Let’s welcome a new dawn, minus domestic violence

Let’s welcome a new dawn, minus domestic violence

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Three out of four women in #Chhattisgarh believe that physical or sexual violence is justified. http://bit.ly/1lLpEr4

It’s time to break the social stigmas and end the #Farq. Read here to know more. http://bit.ly/1lLpEr4

To be born a girl in India carries a stigma. Discrimination or the Farq begins even before she is born. 

Growing up in a deeply feudal and patriarchal society, she continues to face severe restrictions that limit her education, health, choice of partner, economic opportunities and all other options in life.

Any sign of individuality is perceived as an act of rebellion towards the set customs and traditions. It is understood that either social norms are followed or she should be ‘disciplined’ with violence.

This takes the form of domestic violence – physical, psychological and sexual. Lack of effective mechanisms to counter such violence further shatters her faith in the society and corrodes her confidence.  

National Family Health Survey (NFHS III), 2005-06 data from Chhattisgarh shows widespread prevalence of violence among women. For instance, every third womani, who has been ever married, and 13.5 % womenii  who have never been married have experienced physical or sexual violence.

Three out of every four womeniii  believe that physical or sexual violence is justified for one or any of the following reasons:

1. If the wife goes out without telling the husband

2. If she neglects the house or children

3. If she argues with him

4. If she refuses to have sex with him

5. If she does not cook the food properly

6. If he suspects her of being unfaithful 

7. If she is disrespectful towards her in-laws.

 

Poonamiv - the Survivor

Poonam is an example of how a woman becomes a social outcast when she steps out of the prescribed norms and takes charge of her own life. 

Poonam married outside her caste. But her husband passed away soon after. Poonam once again challenged social norms and remarried. Not only was she boycotted by her family, she was also not accepted by her in-law’s family and community; her marriage triggered hostility towards her.

Her second marriage lasted 20 unhappy years and gave her three children. Despite being economically independent, she was subjected to continuous humiliation and severe torture by her family, including her husband. 

He cheated on her and would contribute neither financially nor physically in the household chores. He would physically abuse Poonam every time she questioned him; he became even more violent when he was asked to explain his infidelity.  

Police complaints were filed, arrests were made, family, neighbours and employers intervened but it failed to give her any respite. The situation worsened and she finally left him to live with her parents. But this wasn’t the end of her troubles; this was unacceptable to her husband. 

It was then that Poonam met Deepa of a sangathan, who informed her about Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA). But she refused to file a case, as she was wary about the time she would spend in getting justice, the resources involved in a legal fight and the stigma attached with going to court, etc. Like Poonam there are many who do not take legal steps against their husbands fearing unpleasant ramifications   education and economical independence, notwithstanding. 

 

Status of PWDVA in Chhattisgarh  

The Chhattisgarh state government had allocated around Rs 1.5 crores in 2014-15 for the implementation of PWDV Act. This means only Rs 47,500 per month per district. 

Out of this a major portion gets exhausted in salaries only. There is no specific budget allocation for training, convergence, publicity and awareness. Since there is no specific budget allocation for the implementation of PWDVA (neither by the central government nor by the state government), funds from other schemes are being diverted. 

For instance, the funds from Nava Bihan Scheme, that ensures livelihood of people, is diverted towards the implementation of PWDVA. 

With the restricted budgetary allocations a few full-time dedicated Protection Officers (POs) have been appointed for the implementation of the PWDVA. But this process began only after a decade of its implementation. 

However, much remains to be done. Presently, Protection Officers (POs) work under the guidance of District Probation Officerv  and no specific training is provided to the POs. There is no clarity on the roles of different stakeholders and this is an impediment to the effective implementation of the act.

Like the POs, the local service providers (SPs) are the other major stakeholders of the PWDVA.They are the first point of contact for the survivor. Their role is to spread awareness on PWDVA in the area, file Domestic Incidence Report (DIR), facilitate support to the victims to get psycho-socio-medico support, and provide referral services. 

However, they are nominated by the Women and Child Development Department to perform the role of SPs and not appointed. Further, during the nomination process, the parameters of infrastructure availability, capacity of the organisation and their interest of acting as SPs are often not considered. Since this hasn’t been publicised enough people are not aware about SPs and no budget is allocated to them. Thus, not much motivation remains to perform the role either.

There is dearth of notified shelter homes due to which women facing violence have nowhere to go.The only option for the survivors is their own home and that too if family, relatives or friends give shelter. The existing shelter homes have poor resources, infrastructure, services, and living conditions. This is why Poonam struggled and had to shuttle constantly between her parents and her In-law’s place so many times. 

The role of police is also not clearly defined. Most of the time women hesitate to approach police stations and even if she does she is given the spiel that wife beating is part and parcel of a ‘normal’ marriage. It is generally observed that most of the time, the police counsel women to compromise. 

Owing to wide social acceptance of domestic violence, despite a very high incidence, only a handful of instances reach courts. 

Since 2006, 1992 domestic violence cases reached the court, out of which 1104 (until Aug, 2014) are still pending in the courts of Chhattisgarh.

As per the act, PWDV cases should be resolved within 60 days, but even after almost a decade, cases are still pending in the courts. This is one of the major reasons for women losing hope. 

Moreover, it has been substantiated through various studies and researches that most of the stakeholders involved in the PWDVA framework are more given to settlement and compromise by enhancing the woman’s guilt – guilt that protecting the marriage is her responsibility alone. 

This means right from the police to the lawyers and the service providers insist that women adjust in their broken homes and strike a compromise with the husband instead of taking legal action. 

This pushes the already battered and desolate women to further depression, and stops other women from mustering the courage to follow the same route to justice. 

However, there are few examples where women have stood up to all forms of pressure and upheld their right to life with dignity. These examples pave the way for a brighter future.

 

Written by: Anu Verma

Photo Credit: Oxfam India

___________________________________________

ii.e. 34.4% of ever married women in the age group of 19-49 years

iiNever married women between the age group of 19-49 years

iiiever married and in the age group of 19-49 years

ivName changed 

vAn officer of the Ministry of Women and Child Development who oversees the implementation of different acts like child marriage act, domestic violence act, dowry law (498 A (IPC))etc

 


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