The legislation we are covering this week in our WYR (Writing Your Rights) column is ‘The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005’ (Hereafter referred to as DV Act). In our coverage, we have attempted to provide an easily understandable and yet comprehensive coverage of some of the reliefs available to women under this Act. We at MSAAW while fondly hoping that you should never have to use this article also hope that it would act as your guide should the need arise.
Who can claim the reliefs provided under this Act?
An ‘AGGRIEVED PERSON’ in a DOMESTIC RELATIONSHIP with a respondent can seek relief against the ‘RESPONDENT’
- AGGRIEVED PERSON-S.2(a) any woman who is or has been in a domestic relationship with the respondent and who alleges to have been subjected to domestic violence by them
- RESPONDENT S.2(q)includes
1) any adult male who has been or is in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved woman, and against whom the woman has sought a relief or
2) any male or female relative of the husband or
3)male partner of a married woman or a woman in a relationship or marriage.
The definition of “DOMESTIC RELATIONSHIP”is any relationship 2 persons have lived together in a shared household and these people are:
- related by consanguinity (blood relations)
- related by marriage.
- Through a relationship in the nature of marriage (which would include live-in relationships)
- Through adoption
- Are family members living in a joint family
Abuses from which relief has been provided in the DV Act
- Physical Abuse: Defined as act or conduct that is of such a nature as to cause bodily pain, harm, or danger to life, limb or health or impair the health or development of the aggrieved person’.
- Sexual Abuse: The legislation defines this as conduct of “sexual nature” that ‘abuses, humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the dignity of a woman.’
- Verbal and Emotional Abuse: Insults/ ridicule of any form, including those about inability to have a male child, as well as repeated threats
- Economic abuse: Categorized as including deprivation of financial resources required for survival of the victim and her children, the disposing of any assets which the victim has an interest/stake in and prohibition/restriction of financial resources which the victim is used to while in the domestic relationship.
- Shelter Homes: Shelter homes are notified by the State government and are duty bound to provide shelter to the aggrieved person on request.
- Counselling – Section 14: The Magistrate, under Section 14, can direct the respondent and/or the aggrieved person to go for counselling. The Protection officers maintain a list of service providers for counselling.
- Protection Officers – Section 9: As per Section. 9, Protection Officers should be appointed by the government in every district, who preferably should be women, and should be qualified. The duties of the Protection Officer include filing a domestic incidence report, providing shelter homes, medical facilities and legal aid for the victims, and ensuring that protection orders issued against the respondents are carried out.
- Protection orders: Section 18- Protection orders for the victim’s safety can be issues against the respondent, and includes for when he commits violence, aid or abets it, enters any place which the victim frequents or attempts to communicate with her, restricts any form of assets of the victim or causes violence to people of interest to the victim.
- Residence: Section 19- The magistrate may choose to restrict the respondent from the place of residence of both the parties if they feel that it is for the safety of the victim. Additionally, the respondent cannot evict the victim from the place of residence.
- Monetary relief: Section 20- The respondent has to provide relief to the victim to compensate for loss, including loss of earnings, medical expenses, any expenses incurred due to loss of property by destruction, damage or removal, and maintenance of the victim and her children.
- Custody of children: Section 21- Custody of children should be granted to the victim as required, with visiting rights to the respondent if necessary.
- Penalties: Penalty maybe imposed on the respondent – for not following orders as well as the protection officer – for not providing protection.
- Live in relationships: Even live-in relationships are covered under the definition of “domestic relationship”. In the Supreme Court case of Bharatha Matha & Anr vs R. Vijaya Renganathan & Ors, it was decided that a child born out of a live-in relationship is entitled to property (the property owned by the parents, but not ancestral property). This means that a woman and her child in a live-in relationship cannot be threatened with economic abuse.