What protection does a woman have from domestic violence?

The Government of India taking cognizance of the situation wherein millions of women were being and still being victimized of domestic violence passed the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. This is an Act of the Parliament of India which aims to protect women from domestic violence which came to action from October 26, 2006 soon after it got the assent from the President.

The Domestic Violence Act or DVA has been quite successful as a lot of women have come up to file the criminal cases against the perpetrators and many of them even got swift justice.

Scope of the Law

Over the years, the scope of the Domestic Violence Act has been widened up. For instance, whereas the primary aim of the law was to provide protection to the wife or female live-in partner from domestic violence at the hands of the husband or male live-in partner or his relatives, the latest decision by the Madras High Court says that complaints under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, need not be made only against men.

The Madras High Court held that the legislation does not insulate women from being accused of offences mentioned under it, the protection for a woman also is against another women like sisters or mother-in-laws. This is quite new interpretation for the law which has traditionally been providing protection to women living in a household such as sisters, widows or mothers from men but was silent about the violence from the women in the house.

The Domestic Violence Act includes actual abuse or the threat of abuse whether physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic and according to the law harassment by way of unlawful dowry demands to the woman or her relatives would also be covered under this definition – this part is in addition to the Dowry Prohibition Act which is already available for women. Thus, the victims of dowry harassment have been given additional protection in the DVA.

Widening the Scope of Domestic Violence

As has been mentioned above the scope of ‘domestic violence’ has been widened to great extent in the Act as it includes actual abuse or the threat of abuse that is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic. Worth to mention is threatening the woman by not paying her food or goods of day to day requirements too can be domestic violence. Additionally, if the man is harassing the woman for dowry or demands the same from her relatives, it would amount to domestic violence.

The Protection from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is available for those women who are or have been in a relationship with the abuser where both parties have lived together in a shared household. The cohabitation may be consanguinity, marriage or a relationship in the nature of marriage, or adoption. Widening the scope, the legislators also included the women living together as a joint family like sisters, widows, mothers, single women, etc.

The DVA 2005 Assures Right to Secure Housing

A lot of women were facing a dilemma when they were forced from their in-laws’ house and were unable to claim property rights at their parental property before the amendment of the Hindu Succession Act, 2005. However, not just the Hindu Succession Act ensures women a part in the ancestral property but the DVA 2005 also ensures the woman’s right to secure housing as it provides for the woman’s right to reside in the matrimonial or shared household.

Interestingly, the right to reside in matrimonial or shared household is going to exist whether or not she has any title or rights in the household.

The Court Can Pass Prohibition Order against Abuser

The ambit of the DVA 2005 is not limited to punishing the abuser but also passing relief to the victim by the way of protection orders that prevent the abuser from aiding or committing an act of domestic violence or any other specified act. The prohibition order may stop the abuser from entering a workplace or any other place frequented by the victim. The court may also pass prohibition order to stop the abuser from attempting to communicate with the abused, isolating any assets used by the parties and causing violence to the abused, her relatives and others who provide her assistance from the domestic violence.

Breach of Protection Order

When the court passes the prohibition order, and the abuser breaches it, then, it becomes a cognizable and non-bailable offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to twenty thousand rupees or with both.

Thus, the Domestic Violence Act is not just about protecting women from domestic violence but also about providing them right to shelter and right to live with dignity which has been ensured to them under the Article 21 of the constitution of India.