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Delhi High Court Affirms Universality of Domestic Violence Act


The Delhi High Court recently underscored the universal applicability of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005, asserting that it extends protection to all women irrespective of their religious or social background. The High Court made these observations while dismissing a plea filed by a husband and his relatives, challenging an appellate court order that had reinstated a domestic violence complaint filed by the wife. This landmark judgement reaffirms the commitment to uphold women’s rights and safeguard them from domestic violence, irrespective of their cultural, religious, or social affiliations.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Domestic Violence?
  2. How Widespread is Domestic Violence in India?
  3. Legal Frameworks Addressing Domestic Violence in India
  4. Challenges in Enforcing Laws Against Domestic Violence

What is Domestic Violence?

  • Domestic violence refers to any form of abusive behavior in a domestic setting, typically involving a spouse or partner, which may be physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological.
Factors Contributing to Domestic Violence

Gender Gap in India

  • Wide gender gap in India contributes to a sense of male superiority and entitlement.
  • Men may use violence to assert dominance and reinforce perceived superiority.

Alcohol and Drug Misuse

  • Intoxication impairs judgment and exacerbates violent tendencies.
  • Leads to loss of inhibitions and escalation of conflicts into physical or verbal abuse.

Dowry System

  • Strong correlation between domestic violence and the dowry system.
  • Violence increases when dowry expectations are not met.
  • Despite the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, cases of bride burning and dowry-related violence persist.

Financial Stress and Dependency

  • Financial stressors and dependency dynamics exacerbate tensions within relationships.

Traditional Beliefs and Gender Roles

  • Traditional beliefs perpetuate gender roles and power imbalances.
  • Patriarchal systems prioritize male authority and control over women.
  • Violence often stems from notions of ownership over women’s bodies, labor, and reproductive rights.

Desire for Dominance and Control

  • Desire for dominance and control over a partner stemming from insecurity or entitlement.

Social Conditioning

  • Marriage is often portrayed as the ultimate goal for women, reinforcing traditional gender roles.
  • Indian culture glorifies women who exhibit tolerance and submission, discouraging them from leaving abusive relationships.

Socio-economic Factors

  • Poverty and unemployment create additional stresses within households, increasing the likelihood of violent behavior.

Mental Health Conditions

  • Untreated mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or personality disorders contribute to volatile behavior.

Lack of Awareness and Understanding

  • Limited understanding of healthy relationship dynamics and rights.
  • Ignorance about legal protections against domestic violence or available support services.
  • Many women lack awareness of their rights, perpetuating a cycle of low self-esteem and subjugation.

How Widespread is Domestic Violence in India?


  • 32% of ever-married women in India reported experiencing physical, sexual, or emotional violence by their husbands in their lifetime.
  • According to NFHS-5 (2019-2021), 29.3% of married Indian women (ages 18-49) have experienced domestic or sexual violence; 3.1% of pregnant women (ages 18-49) have suffered physical violence during pregnancy.
  • 87% of married women who are victims of marital violence do not seek help, according to NFHS data.
  • Many cases go unreported, with only a fraction making it to the police.

Legal Frameworks Addressing Domestic Violence in India

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA)

  • Designed to safeguard women from domestic violence.
  • Encompasses physical, emotional, sexual, and economic abuse.
  • Offers various protective, residential, and relief measures.

Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Section 498A)

  • Addresses acts of cruelty by a husband or his relatives against a woman.
  • Criminalizes acts of harassment, cruelty, or torture.

Indian Evidence Act, 1872

  • Sets guidelines for evidence in legal proceedings.
  • Applicable in domestic violence-related cases.

Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

  • Tackles offenses related to dowry.
  • Criminalizes the act of giving or receiving dowry.

National Commission for Women Act, 1990

  • Forms the National Commission for Women (NCW) to protect women’s rights.
  • NCW’s role includes addressing domestic violence issues.

Domestic Abuse in Same-Sex Relationships

  • Existing laws predominantly focus on heterosexual relationships.
  • Leaves same-sex couples vulnerable without adequate legal protection.
  • Recognizing same-sex marriages could broaden legal safeguards for same-sex couples.

Challenges in Enforcing Laws Against Domestic Violence

Social Stigma and Fear

  • Victims often refrain from reporting due to societal stigma, fear of reprisal, or concerns about family reputation.
  • Such reticence complicates authorities’ efforts to intervene.

Underreporting and Normalization

  • Many domestic violence incidents go unreported.
  • Victims might not identify certain behaviors as abusive or might see them as normal.

Limited Awareness

  • Many, including victims, are uninformed about their legal entitlements and available support.
  • Lack of awareness makes reporting and accessing legal assistance challenging.

Financial Dependence

  • Victims might rely financially on their abusers.
  • Concerns about economic consequences can deter them from seeking legal help.

Inadequate Training and Implementation

  • Law enforcement and judicial bodies might lack specialized training in handling domestic violence cases.
  • Varied enforcement of laws undermines their effectiveness.

Difficulty in Establishing Domestic Violence

  • Providing evidence of domestic violence in court can be challenging.
  • Absence of witnesses or physical evidence can undermine cases.

Impact on Family Relationships

  • Domestic violence often occurs within familial contexts.
  • Legal actions can strain family ties, dissuading victims from seeking legal remedies.

Cultural Norms and Practices

  • Cultural norms and practices influence the perception and handling of domestic violence.
  • Enforcement approaches need to accommodate these cultural nuances.

-Source: Indian Express

May 2024