Domestic violence in India includes any form of violence suffered by a person from a biological relative, but typically is the violence suffered by a woman by male members of her family or relatives[i]. In plain sight, domestic abuse often gets covered. Many perpetrators are discouraged from speaking out threatened by secrecy, guilt, and oppressive influence. Given the facts and the situations that we are witnessing at present, it is time for us to step in. Anyone you know could be next; and that’s preventable. Yet the more educated you become of domestic violence, the more you desire to make a change. The author[ii] through the current study focuses mainly on analyzing the statistics of domestic violence in India to find out the extent to which we have been successful in its stoppage, its causes, and possible suggestions to improve the statistics.
The author, for the sake of the current study, has relied on the doctrinal method of research considering the constraints put forward by the pandemic in conducting on-groundwork. The doctrinal method is usually a two-fold process – it involves locating sources of information and then analyzing the information to meet the needs of the study. Sources of information such as reports from authoritative organizations and papers and articles from researchers who studied the topic previously are used extensively for the purpose.
In India, 27% of women have witnessed physical abuse since the age of 15, according to a study. Cases of domestic violence, in which people recorded physical assault in rural and urban regions, were 29% and 23% respectively. The National Family Health Survey (NHFS-4)[iii] published by the Union Health Ministry stated that every third child, as of the age of 15, has experienced domestic violence of various types in the world. Most of the time husbands were the victims of this abuse. 31% of women (married) have experienced sexual, physical, or emotional violence by their partners. Physical abuse (27%) is the most prevalent form of spousal violence accompanied by emotional violence (13%). The study found that 83% of married women who have witnessed physical abuse since the age of 15 recorded becoming victims of the aggression against their present spouses. Nevertheless, for single women, the experience of physical abuse arises from the most frequent victims, including mothers or step-mothers (56%), fathers or step-fathers (33%), sisters or siblings (27%), and teachers (15%). But only 14% of people who have witnessed this abuse have found support to stop it. A survey data reveals women in India aged 40 to 49 years were more accepting of domestic abuse, with 54.8% in agreement. For younger women, the proportion that excuses violence is slightly smaller. 47.7% of girls aged 15 to 19 agree with abuse by the husband. In urban and rural areas this small disparity in women ‘s views towards domestic abuse is also evident. Although 54.4% of rural women surveyed around the country admitted to domestic harassment, only 46.8% of urban women accepted such kind of violence[iv].
While there is no comprehensive research or database on domestic violence against men in India, it is commonly believed that about 40 instances involve violence against men in 100 cases of domestic abuse. Save Indian Family Foundation’s survey[v], which examined 1,650 husbands between the ages of 23 and 49, chosen by random sampling using a system adapted from the WHO multi-country research on husband’s wellbeing and domestic abuse, estimates that economic violence (32.8%) is widespread, accompanied by emotional violence (22.2%), physical violence (25.2%), and sexual violence (32.8%). The study shows that, with the length of the marriage, the likelihood of violence increased dramatically, particularly if it was more than 7 years old[vi].
Apart from such static results, it is also relevant for us to recognize the numbers of cases placed during the lockdown owing to the current pandemic. Indian women lodged more reports of domestic abuse during the first four phases of the COVID-19-lockdown than had been reported over the last 10 years. Yet even this extraordinary spurt is only the tip of the iceberg, as 86 percent of women who suffer domestic abuse in India is not seeking aid. In 2020, women made 1,477 allegations of domestic abuse between March 25 and May 31. A 68-day duration registered more reports than those earned in the 10 preceding years between March and May. A longitudinal analysis showing the dramatic rise in the number of instances of domestic abuse reported over this time is presented below. It’s just certain events that have come to attention. And we don’t realize practically how many events go unreported [vii].
