STATUS OF WOMEN
The status of women as depicted in the Manu Smritis is as under:
“Yatra naryastu pujyante ramante tatra Devata, yatraitaastu na pujyante sarvaastatrafalaah kriyaah” which means Women are honored where, divinity blossoms there, and where women are dishonored, all action no matter how noble remain unfruitful.
A famous English poem says: “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle Is the Hand That Rules the World” is a poem by William Ross Wallace that praises motherhood as the preeminent force for change in the world.Through a mothers tender love great men are born.
But when we see the reality it is somewhat shocking. There is difference in letter and spirit when we speak of status of women in India. As per records available with National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB), total crime against women – 2, 44, 270. Total number of Domestic Violence Cases in India – 1, 06, 527.National Crime Records Bureau reveal that a crime against a woman is committed every three minutes, a woman is raped every 29 minutes, a dowry death occurs every 77 minutes, and one case of cruelty committed by either the husband or relative of the husband occurs every nine minutes.
Many questions arise in mind as to why there is so much of difference between the said and done. Why the women are being treated less than any human. The answer to this question lies in the fact that we have a patriarchal society, a society which is dominated by man. A woman is never free here. Right from childhood till her old age, woman has been a slave, only her masters keep changing. As a daughter she is under control of her father, as a wife under her husband and as a mother under the control of her son. A woman has never been independent. There is a need to recognise the independent existence of woman and she should not be taken as a mere possession.
Behavioural psychologist indicates that the patterns of domestic violence are carried from one generation to another. There is insensitivity to such an extent that men stop realizing that they are committing wrong. Men have become habitual and consider this as a normal routine of day to day life. They have formed a habit of treating women like this and old habits die hard as it is very difficult to change habits.
A study conducted revealed that even there are women in society who believe that wife beating is justified for at least one reason or the other. The woman has so many insecurities attached that she thinks that if she raises her voice then no one will hear her. Can she return to her parents, what will be the reaction of society towards her, impact on children, lack of economic means, where will she reside as there is no accommodation for her and can any law put an end to her atrocities without disturbing her marital life. As such silence is her last resort.
Relief under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005
Does the existing law actually protect women? The answer is simply NO. Why another law is required when there are enough of criminal laws for protection of women from domestic violence?
The answer is, there are not enough laws which can address the grievance of woman in its entirety. Though civil remedies such as divorce was available to women even prior to 2005 but it is very time consuming and at the same time fails to provide any kind of immediate relief to the woman , besides adding to costs and delays in litigation. Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code provided with relief for protection of woman but women are reluctant to approach the criminal justice system. There was no law which provided right to reside in a household. In order to provide with immediate relief Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was very much required. This law is aimed at providing immediate relief to basic problems of women. All this is in addition to other reliefs available in criminal law. Altogether with domestic violence a wife can file a complaint under section 498A crpc and section 125 crpc. Simply speaking the law is civil in nature but if a man violates and disobeys any order of court that it takes the shape of a criminal law. Even a divorced wife has the right to claim relief under this Act from her ex husband except in cases where she has expressly waived such right.
Objective of the Act –
Primarily meant to provide protection to the wife or female live-in partner from violence at the hands of the husband or male live-in partner or his relatives, the law also extends its protection to women who are sisters, widows or mothers. Domestic Violence has a very wide meaning under this Act. Domestic violence under the act includes actual abuse or the threat of abuse whether 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.
The Act covers within its ambit not only relationships existing through marriages but also relationships in the nature of marriage and live in relationships. Relationships in the nature of marriage means that there is no marriage in the eye of law but the parties through their actions represent to the world at large that they are a married couple and they are seen in society as husband and wife. These relationships are also called live in relationships.
What is status of live in relationships?
All live in relationships cannot take benefit but only few can
The court in the case of D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal, (2010) 10 SCC 469 has stated five Ingredients of a live in relationship as follows:
1. Both the parties must behave as husband and wife and are recognised as husband and wife in front of society
2. They must be of a valid legal age of marriage
3. They should qualify to enter into marriage eg. none of the partner should have a souse living at the time of entering into relationship.
4. They must have voluntarily cohabited for a significant period of time
5. They must have lived together in a shared household
Merely spending weekends or one night stand would not make it a domestic relationship.
Status of a keep – All live in relationships will not amount to relationship akin to marriage to get benefit of DV Act. If a man keeps a woman and maintains her functionally for sexual purpose or as a servant, it will not be a relationship akin to marriage to get benefit and protection under the Act.
A woman suffering from Domestic Violence can not only file complaint against the husband or male partner but also against the female relatives of the husband except for order of dispossession against the female relatives of the husband.
It can be said that the law as can be seen is intended to protect women from domestic violence and should be used as a shield and not as a sword.
BY Shweta Kaushik
Shweta is an Advocate and Consultant and presently working with Centre for Law, Justice & Governance, Mahatma Gandhi State Institue of Public Administration, Punjab at Chandigarh
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