and they go out of it at the same pace. They do not have the time to think about children, who are the worst affected.”

The Act provides protection for women not only from physical and sexual abuse but also protects them from other forms of violence such as psychological, verbal and economic abuse.

“There is no age limit for the suffering of women. Even after 10 or 20 years of marriage, women have problems and prefer to file a case under the Domestic Violence Act though they try to give it a dowry harassment angle,” says Ananadavalli, District Social Welfare Officer.

Even if there is any case relating to dowry harassment or divorce pending in court, there is no impediment to file a case under the Domestic Violence Act, she says and adds that anybody can file a complaint on behalf of a woman. The Act stipulates that after filing the DIR intimation should be sent to the husband within three days and a solution found for the complainant within 60 days.

“Nowadays couples use technology to abuse each other,” says Vasuki and notes that both men and women record their emotional outpourings. “They use very abusive language.”

But, the Protection Officer does not take the recordings as evidence. Because, she says that who ever wants to record the speech would use language with caution while instigating the other person.

“Moreover,” she feels “people might record with the help of mimicry artists also. But we can always take cue from these recordings. Howsoever clever, the couple is sure to divulge some important facts that will ascertain who is who.”