Domestic violence is the act of mentally, physically, emotionally, or
psychologically abusing person by their partner, or any of their relatives. It can be
against both men and women, but it predominantly occurs among the women
folk of the family. This is largely due to the patriarchal system of societies. It may
occur due a variety of reasons such as cultural factors, jealousy, insecurity,
psychological instability, over financial disputes, etc.
India too, like many countries, is a male-dominated society. As per the National
Family Health Survey [NFHS] data, about 30% of women are victims of domestic
violence at least once in their lifetime. And an even sadder part is that 75% of
these cases go unreported because their voices are suppressed. Women in India
are taught from a very young age that the respect of a family lies in their hands.
They are expected to obey the male members of the family without questioning
or objecting them. Even if a woman confides in her close circle, she is usually told
to brush it off as a private matter which does not require any legal intervention.
This has to be changed. What is even more alarming is that the cases of domestic
violence have risen rapidly during the lockdown in wake of the Covid-19
Today, there are three laws against domestic violence in India. They are-
- Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code
- The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
- The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
These laws are explained in simple terms in this article.
Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code
This section focuses on two main points. According to this section, a woman can file a case against her husband or her in laws in the following cases-
- When she suffers cruelty in their hands. Any act that will drive the woman to commit suicide or cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health of the woman can be considered as a cruel act. Under this act, the following forms of cruelty are covered.
- o Cruelty by deprivation and wasteful habits.
- o Cruelty by vexatious litigation.
- o Cruelty by persistent demand.
- o Cruelty by extra-marital relations.
- o Cruelty by non-acceptance of girl child.
- o Cruelty by false accusations on chastity.
- o Harassment by non-dowry demand.
- o Separating of kids from the mother.
- Harassing the woman by coercing her or persons related to her to meet an
unlawful demand for any property or any valuable security is also covered
under this act.
Under this section, to prove cruelty was caused to the woman, it is not
necessary to show marks of physical violence. Verbal abuses, denying of
conjugal rights, or not talking to her properly are also considered as acts of
This section was amended in 1983 to establish specific crimes of dowry-related
cruelty, dowry death and abetment of suicide. These amendments punished
violence against women by their husbands or their relatives when proof of
demand for dowry or dowry harassment could be established.
The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
Under this Act, dowry includes property, goods, or money given either party to
marriage, by parents of either party, or by anyone else in connection with the
marriage. This law applies to persons of all religions
The original act proved to be ineffective in curbing the practice of dowry. Upon
that, specific forms of violence started to be linked with the failure to meet the
dowry demands. Thus, this Act was amended in 1984.
The amended Act gave a provision for giving presents to the bride and groom
during the marriage. However, a list was to be maintained which specified each
gift, its value, and identity of the person giving the gift, and their relation to the
bride or the groom. In addition to this, the minimum and maximum punishments
for giving and receiving dowry were established. A penalty was imposed for
demanding dowry in any form.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
This is a parliamentary act that was enacted to protect women from domestic
violence. It defines domestic violence and widens its scope by including
emotional, sexual, verbal, and economic abuse along with physical abuse. This is a
civil law and is not meant to be applied criminally. The Act is the most effective
way of protecting the rights of the women guaranteed under the constitution.
The definition of domestic violence as provided in Section 3 of this Act says that any act shall constitute domestic violence if it-
o Harms, injures or endangers the health, limb, safety life or well-being, physical or mental, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so. It also includes causing physical, sexual, economic, verbal, or emotional abuse.
o Harasses harms, injures or endangers her in order to coerce her or persons
related to her to fulfill unlawful demands for dowry or any other valuable
security or property.
o Has an effect to threaten the aggrieved person or any other person related
to her by any conduct as mentioned above.
o Injures or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved
Thus, in the wake of the rising cases of domestic violence against women in a
patriarchal society, these laws have been put in place by our law makers with a
view to curb the abuse against women. But even today, there is a lot of fear in the
minds of women to come out and speak up for themselves to end the violence
against them. What is needed is to empower women and educate them of their
rights. There should be strict adherence of these laws in order to curb the crimes
against women. The punishments have to be made stringent and there should be
no interference or partiality while delivering justice in any way possible. Women
should be given their due respect and be treated in par with men. We must move
away from the shackles of a patriarchal society and move towards a society where
equality among all the sexes, as well as genders, is maintained.