Second year of domestic violence Act

NEW DELHI: On the second anniversary of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, the fight has left the confines of the homes and reached the streets. Even as the anti-legislation lobby plans to descend at Jantar Mantar on Sunday to protest against “legal terrorism”, the women’s organizations say that the law has not even been implemented in letter and spirit.

A WHO study on world-wide domestic violence trends in 2005 found that in the majority of settings, over 75% of women physically or sexually abused since the age of 15 years reported abuse by a partner. Meanwhile, the number of cases of harassment and cruelty registered with the National Commission for Women (NCW) have increased from 2217 cases in 2005 to 2767 cases in 2007.

However, there is a growing number of people who feel that the DV Act does not address the condition of all women. Save Family Foundation and a host of related organizations including Mothers and Sisters Initiative (MASI) and All India Forgotten Women will be holding a protest demonstration demanding that the legislation be amended so that it does not trample the fundamental rights of the husband and his family while protecting the wife.

Describing the law as “sloppy” anti-DV organizations have demanded due investigation before a husband is assumed to be guilty. “To protect a particular gender, you cannot condemn the other,” Anupama Singh, president, MASI said. She added that in the present form the act entitles the magistrate to stop the husband from entering his own house, using his bank account and even meet his children. Singh added that since the government has not taken any trouble to appoint the proposed “protection officers” the disputing couple lands up with the police which is considered ineffective, corrupt and inefficient.

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According to government records, there are no protection officers in states including Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Karnataka and union territory of Chandigarh. On the other end of the spectrum are women’s organizations who feel that the DV Act that had accorded some degree of protection to a woman is being killed not just by such protests that come from a “highly patriarchal society” but also by the government that refuses to create awareness or allot budget for the legislation.

This is substantiated by the fact that according to data collected by the women and child development ministry, there are 9 states that have not even recorded a single case in 2007 while another 9 have no data for cases registered under DV act.”It is a civil act and by not publicising it and appointing separate officers for it, the government is killing the legislation,” Sudha Sundaraman, All India Democratic Women Association (AIDWA) said.

She added that there was a growing fundamentalist trend to oppose the act and its “alleged misuse” was being used as an excuse. “If there is a misuse, there are enough laws in the penal code to tackle that. What is required is adequate infrastructure, trained manpower, budget allocation and publicity to protect it,Sundaraman said.

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