The Association of ILI Alumni and the Indian Law Institute conducted a webinar on Domestic Violence During Lockdown: An Invisible Pandemic on June 10. The webinar was presided over by Justice Hima Kohli of Delhi High Court, and Rekha Sharma, the Chairperson of National Commission of Women. The session was moderated by Dr. P. Puneeth, Associate Professor at JNU, Delhi.
Help desks have been set up at night shelters, police stations and other public places wherein legal aid lawyers are present to provide counselling through video conferencing.There also helplines wherein even a mere missed call/SMS/WhatsApp message is sufficient to make the lawyers reach out to those in need of help. However, these lawyers have been sensitised to approach such matters with caution so as to not aggravate an already volatile situation.
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Is Domestic Violence Coming From Particular Segment Of Society?
When it comes to domestic violence, it is not just limited to those living on the fringe of society. It is prevalent across all strata. Money or the professional competence of a woman, surprisingly, does not factor in.
Take On 498A & DV Act
What is required is strict implementation, and this requires further outreach. We need to make the women aware, we need to help them access it. There is no use of statutes, if women have no access to it.
J&K HC and Delhi HC have taken up petitions on domestic violence during the lockdown. On 24th April, a detailed Order was rendered by the Delhi HC to allow passes to Protection Officers and to ensure immediate action was taken to address issues of the victim.
Should Laws Be Gender Neutral?
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In our society, we haven’t reached the point where men have needed protection from women. If there comes a time that women have an upper hand, then we will come to amending the laws. I am not saying that there is no misuse. But, this cannot be a ground to throw out the law. We can do as much as we can to nip the misuse at the bud. However, there is no denying that the power structure is in favour of men.
NCW Chairperson’s Take
Rekha Sharma, on the other hand, observed that instances of domestic violence had increased due to women’s lack of accessibility to aid as a result of being confined with their abusers during the lockdown. She further stated that these women were unable to contact helpline numbers or reach out for help because they were under close observation by their abusers.
She provided some statistics regarding the number of domestic violence cases that had cropped up during the lockdown.
From March 21 to June 7, the number of cases we have received are 1665. Most of the cases came from Uttar Pradesh, while Delhi was at number 2. The figure was almost double from before.
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The most difficult issue here is that many of the victims are not aware that they are victims. It’s a case of Stockholm Syndrome and these women have seen abusive behavior being normalised. They in fact deter others from intervening as it is a ‘personal issue’.
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- Honourable Justice Kohli is definitely in better position to analyse Domestic Violence cases from an unbiased perspective as she witnesses the same daily in her court
- However, where we fail as a society, is when Domestic Violence is gender specific and not neutral for Men too
- Today several men have no legal recourse if they are undergoing mental and physical violence in the confines of their homes – many are even given threats of false cases if they revolt against the abuse
- Now coming to comparison of numbers – there is no commission or ministry tracking domestic violence cases on men
- Nonetheless, even if we assume the number of DV cases on women would be higher than that on men, law must be neutral — justice should be served fairly irrespective of who the accused is
- Whenever a woman complaints of DV, police takes immediate action — in a reverse Men are asked to compromise and mend ways with the same domestic abuser
- Justice Kohli is probably one of our judges who has not shied away from accepting misuse of laws, yet often we see judges not penalising women who dare to file false cases
- To conclude, it should not be one DV case of a man Vs 100 DV cases of women – laws should be balanced for both genders and unlawful actions of whether men or women must have similar conviction, without being biased against the male gender