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PUCL Bulletin, March 2006

Crimes against women

(The report contains cases of Rape, Dowry harassment, Cruelty, and Torture. It was prepared by Zehra Khan, an intern from the NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad during her attachment to the PUCL National Office in Delhi – Chief Editor)

According to National Crimes Report Bureau, 1.5 lakh crimes against women are registered annually out of which nearly 50,000 are related to domestic violence (1). It is believed that close to 5 crore women suffer from violence in their homes; however only 0.1% are courageous enough to report (2).

A mere 2 out of 100 accused are convicted under Section 498A. About 80% of the natal families try to reconcile the matter with the husband and his family; the rest are asked to put up with the situation (3). Women Power Connect, a national level organization, reported that 50,703 cases were registered under ‘torture’ in 2003 (4). A shocking 5.60% of the rape victims are related to the perpetrator (5). In 2004, Crimes against Women cell received 7,987 dowry related complaints; police counseled 1,853 families to settle for a compromise. Nearly 1,200 cases were registered against the husband and relatives. As many as 5,000 complaints where the victim failed to pursue the case. In spite of laws like the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, and Sections 304B and 498A of IPC, the story has not changed much.

The need to provide redress to abused women is urgent. Newspapers mirror the society. The reports and cases reported are nothing but the reflection of what goes on in the society. This report is based on the incidents reported in the Delhi edition of The Hindu, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express and The Times of India, for the period January 2005 to October 2005. Close to the heels of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence bill becoming an act, this is what was happening behind closed doors. Rape In 2004, 525 rape cases were reported (6). In 14 such incidents, the perpetrator was the father of the victim (7) In 6 cases, it was the stepfather of the victim (8). In 39 cases the rapists were relatives (9).

Rape

Rape Father/Stepfather
Other relations
Brother-in-law Father-in-law
Husband/husband's friends
Distant relations
2005
11/1
3
3
2
3


From the information collected and on data analysis, it was deduced that 60.87% of the victims were minors. The rest of the victims were within the age group of 18 to 32. In most cases it was not a single act of sexual assault but a repeated practice (10). There was a spine-chilling case reported where the father raped his 21-year old daughter months before her marriage and impregnated her (11). Two cases of rape were also lodged against the husbands, however the fate of such cases is unknown as marital rape is not criminalized in India (12).

These are ghastly tales of protectors becoming predators. In 2004, according to statistics, 43.97% of the rapes were committed in the house and 5.60% victims were related to the perpetrator (13). Dowry Harassment, Cruelty and Torture In 2004, 142, 035 crimes against women were recorded (14). As per the statistics, 132 women were abused every day by their husbands or in-laws, 5 women every hour (15). A shocking 18 dowry deaths every day, that is, there is one woman dying every 80 minutes in India (16).

 

Dowry Deaths (17)
Year No. of victims
2004
122
2003
130
2002
136 (maximum)
2001
113 (minimum)

A total of 50,703 cases were registered under ‘torture’ in 2003 (18). As per figures, the number of cases reported under Section 498 A, Cruelty, are as follows (19):

Year No. of cases registered
2004
1188
2003
1138
2002
1196
2001
1209
2000
982

So far.....

  Dowry deaths Torture and cruelty
Murdered Committed suicide
2005
13
3
14

This year, 3 newly married brides, including one engineer (20), committed suicide due to the constant dowry harassment (21). Two women, who were found murdered, had also sought help from Crime Against Women cell (22). Two women, in UP, bore the wrath of their husbands for bearing girl child (23). One woman was falsely inseminated with her brother-in-law’s sperm (24). One 76-year old, disabled, woman was denied means of sustenance (25). Two women were kept in confinement of their homes, as they were mentally ill (26). A man forced a wiper in his daughter’s body while harassing his wife for dowry (27). There were two cases of exploitation of domestic help (28).

There were 4 incidents where the father killed his daughter for reasons ranging from ‘honour killing’ (29) to marrying against the father’s wishes (30). There was a report of a man beating his wife to death with an iron rod (31). The reason remains unclear. Such horrifying tales of domestic violence is believed to be only the tip of the iceberg. Provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act The provisions of the act are as follows:

