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Co-Written By Ashish Kumar Singh and Shirin Shabana Khan

Domestic violence in simple terms can be defined as any kind of abusive behavior by the husband or male partner or their relatives (includes male and female relatives). It need not be physical abuse. It could also be verbal, emotional, sexual or economic abuse.

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDVA) differs from the provision of the Penal Code – section 498A of the Indian Penal Code – in that it provides a broader definition of domestic violence.  Domestic violence is defined by Section 3 of the Act as “any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence in case it:

  1. harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse; or
  2. harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person with a view to coerce her  or any other person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any dowry or other property or valuable security; or
  3. has the effect of threatening the aggrieved person or any person related to her by any conduct mentioned in clause (a) or clause (b); or otherwise injures or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved person.”

Domestic violence (DV) is a pervasive social issue characterized by the perpetration of physical, sexual, and/or psychological harm by a current or former intimate partner. In more than ten years since the PWDVA was passed, over 1,000,000 cases have been filed across the country under sections pertaining to “cruelty by husband” and dowry, data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show. Cases registered under the abetment of suicide of women, collected by the NCRB since 2014, increased by 34%, from 3034 in 2014 to 4060 in 2015, data show. For a decade from 2005 to 2015, 88,467 women, or an average of 22, died each day in dowryrelated cases. In 2015 alone, 7,634 women were killed over dowry.

The NCRB report reveals cruelty by husband and relatives, in 2015, accounted for 34% of cases, rising 6% over the last four years, from 106,527 cases, in 2012, to 113,403, in 2015. As per the state and union territory-wise data, Uttar Pradesh has seen the highest number of women rights violation cases so far, in this financial year at 6,110 1 . The effect of DV is not only physical, psychological or emotional but also impacts upon physical, social, interpersonal and financial domains. The survivors are compelled to live poor quality of life and they have to financially become dependent on their mayeke (parental home). They also have less societal interaction due to the social shame of the poor relationship. Due to which they develop many psychological symptoms such as anxiety, fear of going out, lack of self-esteem, confidence, isolation, lack of confidence and self-blame.

Though the protection under domestic violence act law was enacted in 2005, the NCRB only started collecting data under the law in 2014.  Today, data under PWDVA, as collected by the NCRB, includes only criminal violations of court orders under PWDVA, such as the violation of a protection order passed by the court while the case is ongoing. Cases registered under the violation of the PWDVA increased by 8%, from 426 in 2014 to 461 in 2015, according to NCRB data. This does not include actual incidents of domestic violence which are recorded under three sections of the Indian Penal Code–section 498 A for cruelty by husband and his relatives, section 304 B for Dowry deaths and section 306 for abetment of suicide. Further, cases dealing with protection from husband and relatives, and maintenance in cases of domestic violence, are registered directly with the court, under the PWDVA, a civil law, and are not recorded by the NCRB. This data on court cases has remained inaccessible after repeated attempts by women’s rights groups.

In her article, Chachra gives a detailed analysis related to the problems of data on Domestic Violence in India. Even in cases recorded by the NCRB, there is high pendency. As many as 35,260 (83%) out of 42,410 cases filed under dowry deaths in 2015 and left over from 2014 were pending at the end of 2015, as were 11,319 (99.9%) of 11,320 cases recorded under abetment of suicide, 44,4367 (83%) of 534,431 cases filed under cruelty by husbands and his relatives, and 846 (99.8%) of 847 cases filed under the PWDVA, according to data from the NCRB. Crime numbers might not reflect actual status of domestic violence. In 2015, over 113,000 cases were filed under the section called “cruelty by husband and relatives” by the NCRB, up 80% from 2006 when about 63,000 cases were filed, data show. The increase in number of cases could be because of an actual increase in crime or because of a rise in reporting off such cases, as awareness of the law grows, and more women are empowered to report abuse to the police, rather than an increase in the number of crimes. Trends differ from state to state. For instance, in Andhra Pradesh, cases under “cruelty by husbands and relatives” decreased from 9,164 to 6,121, a 33% fall between 2006 and 2015, while dowry deaths decreased 66% from 519 in 2006 to 174 in 2015. Cases under “cruelty by husbands and relatives” increased by over 171% in West Bengal from 7414 in 2006 to 20,163.

