Women’s groups demand a separate Centrally-sponsored scheme with enough funds to ensure proper implementation of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005

Women’s groups have questioned the Centre’s commitment to address the issue of domestic violence and ensuring women’s security in the wake of its failure to allocate sufficient funds for the implementation of the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Women’s groups and activists are now demanding a separate Centrally-sponsored scheme with adequate funds that would ensure implementation of the Act in letter and spirit.

The Act envisages appointment of Protection Officers, services like shelter homes and medical facilities and support for women to access law. However, government budget allocations have been low. Union Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath had recently announced allocation of Rs. 100 crore for the implementation of the Act.

According to National Family and Health Survey 3 statistics, almost two in every five married women in India have experienced domestic violence. This violence is prevalent in every State and within all social groups, rural and urban, and rich and poor. Domestic violence was recognised as a criminal offence in 1983, and the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) was passed in 2005.

According to Ranjana Kumari of the newly formed PWDVA Action and Advocacy Group — a conglomerate of women’s groups, the National Commission for Women (NCW) and a committee with representatives from civil society had last year finalised a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) to ensure the effective implementation of PWDVA, estimating an annual budgetary requirement of Rs. 1,158 crore.

While the scheme does figure in the 12th Five Year Plan, it remains silent on when it would be launched and what budgetary provisions will be allocated for the implementation of the Act. Worse, the Women and Child Development Ministry’s budget was slashed by Rs. 2,000 crore making it almost impossible to implement the Act as well as other initiatives that are vital for addressing violence against women and gender discrimination, the women’s groups said.

According to the CSS proposal, there would be a PWDVA Council at the national level which will be the sole authority for monitoring the implementation of the scheme under PWDVA. This will be an advisory body whose task is to annually review the State reports on effective implementation of PWDVA and take necessary action to ensure that gaps in implementation are filled. This would be in addition to a coordination committee that would ensure inter-departmental and stakeholder convergence and coordination in PWDVA implementation.

However, the Working Group on Women’s Agency and Empowerment proposed an outlay of a mere Rs. 450 crore across five years for the new scheme in the 12th Five-Year plan. Even if this is considered, this amount is grossly inadequate and far short of the estimated Rs. 1,158 crore per year. Though the CSS has mentioned this in the Draft Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012–2017) Document, the XIIth Plan Document is silent on the launch of the scheme in the coming financial year or its budgetary provisions, says Anuradha Kapoor, director, SWAYAM.

Women’s groups have dubbed the PWDVA as a path-breaking law, not merely because it is an independent civil law that identifies violence against women in the shared household as ‘domestic violence’, but also because it provides women the right to reside in the shared household and protects women in non-matrimonial relationships. Despite the fact that the Domestic Violence Act was formed for safeguarding women from domestic violence and meting out justice to victims of domestic violence, women in India continue to become victims of domestic violence without getting justice. Nearly six years after its coming into force, PWDV Act 2005 still continues to remain a legal lingo restricting its usage to law bearers and civil society organisations working on women’s empowerment, says Poonam Kathuria, executive secretary, Society for Women's Action and Training Initiatives.

Data shows that the lack of adequate finances is having serious impact on the implementation of the PWDVA Act. Even today, many women are unaware of the Act’s existence, and few resources are allocated for infrastructure resulting in an inadequate numbers of Protection Officers and service providers. Lack of training to build knowledge and sensitive attitudes hinders those in charge of its implementation.

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