Protecting Women from Domestic Violence in Assam, India? Evaluating Section 498-A, the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1983 vs the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA), 2005

By Carpenter, Deepshikha; Vauquline, Polly | Journal of International Women's Studies, November 2016 | Go to article overview

Protecting Women from Domestic Violence in Assam, India? Evaluating Section 498-A, the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1983 vs the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA), 2005


Carpenter, Deepshikha, Vauquline, Polly, Journal of International Women's Studies


Introduction

Violence is an act of coercion upon any individual. Globally, men experience higher levels of physical violence than women due to war, gang-related activity, street violence, and suicide, while women and girls are more likely to be assaulted or killed by someone they know, such as intimate partner violence (Heise & Moreno, 2002). Domestic violence is also interpreted as Intra-family violence, wife battering, intimate partner violence, partner abuse or violence among family members (Naidu, 2011). It is heavily indebted to patriarchal systems, psycho-social problems and un-equal power relationships among family members (Nnadi, 2012).Domestic violence is a pandemic issue and thus global initiatives including the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration and the Vienna + 20 World Conference have addressed violence as an issue of concern, detrimental for quality of life and human rights. Therefore, a perspective on the legal implication of domestic violence is important as the rates of offence are increasing in India. This paper is an attempt to bring to the surface the different voices of the stakeholders in treating domestic violence.

Rationale of the study

Before 1983, there was no specific legal provision pertaining to violence against women on the domestic front in India. Husbands guilty of committing violence to their wives could be convicted under general provisions relating to murder, hurt, abetment to suicide or wrongful confinement. These general provisions under criminal law do not take into account the specific situations of women facing violence within confines of homes as against assault by an outsider or stranger. Therefore an amendment was made in 1983, which added Section 498-A to Chapter XVI, IPC (Act 46 of 1983) which states that the husband and in-laws subjecting cruelty and harassment to the wife will be punished.

Again, in 1993, the National Commission for Women requested that the Lawyers Collective, a women's rights group, make a draft regarding domestic violence for civil law. A focused legal campaign began in 1998 onwards and finally in the year 2005, the historic Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act was enacted (Jaisingh, 2001). This Act provides special services to the victims of domestic violence order, for relief, residence, protection, custody, maintenance and compensation. Such protections were unheard of in India before the enforcement of this Act. The Act seeks to address the intrinsic needs of women who face violence at home. Flavia Agnes, an Indian Legal Activist, draws attention to the fact that the Indian State has been all too willing to pass new criminal laws to address multiple forms of violence against women and raises questions about the wisdom of conferring such powers on the State. Each law vests more power to the state enforcement machinery. Its enactment stipulates more stringent punishment which is contrary to progressive legal reform (Kapur & Cossman, 1996).

In India there are numerous pieces of legislation to protect victims of domestic violence. The two important pioneers of protection of women's interests on the domestic front are Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code, IPC (1983) and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, PWDVA, (2005).The records of the National Crime Record Bureau, 2011 show a significant increase in the number of 498-A cases. The incidence of violence against women at home has increased by nearly 11%, despite the legislation and implementation of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DNA Newspaper, 2013). This indicates that the crimes against women in general and domestic violence in particular, have increased at an alarming rate over the last decade. On the other hand, the state machinery, has from time to time introduced legal provisions to overcome these social issues. However, domestic violence persists, increasing even following the existence of strong, stringent laws. …

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