It is unclear whether data from the National Crime Records Bureau shows actual trends in

domestic violence. Almost 30% of married Indian women between the ages of 15 and 49 years reported experiencing spousal violence at least once, according to the National Family Health Survey-4, conducted over 2015-2016. This proportion has reduced from 27.2% of women who reported violence by spouses in 2005-2006.

Domestic violence is a pervasive social issue characterized by the perpetration of physical, sexual, and/or psychological harm by a current or former intimate partner. The NCRB report reveals cruelty by husband and relatives, in 2015, accounted for 34% of cases, rising 6% over the last four years, from 106,527 cases, in 2012, to 113,403, in 2015. As per the state and union territory-wise data, Uttar Pradesh has seen the highest number of women rights violation cases so far, in this financial year at 6,110 1. These cases are not only related to the dowry, physical and mental violence but many cases are of sexual violence, branding daughter in law as witch and violence for giving birth to female child.

People Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) in many of its activities found that one of the main causes why domestic violence prevails and continues is the lack of alternatives among the victims due to patriarchy. Due to which Women and children are economically dependent on abusers. In almost all cases they generally feel, it is better to suffer in silence than to be separated from loved ones. They keep hoping for improvement, but it is normally observed that, without help, violence gets worse. The effect of DV is not limited to physical, psychological or emotional but also it affects financially as well. The survivors are compelled to live poor quality of life and they have to financially become dependent on their mayeke (parental home). They also have less societal interaction due to the social shame of the poor relationship. Due to which they develop many psychological symptoms such as anxiety, fear of going out, lack of self-esteem, confidence, isolation, lack of confidence and self-blame. “I feel so bad that do not want to go to anyone or any place. Never feel like attending marriage or any other function. I feel like repenting in a corner of the house, as I fear what will happen to me and my four year old daughter,” says 23 years old Jyoti. The survivors do not disclose abuse or seek social support because they may feel stigmatized if others know of their abuse, they may see violence in the home as a private matter, or they may fear retaliation from their partners if they disclose the abuse. Even if abused women seek social support, they may not receive the support they need because potential support providers may blame the victim or feel uncomfortable discussing this sensitive topic.

PVCHR had provided psycho- social support to 236 survivors of Domestic violence. PVCHR received the everyday two to three cases of the domestic violence in their office. The testimonial therapy (TT) is a short psychological approach to trauma that utilises the testimony method. The testimony is the truth telling and emotion pain sharing of the survivors with which truth is an important aspect of the process of justice. The testimony is viewed within the broad framework of social construction and provides valid information of human rights violations, without humiliating the witness. More often than not, it resulted in the survivors overcoming of depressive symptoms and cope with a difficult situation. Survivors rediscover self-worth and dignity. They regain self-esteem through the recording of their stories in a human rights context, as such private pain is reframed with a political meaning. In the Indian context, it has acquired the psycho-legal form that emphasizes denunciation of human rights violation and initiates advocacy for justice. It has three elements:

  1. Private: Psychological rehabilitation of the survivor leads to a certain degree of restoration of the physical and mental state. This opens the possibility of his/her participation in a community movement and ultimately becoming a human rights defender.

 

  1. Legal: The testimonies provide a lot of subjective information about the plight of the victim, which help the court to take into account when the bail application of the victim is considered. The human sufferings are never recorded in the court proceedings. However, these references of human sufferings often go in favour of the victim in front of the well prepared.
  2. Political: Within testimonial therapy, public ceremonies are organised to honour the survivors of torture. These ceremonies provide an opportunity to bring back the survivor to the same community/society that has isolated him/her for being tortured. The testimonies are read out in the presence of the villagers, invited guests, local politicians, elected representatives, and local media creating debate and discussion at the local level because it contains human sufferings, institutional malpractices, and failure of constitutional guarantees.

