Shailaja Chandra's article, “Towards protecting women” (June 17), has brought out a number of issues about the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 which, in the process of implementation, have become a deterrent to its commendable intention. In the past three years, I have been an active observer of several aspects of the Act and have submitted a note to the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (responsible for its implementation) with emphasis on the lacuna in implementation.
The following are some of the reasons why “scant regard is paid to the 60-day limit [to complete the trial as indicated in the Act] and domestic violence matters are treated in a most routine manner:” The gender bias (favouring men) of the police, lawyers and even the judiciary leading to suspicions of the motive of women, especially educated and well-placed ones, in filing cases and refusing to take the woman's word on the violence that has taken place within the four walls of the house; ambiguity at all levels of the administration of the Act, whether it is civil or criminal in nature; deprioritisation of domestic violence cases in magistrate courts which are overcrowded and deal with a wide range of pressing matters including bail applications; permitting adjournments for the asking by the lawyers of the male defendants and using court proceedings, especially during cross-examination, for further harassing the complainants; entertaining unlimited interim applications and acceptance of appeals by higher courts including the High Court and in some instances even by the Supreme Court of matters pending in the trial court.
It is, therefore, not surprising that cases under the Act which require a fast-track approach in most instances tend to drag on, not only for months but years as well, resulting in women giving up because they find the court procedures and delays a further form of harassment or because of their inability to finance the never-ending litigation.
Domestic violence seems to have been accepted as one of the hazards of life by Indian women in general and illiterate women in particular. I am sure hundreds of cases go unreported as women fear being thrown out of their homes and exposed to the vagaries of life.
The state should provide protection, rehabilitation and training to victims to make them self-reliant. We can follow the U.K. model and train personnel for implementing the Act and also have fast track courts for speedy justice.
The law was introduced to protect women and their children from the violence they are subjected to. But it has remained a non-starter for various reasons. As rightly said, it is time the government reviewed the effectiveness of the Act.
Wg. Cdr. O.V. Rajamohan (retd.),
When it came into force, the Act was hailed as an extraordinary piece of legislation to protect women from domestic violence. But like all other laws aimed at protecting and empowering women, it too suffers from poor implementation, reflecting the societal bias against women. Despite making fabulous achievements in every sphere of human activity, women in India have continued to suffer violence of different hues in silence. Fear of reprisal and ostracism deters many women from filing a complaint against their husbands. Unless women free themselves from their submissive attitude, no legislation meant for their welfare will have the desired impact.
Domestic violence is indeed one of the most atrocious and pervasive human rights violations. It destroys the victims' sense of self-worth. But it is not enough to make laws with noble intentions. The real key to justice lies in their effective implementation.
While it is important to educate women on the provisions of the law, there is an urgent need to make it gender neutral. There are instances of women misusing the law.
Arjun R. Shankar,
Before filing a complaint against her husband and his family under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, a woman should consider its impact on her and her children. It is no doubt an admirable piece of legislation with the intention of empowering women.
But law alone cannot ensure gender justice and erase the fault lines in our society. Community intervention can also play an effective role in preventing domestic violence. If neighbours step in to save women from being abused and assaulted, it will not only come as an assurance for them but also make the guilty fearful of the consequences of their crime.
K. Suresh Babu,