Women around the world have been suffering for as long as anyone can remember. Centuries have passed, situations have changed and yet they carry the burden of being considered a liability and an emblem of weakness. People preach about the changed times, that how women have an equal status as men and are respected in the society but the question is whether it is as simple as it sounds?
No one in the 21st century is oblivious to the fact that women have suffered in unspeakable ways to achieve what little they have today. The outside world has never been kind or generous to our women and to seek some comfort they turn towards the warmth of their homes and in the safety of their loved ones. But instead of the safety that they seek they suffer from atrocities at the hands of their loved ones, it gives rise to domestic violence.
Domestic violence is when someone is subjected to physical, mental or economical abuse by their spouses, partners or their family members. Most of the women have to put up with this cruelty almost everyday. This concept throws light on the fact that women are not safe anywhere. According to United Nation Population Fund Report around two-third of married Indian women are victims of domestic violence. This in itself says a lot about the pathetic condition of women in our society. The patriarchal mindset of the society has let the men believe that they are the dominant sex and are superior.
Protection of women against domestic violence act, 2005
Domestic violence is a major human rights issue which has been ubiquitous for years, we all have seen examples in our neighborhood or in our family but never had the courage to do anything about it. Women have been tormented for decades and to safeguard their rights, dignity and integrity this act was formulated called the, Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (Act No. 43 of 2005, w.e.f. 26-10-2006). This act provides women protection against domestic violence which is not limited to physical abuse but also covers mental, sexual and economic abuse. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) suggests that 30 percent women in India in the age group of 15-49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15. The report further reveals that 6 percent women in the same age group have experienced sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. About 31 percent of married women have experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence by their spouses. Even after such progressive laws, the number of crimes reported are negligible against the actual crimes committed against women. In the National Family Health Survey (round 3, 2005) it was found out that over 20,000 women have admitted to have experienced domestic violence, however, almost 75% of them did not seek help from anyone.
Gender neutral or Gender Biased
The paradigm that domestic violence is or should be gender neutral is debatable. In the case of Harsora v. Harsora the constitutionality of section 2(q) of the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005, was challenged and the words ‘adult male’ were deleted from this section.
Now this matter is of great trepidation as the basic feature of this act was to protect women against domestic violence at the hands of men. The Supreme Court in this judgement, with respect to domestic violence, held that “it is clear that such violence is gender neutral. It is also clear that physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse and economic abuse can all be by women against other women. even sexual may, in a given fact circumstance, be by one woman on another. Section 3, therefore…seeks to outlaw domestic violence of any kind against a woman, and is gender neutral.”
By keeping in view, the reality of domestic violence, it would be inappropriate to state that it is gender neutral. Women have been suffering at the hands of men all over the world. According to National Crime Reports Bureau, there has been a hike in the reported cases of domestic violence in India from 50,703 in 2003 to 1,18,866 in 2013 and all were against men.
To review it from a Constitutional perspective, the Supreme Court’s decision is based on the principle of equality. The very same principle in Article 15(3) of the Indian Constitution advocates that special provisions can be formulated for the benefit of women and children, Protection of Women against Domestic Violence, 2005, is a gender-specific law enacted for their protection, hence, it does not have to be gender neutral.
What does the Social Convention govern?
The social convention has always favored the males of this society. Our society has always taught our daughters to be docile, that they should adjust with the changes and adhere to the needs of their husbands.
This patriarchal society has always considered the contributions of men to be more prized than that of women, have always administered them to be subservient to the needs and desires of men and to overlook things so as to maintain the reputation of their husbands.
A recent film, Thappad, raised the social issue of domestic violence, it was about a housewife who is slapped by her husband. The unsettling fact was that the society was ready to close that chapter without even acknowledging its seriousness. Often a mistake turns to become a regular habit.
If we take a peek in the history of our culture, Mahabharta, Draupadi was forced to marry five husbands so that they could fulfill their mother’s wishes and was even objectified and gambled away in a game of bets by her own husbands who took a vow to protect her honor.
Domestic violence and The Pandemic
Focusing on a more recent scenario, everyone is well aware of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put everyone’s life in danger. Many countries are under lock-down with billions of people trapped inside their houses. People are agitated because of no social interactions and stressed about their jobs and businesses. During this period, the cases of domestic violence have increased at an alarming rate.
The United Nations Organization has referred domestic violence as the shadow pandemic. While the world is fighting COVID-19, the shadow pandemic has crawled its way into many households. The irony is that the government is following the strategy of stay home stay safe but are the women safe in their homes? They are imprisoned in their houses with their abusive husbands with nowhere to escape. Domestic violence is all pervasive but it has raised its ugly head in the lower strata of the society as they are deprived of the essential requirements of daily life. Men who are addicted to alcohol are unable to get their quota of liquor and tend to lash out on their wives. Women are forced to do all the household chores as well as manage their jobs.
If the situation before this was sad, now it has become crucial. Online counselling and cautioning are being provided and helpline numbers are available to help the victims but these will only be beneficial when women themselves will stop hesitating and seek help at the right time.
Domestic violence is that social evil which has its roots deep within our society. Many laws have been made to curb this problem but this will only be cured when the mentality of our society will change towards women. Every human being has its own identity and needs to be respected.
The National Family Health Survey; 2009. Available at: https://yourstory.com/socialstory/2019/09/gender-violence-india
 Jayna Kothari, Violence That’s Not Gender Neutral, The Hindu (Nov. 17, 2016, 12:42 IST)
Author: Khushi Mittal,
JEMTEC, SCHOOL OF LAW OF 2ND Year / BBALLB