In India, the Domestic Violence Protection Act (PWDVA), enacted in 2005, is a law that seeks to shield women from domestic abuse. One of the main advantages of the DV Act being the extensive concept of domestic abuse that was not specifically established under any legislation up until then. The DV Act covers all aspects of domestic violence from physical to emotional and cultural, giving redressal not just to women in marriage relationships but to women in a wide variety of domestic relationships under its purview. The DV Act, on the other side, still has a few loopholes. First of all, it discriminates against people who may even be perpetrators of domestic violence and harassment but were deliberately omitted from its reach. Furthermore, under this act, the concept of violence is too broad providing room for manipulation and abuse. Thirdly, the authorities formed under the Act are not explicitly laid out, leaving sufficient room for technological delays and failures[viii].
Now the issue at hand is, to what extent have we been successful in decreasing the rates of domestic violence. Having a look at the statistics, we can interpret that considering the number of cases reported, we were on the verge of recording a decline until the lockdown came about. The reported cases of domestic violence have rapidly increased leading to a spike in statistics on record. This is not only the case with India but countries across the globe. When researched on the main reasons as to this occurrence, it was found that several aspects such as isolation, stress, economic anxiety and joblessness, alcohol, and lack of resources[ix] when put together contributed to the spike majorly. Once again looking at the records, India has faced an unemployment rate of 26% as lockdown hit the country, and around 14 crore people alone have been out of their jobs during this period. It is to be noted that the various factors stated above are all reciprocal in nature. Stress begets alcohol abuse and job loss just as much as job loss begets alcohol abuse and stress. Though these have always been some of the major underlying causes of domestic violence, today, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a perfect storm for domestic violence by provoking some of the most common factors associated with its happening and occurrence.
Now, what can be done about this? There are certain suggestions as to the various ways by which the number of victims who are locked in with their abusers during the lockdown period as well as post the lockdown period can be reduced. To minimize the incidence of domestic abuse, stringent implementation of opioid addiction legislation should be made. Steps will be taken to cope strongly with the sexual abuse perpetuating alcoholics. Special trials will be set up for incidents of sexual assault (regardless of the victim’s sex) and up-to-date technical assistance such as videotaping testimony of the perpetrators of harassment and child neglect should be set up. Public agencies/departments should use NGO funding to increase consciousness in people regarding domestic abuse. All police stations should have separate legal assistance cells to support the perpetrators of domestic abuse. Officers must be sensitized to take incidents of domestic violence as harshly as any other criminal offense. Police officers should be granted additional expertise in addressing incidents of domestic abuse. Most notably, services for gender sensitization and awareness-raising regarding sexual abuse should become part of the curriculum of schools and universities. That will help bring about a shift in the mentality of the generations to come.[x] The fact that there are not even proper statistics or records of domestic violence against men in itself is clear proof that we believe that this violence is committed against women only. It’s high time that we realize that women are not the only victims of this violence but men also form a good part of the victim section and act accordingly.
The current study is limited because the author has laid more emphasis on statistics related to domestic violence against women compared to that of men. The author has limited his/her study to the data found from various reports, surveys, and other credible sources keeping in check the constraints posed by the pandemic period. In furtherance to this, the author leaves scope for future work on the subject of domestic violence with special reference to violence against men since it has been one of the most untouched subjects, yet the need of the hour.
[i] Mary Ellsberg, “Intimate partner violence and women’s physical and mental health in the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence: an observational study” 371 Lancet 1165 (2008).
[ii] The author is a student at Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.
[iii] Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Survey Report: National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) 2015-16.
[iv] Sheikh Saaliq, “Every third woman in India suffers from Sexual, Physical Violence at home” News18, Feb. 8, 2018.
[vi] Anant Kumar, “Domestic Violence against Men in India: A Perspective” 22 JHBSE 290 (2012).
[vii] Vignesh Radhakrishnan, “Data I Domestic Violence complaints at a year high during COVID-19 lockdown” The Hindu, Jun. 22, 2020.
[viii] Pallavi Rabinathan Dugar, “Talkinglegal: The know-hows of the Domestic Violence Act” India Times, Jan. 23, 2020.
[ix] Maclen Stanley, “Why the Increase in Domestic Violence During COVID-19?” Psycology Today, May 9, 2020.
[x] Gaurav Singh Rana, “Domestic Violence Against Women’s in India A Study” SSRN 2 49 (2014).