Testimonies can be used as urgent appeals and for advocacy work. The ceremonies honouring the survivors after the process of testimonial therapy was such an empowering and endearing moment and milestone in the lives of the survivors. It was a real recognition of the integrity of the survivors as human beings that they possess value in every community and in society and they have right to be honoured in his/her community. The society provides acknowledgment and understanding of the survivors’ suffering and the necessity for healing and reparation. This was a celebration of their breaking of silence towards achieving empowerment, such as ‘The Kajari Mahotsav’ was able to facilitate the elimination of the caste feeling as both the upper and lower caste are able to participate together in said festival. With the Right to Information also discussed in their folk school, the leaders are well utilising it for their purpose. During the festival of Kajari Mahotsav, Dalit women have provided solidarity to the upper caste women, who was facing domestic violence.

Measures: The following measures were used for the pre- to post intervention outcome comparisons-

  1. The World Health Organization Five Well-Being Index (WHO-5): WHO-5 consists of five self-report items, which measure emotional well-being, including mood and general interest in daily life activities. The P-scale measures restrictions in social participation due to social stigma and physical disability.

  2. Pain and Anger Analogues: The Pain Analogue measures persistent physical pain in the body or head caused by the traumatic event. Similarly, the Anger Analogue measures the intensity of emotional anger about the torture experience. Survivors are asked to rate the level of his/her pain and anger respectively on a 6 point Likert Scale from 0 to 5, where 5 is the highest intensity of pain/ anger. The Pain and Anger analogues were developed by PVCHR to indicate the emotional state of mind of the survivor. The Pain and Anger Analogues are iterations of the Numeric Rating Scale for Pain, which has commonly been used in various iterations for people with chronic pain. At the end of the second session, an assessment of the trauma was undertaken; registering type of injuries, violations, psychological symptoms and the identity of the perpetrators, as well as other interventions that had been received in addition to TT, e.g. medical treatment or legal redress.

The psychological symptoms that were registered during the trauma assessment were: Nightmares, flashback memories, fear of going out, self-isolation, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and sleeping problems. Furthermore, survivors were asked whether they were members of, or worked for a political party, or a human rights organization, and if they believed in human rights. These questions were posed in order to investigate whether the intervention had helped the survivor gain a sense of justice and personal dignity and confidence, acknowledging the principle of human rights, and feeling empowered to help others.

PVCHR also provided the legal remedies under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and psycho – social support through testimonial therapy and it is used for the Intervention to the concerned authorities and medical treatment. Being in a continuously violent relationship the survivors faced many psychological effects s incredibly isolating, anxiety and low esteem. Due to which survivors seek for the fast remedy in the case or look of the immediate settlement in the matter and punishment to the abuser. The survivors faced apathy from the various concerned authorities and police due to the patriarchal understanding. Their attitudes towards such crimes are a “private matter” is most plain with regard to police treatment of criminal offenses involving domestic violence, for which police are empowered to make an arrest without a warrant.

Due to poor implementation of the law, women face imminent and life-threatening violence and most of the times they remain almost solely reliant on police aid. In most of the cases due to the lengthy justice process and no economic and social protection to survivors result extra – legal comprise involving few people from both side as witness. Poor and helpless women who don’t have money to travel to the district office to file complain or do follow up of the case. Even in District Probation office, they have to pay bribe each time to get the new dates and even also during the time of the mediation of the both parties. Survivors are again sent to their husbands’ house as the matter to test the relationship– as abuse/violence will not revise again.

It is a model of psycho – social support that covers the three significant pillars of work, that of healing and rehabilitation, achieving and having access to justice and prevention so that the practice and phenomenon of domestic violence should be eliminated. PVCHR is making the survivors of domestic violence economically empowered and Self- reliant through helping them to get job and getting the higher education.

(Ashish Kumar Singh is a Doctoral Candidate at Higher School of Economics- National Research University, Moscow. He can be contacted at – ashish.tiss@gmail.com

Shirin Shabana Khan is the Program Director, People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), India. She can be contacted at – shabana@pvchr.asia)   

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU Babu says:

    Domestic violence is often less – discussed, more prevalent and under – reported problem in less developed countries particularly India. Housewives, maidservants dalits and marginalised sections of society are mostly prone to domestic violence. Many cases do not come out due to social stigma and a sense of shame. Activists must conduct awareness programs to educate these oppressed sections about their rights and legal recourse to report various forms of abuse and punish the culprits