WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN INDIA: ACTS, LAWS AND POLICIES
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA)
The PWDVA came in to force on the 26th of October 2006 as a National Law spanning all of India except for the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The Act is supposed to provide quick protection and relief to women facing domestic violence. Some of the salient features of this Act are: * Only women can avail of the remedies provided under this Act. * The Act provides a broad definition of violence and includes physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and economic abuse within the ambit of domestic violence. * A case filed under the PWDVA is supposed to be disposed of within 60 days of filing, with a view to providing women with quick access to justice. * The law recognizes the right of a woman to be free from domestic violence in her natal home as well as her marital home. * The law recognizes the rights of couples in informal relationships/ unmarried partners. * The Act grants legal recognition to a woman’s right to reside in a ‘shared household’. * Although this is a civil law, women can approach magistrates’ courts (criminal courts) to access their rights under this Act. * The PWDVA emphasizes a violence-free atmosphere and creates a social responsibility on the community at large to inform the authorities about domestic violence. * The Act makes the government responsible for its effective implementation by ensuring it is given wide publicity. It is also the duty of the government to conduct sensitization training for the stakeholders of the Act.
This new law, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, protects, as the title says, women facing violence in domestic relationships. This is not limited to matrimony alone, but also includes relations in the nature of marriage, between brothers and sisters and mother and some who live in a common shared household. Most importantly, the law contains a declaration that it has been made to protect the rights of women under Article 14 and Article 15 of the Constitution of India, to equality and non-discrimination and under Article 21, to life and liberty. This brings us to the question, what is the content of these rights? If anything, they must mean the right to live with dignity and free from violence. The critical definition that the Act provides for the first time is the definition of domestic violence. It is here that the violence of silence becomes relevant. Domestic violence is described as an act of “omission or commission”. Omissions cause as much heartburn as acts of commission. Since the mandate of the Act is to protect the dignity of the woman, it must cover acts of violence beyond physical violence, and this is the critical breakthrough made by the Act. The act of omission or commission may be physical, mental, sexual or verbal and emotional abuse. A known form of emotional abuse is social boycott or withdrawing from the society of the person with whom you are in a relationship, with the intention of causing emotional pain, normally, a form of blackmail, intended to get your own way or make the other person succumb to an unreasonable or unlawful demand. . The Act redefines the content of domestic violence, from the point of view of the abused, not the abuser. Defining solves half the problem, if done rightly. For a country that used non-violence as a form of protest and fight for justice, it is surprising that we have lived for so long with very limited concepts of violence, mainly physical violence. Women have not been taken seriously unless they break an arm or a leg, or committed suicide. Implementation:
The implementation of the law is, however, in the hands of the judiciary. No definition can guarantee relief, no matter how explicit it is. The true guarantee against domestic violence is the internalization of the norm of respect or dignity of the other of a progressive judiciary which lives in the...
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