Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 came into force from 26 October 2006. It is a very comprehensive and promising legislation that combines civil remedies with criminal procedures to ensure effective protection and immediate relief to victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family, The definition of ‘domestic violence' is in consonance with the UN Model Legislation on Domestic Violence. The aggrieved can seek protection against any physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse or economic abuses. This law for the first time recognizes a women's right to a violence free home. Under the Act, the right to reside in the matrimonial home/shared household was seen as a major breakthrough in women's rights in India. She cannot be evicted from the shared household and if evicted can seek immediate relief, seek a protection order, monetary compensation, residency order, custody order, free legal services, medical aid and counseling with the help of the Protection Officer or Service Provider. The Act envisages appointment of domestic violence Protection Officers by the State Governments in every district and encourages the participation of voluntary associations as Service Providers. The Ministry of Women and Child Development, the National Commission for Women and the non-governmental organziations have also taken initiatives to propagate the remedies available in this Act to the affected women by organizing awareness campaigns/seminars/ workshops and sensitizing the enforcement agencies.
Salient features of the Act are as follows:
- It covers those women who are or have been in a relationship with the abuser where both parties have lived together in a shared household and are related by consanguinity, marriage, a relationship in the nature of marriage, or adoption. In addition, relationships with family members living together as a joint family are also included. Even those women who are sisters, widows, mothers, single women, or living with the abuser are entitled to the protection under the proposed legislation. However, whereas the Act enables the wife or the female living in a relationship in the nature of marriage to file a complaint against any relative of the husband or the male partner, it does not enable any female relative of the husband or the male partner to file a complaint against the wife or the female partner;
- It defines "domestic violence" to include actual abuse or the threat of abuse that is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic. Harassment by way of unlawful dowry demands to the woman or her relatives would also be covered under this definition;
- It confers on the aggrieved woman the right to reside in a shared household, whether or not she has any title or rights in the same. In fact, a respondent, not being a female, can be directed under the Act to remove himself from the shared household or to secure for the aggrieved woman the same level of alternate accommodation as enjoyed by her in the shared household or to pay rent for the same;
- The orders for relief the aggrieved woman is entitled to under the Act include protection orders, residence orders, monetary relief, custody orders and compensation orders;
- It empowers the Magistrate to pass protection order in favour of the abused to prevent the abuser from aiding or committing an act of domestic violence or any other specified act, entering a workplace or any other place frequented by the abused, attempting to communicate with the abused, isolating any assets used by both the parties and causing violence to the abused, her relatives or others who provide her assistance against the domestic violence;
- It provides for appointment of Protection Officers and recognizes and involves nongovernmental organisations as service providers for providing assistance to the abused with respect to her medical examination, obtaining legal aid, safe shelter.
Source of Information
Response of the Government of India to the questionnaire on violence against women 2010; CEDAW/C/IND/Q/3, reply Q8, pp.10 and 11