The act provides protection, not only, from physical and sexual violence but also verbal, emotional and economic violence (32). It includes actual abuse, threat of violence and also harassment by way of unlawful demands for dowry to the women or her relatives (33). Unlike Section 498A, the act protects women in any relation living together in a shared household and are related by consanguinity, marriage or adoption (34). All relations are included even joint family members (35). It protects women in relationships similar to or in the nature of marriage and not marriage alone. Thus, it even provides protection to the ‘other woman’ (36). The act covers domestic help too.  The act also ensures a roof over her head. For the first time, women have been given a right to reside in the household not dependent on ownership of the household but on the fact of being in a relationship. It also gives the abused women the custody of her children. The act empowers the magistrate to pass orders to provide a range of protection and violence free space to the abused woman. The orders can be passed to stop the abuser from (37): (a) Committing an act of domestic violence. (b) Entering workplace or any other place that the abused woman frequents. (c) Trying to communicate with the abused woman. (d) Isolating any assets used by both the parties and using violence against the abused woman, her relatives or anybody who helps her. This act gives the abused woman time to decide the future plan of action as the protection order remains until the woman applies for discharging unlike Section 498A, which as a recourse, is a point of no return. The act also gives the abused woman monetary relief which includes loss of earnings, medical expenses and maintenance (38). On passing of the act, AIDWA expressed that this act will “greatly increased battered women’s access to legal protection and relief from violence within the home” (39).

NCW said that this act is an “urgent necessity” (40). Critique According to (Ms) Indira Jaising, a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court and a vocal supporter of the bill, there is still a long way to go and this is what still needs to be done (41). Firstly, the government should provide shelter to abused women. Secondly, medical practitioners should be intimated to attend to women who come with the complaint of violence without insisting on filing a police complaint. Lastly, to provide legal aid to the abused women and publicise the provisions of the act through the media. The word from the other side is that the act is gender biased, that husband battery might be an alien concept but it is not non-existent. This act is only directed at tackling the violence perpetrated by a man towards a woman and not vice versa. It does not address violence against a woman by a woman in a household. A woman slashes her husband’s nose because he questioned her fidelity (42). A niece alleges that her uncle raped her (43). Following such allegations her uncle commits suicide, professing that the reason for such allegations was that he objected to the niece’s relationships with men (44). The latest Supreme Court judgment, where reopening of a case was ordered when the daughter confessed that the rape charge she levied against her father was false and that she did this because her mother pressurized her, brought to light that men are also likely to be exploited (45). However the act in question provides no recourse to them. According to Karan Thapar, in his ‘Sunday Sentiments’ column for the Hindustan Times, hailed that ‘the intention was noble but the devil lies in the details’ (46) of the act. Clause 3(c) of the act defines ‘aggrieved person’ as any person who ‘is or has been in domestic relationship’, thus includes wives, ex-wives, live-in partners and even former girlfriends and also any person related to her.

According to the provisions of the act all the above women have a right to reside in the house of the accused. The contention raised by Mr. Thapar is that such a provision of the act may give rise to impractical circumstances within the family- living with your wife, ex-wife or ex-wives, former girlfriends and their relatives, all at the same time. Another contention raised was that under the act anyone could report the case of domestic violence with the police even your wife’s paramour. However, the act attempts to redress a greater evil, in the light of that, the lesser evil can be ignored.

NOTES:
(1) The Hindu, 25th June 2005; (2) The Hindu, 31st August 2005; (3) The Hindu, 31st August 2005; (4) The Hindu, 25th June 2005; (5) The Times of India, 4th June 2005; (6) The Times of India, 26th February 2005; (7) Hindustan Times, 4th August 2005; (8) The Times of India, 26th February 2005; (9)The Times of India, 26th February 2005; (10)The Indian Express, 30th September 2005; (11)The Times of India, 26th February 2005; (12)The Indian Express, 6th January 2005 and Hindustan Times, 10th August 2005; (13)The Times of India, 4th June 2005; (14) NCRB; The Times of India, 3rd July 2005; (15) NCRB; The Times of India, 3rd July 2005; (16) NCRB; The Times of India, 3rd July 2005; (17) The Hindu, 7th January 2005; (18) The Hindu, 31st August 2005; (19) The Hindu, 7th January 2005; (20) The Indian Express, 17th October 2005; (21) The Hindu, 24th October 2005; (22) Hindustan Times, 8th September 2005; (23) The Times of India, 30th June 2005; (24) Hindustan Times, 31st July 2005; (25) Hindustan Times, 5th September 2005; (26) Hindustan Times, 10th and 13th September 2005; (27) The Indian Express, 1st January 2005; (28) The Hindu, 7th September and 16th October 2005; (29) The Hindu, 20th August 2005; (30) The Hindu, 20th August 2005; (31) The Times of India, 2nd April 2005; (32) The Indian Express, 24th June 2005; (33) The Indian Express, 8th September 2005; (34) The Times of India, 24th June 2005; (35) The Hindu, 24th June 2005; (36) The Indian Express, 8th September 2005; (37) The Times of India, 24th June 2005; (38) The Times of India, 3rd July 2005; (39) The Hindu, 25th June 2005; (40) The Hindu, 25th June 2005; (41) The Indian Express, 8th September 2005; (42) The Indian Express, 1st July 2005; (43) The Hindu, 5th October 2005; (44) The Hindu, 5th October 2005; (45) Hindustan Times, 16th December 2005; (46) Hindustan Times, 11th September 2005


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