How to Deal with Domestic Violence? - Your Safety is Important!

Last updated 28 Feb 2019 . 1 min read

domestic violence domestic violence

Every woman deserves to live with dignity and self-respect, regardless of her marital status. One way to ensure that she can continue to live like a human being is to know how to protect herself if things go wrong. Thus, knowing what behaviours constitute violence against women is very important. It is also important to know the protection granted to them under the law and how they can enforce their rights for their benefit.

There are women in rural as well as in urban areas who suffer cruelties at the hands of their husband or in-laws. Yet, somehow, studies on domestic violence show a completely different picture.

(Checkout the Laws for a Married Women in India)

This disparity is caused because most Indian women shy away from taking any sort of action against the atrocities they are facing. Subjected to societal gossip, fear of retaliation or fear of what will happen to their children, they decide that silence is better.

Many of those women find the law to be a useless tool in finding justice. They tell me,

“What is the use of the law, especially when it does not seem to help me?”

I always tell them that there is another way of looking at the picture. The law is not lacking. Several people in the system have deep-set prejudices leading to victim-blaming. Our nation is quite behind in police sensitivity or even societal sensitivity. But that doesn’t mean that anybody should go through or be subject to such inhuman behaviour.

Knowledge is power.

What is Domestic Violence?

Under Section 3 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (hereinafter called “the Act”), any act, conduct, omission or commission of the husband or in-laws shall constitute domestic violence if it:

  1. Does anything to harm, endanger or injures the survivor or tends to do so;
  2. Coerces her, her parents or her relatives to meet unlawful demands of dowry, property or money;
  3. Threatens her or her family;
  4. Otherwise, injures or causes harm to her.

The Court, while looking at the question of whether domestic violence has taken place, will look at the overall facts and circumstances of the case.

A few examples of cruelty are (this list is in no way exhaustive):

  1. Harassment for non-dowry demand;
  2. Cruelty by persistent demand for money (dowry);
  3. Not accepting the birth of a baby girl;
  4. False attacks on chastity/moral character;
  5. Taking away of children from the mother;
  6. Cruelty by deprivation and wasteful habits;
  7. Cruelty by extra-marital relations/cheating.

Additionally, Section 498A states that the husband or relative of a husband (any of the in-laws as the case may be) are criminally liable (which means they will get a jail term and must also pay a fine) if they are proved to have subjected the wife to cruelty.

Some behaviours indicative of abuse:

Certain defining behaviours lead to domestic abuse in the future.  Mental abuse is of many forms. The abuser may control financial resources, threaten bodily harm, threaten children’s safety. He may also indulge in gas lighting and isolate the woman from outside interaction as well. These behaviours may convert into physical or sexual violence as well. Thus, it is important to ‘nip the bud’ so as to speak in the early stages.

So, what is the difference between a complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code and an application under the Protection of Domestic Violence Act?

The basic difference is the consequence of the complaint or application.

A complaint under Section 498A is a criminal complaint and is lodged with the help of an FIR. An application under Section 12 of the Act is usually instituted before a Magistrate for relief in the form of prayers which can be anything with respect to maintenance, child custody or shelter (which is explained below).

Thus, in a 498A case, the husband or the in-laws (as the case may be) will go to jail if convicted of domestic violence.

In a Section 12 application, compensation or damages are sought with respect to the case.

Anyone or both can be instituted as per the convenience of the survivor.

Important Procedure under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

How can you report domestic abuse? or Which court should be approached?

To institute a case under the Act, the survivor (or any person on her behalf) must approach a Judicial Magistrate of First Class or a Metropolitan Magistrate in the area:  

  • where the survivor resides or
  • where the husband or in-laws (as the case may be) reside or
  • where the cause of action has arisen

with an application containing the particulars of the case.

Under Section 12 of the Act, any survivor or any person on her behalf can present an application to the Magistrate for reliefs under the Act.

Protection Officers can also file an application to the Magistrate on behalf of the woman if she so desires.

How long will it take?

The first date of hearing should be within three days from the date of receipt of the application by the Magistrate. Under Section 12, the application should be disposed-off within a period of 60 days from the date of the first hearing.

Is there limitation to when the case can be instituted under Section 12?

In view of the provisions of Section 468 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, it appears that the complaint can be filed only within a period of one year from the date of the incident in accordance with the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 which make the provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure applicable.

It is to be remembered that the period of one year is calculated from the date of the incident. Thus, if the abuse is continuing, then the period of limitation starts from the date of the last incident and not the first.

What kind of reliefs can be claimed under the Act?

  • The application may include relief of the nature of compensation or damages
  • Monetary relief under Section 20 of the Act can be prayed for as well. This means that the Magistrate may direct the husband or in-laws (as the case may be) to pay an amount to the survivor and/or her child in lieu of the domestic violence faced by her and/or her child.
  • A protection order may also be granted by the court which is like a restraining order and protects the survivor from further abuse at the hands of the husband or in-laws.
  • The Magistrate also has the power to ensure that the survivor continues to stay in her marital household.
  • The Magistrate can also make decisions regarding custody of the child under this Act.

The Magistrate, upon receiving such application shall take into consideration the domestic incidence report which shall be received from the Protection Officer as well.

What if the survivor does not want to approach the Court?

Practically, in every case, it is not feasible to go to the police or approach the court. Which is why the best person to make the decision on the next step is the woman so suffering.

The survivor will best be able to answer questions on;

  • Will mediation work?
  • Will the husband and in-laws listen to her needs?
  • Will they retaliate?
  • Has she tried everything and now wants to live independently?

Additionally, it is to be remembered that domestic violence cases can now be resolved out of court, which means that third parties like NGOs, family elders, counsellors, police constables, reputed elders of the community can now be brought into the fold for resolution of the situation.

This does not mean, nor does it imply that domestic violence situations are not of a severe nature.

However, as stated above, each case is different because of the unique inclusion of relationships into the mix. This aggravates in some cases and reduces in other cases the severity of the situation in the mind of the survivor.

My view is that this is a positive step because the survivor has lived her life during her relationship in the control of her husband or in-laws (as the case may be).

Some sort of decision-making discretion needs to be given to her completely so that she may re-assume control of her life. Thus, if she decides that she wants to go ahead with a case before the judiciary, so be it.

If she decides that resolving the issue within the family is giving her the peace of mind she requires to move ahead with her life, so be it. If she, after the mediation, decides that she wants to continue the relationship, well, then she deserves to be able to make that choice without the intervention of the court and having to list out her reasons (provided her husband also agrees to continue the relationship).

The end goal is that she must be given the ability to choose, regardless of the choice she makes. Thus, she can be guided but the decision is hers in the end.

As a third person, what can you do if you know that someone is going through abuse?

To the friends of the survivors, the family members and well-wishers, I would say only this. These women need one thing more than anything, and that is support. So support them. Give them a shoulder to cry on. Hear them out. Be there for them.

Inform them of their rights, make them aware that in healthy relationships there is no abuse.

But in no situation should you try to guilt them into accepting and doing what you think is right. Let them make that choice.

Here are 13 More Laws Which are meant To Protect Women In India.

Khadeeja Khalil
A final year law student who is a believer of 'law belongs to the people'. Loves helping people and being a regular good person. Loves the Earth.

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