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Domestic Violence Act 2005 is hailed as the first significant attempt to recognize domestic abuse as a punishable offence, to extend

its provisions to those in live-in relationships, and to provide for emergency relief for the victims, in addition to legal recourse.

Need for this Law

Of all forms of criminal behavior, domestic violence is among the most prevalent and among the least reported. One reason for this anomaly is that till 2005, remedies available to a victim of domestic violence in the civil courts (divorce) and criminal courts (vide Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code) were limited. There was no emergency relief available to the victim; the remedies that were available were linked to matrimonial proceedings; and the court proceedings were always protracted, during which period the victim was invariably at the mercy of the abuser.

And, relationships outside marriage were not recognized. This set of circumstances ensured that a majority of women preferred to suffer in silence. It is essentially to address these anomalies that the Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act 2005 was passed.

The primary beneficiaries

Women and children. Section 2(a) of the Act will help any woman who is or has been in a domestic relationship with the 'respondent' in the case. It empowers women to file a case against a person with whom she is having a 'domestic relationship' in a 'shared household', and who has subjected her to 'domestic violence'. Children are also covered by the act; they too can file a case against a parent or parents who are tormenting or torturing them, physically, mentally, or economically. Any person can file a complaint on behalf of a child.

The Act has given a new dimension to the word abuse unlike the primitive notion abuse includes actual abuse or threat of abuse, whether physical, sexual, verbal, economic and harassment by way of dowry demands but under the new law Abuse is defined as:-

Harassment by way of unlawful dowry demands on the woman or her relatives also comes under this definition. The law will cover those women who are or have been in a relationship where both parties have lived together in a shared household , and are related by marriage or adoption. Preventing one's wife from taking up a job or forcing her to leave job are also under the purview of the Act

One of the most important features of the Act is that it also provides a woman a right to reside in the matrimonial and shared household, whether or not she has any title in the household. Husbands or live-in partners who would be guilty of domestic violence can be put behind bars for a year and fined Rs 20,000 And all crimes in the Domestic Violence Act are nonbailable

In addition to physical violence of beating, slapping, hitting, kicking and pushing, the Act also covers sexual violence
The new law also addresses sexual abuse of children and forcing girls to marry against their wishes. This certainly proves that the new Act has been formed keeping the current relationship culture in India and the irregularities in the previous Domestic Violence Laws in mind.

The new law is also tough on men who subject women to name calling or verbal abuse. While Verbal Violence is often trivialized as unimportant, observers say it can damage a woman's self-esteem The Act defines Verbal Violence as: # Name calling # Any kind of accusation on a woman's character or conduct # Insults for not bringing dowry # Preventing a woman from marrying a person of her choice # Any form of threat or insults for not producing a male child.

Another significant step has been to recognize Economic Violence. Under the Act, Economic Violence is: # Not providing money, food, clothes, medicines # Causing hindrance to employment opportunities # Forcing a woman to vacate her house # Not paying rent.

Under the Act the law provides for the setting up and function of Protection Officers. The State Government will appoint protection officers to help the affected women. These protection officers are likely to be appointed in every district across the country, helping the victims file cases before the magistrates. According to the provisions of the Act, the woman will be given complete protection. Her 'tormentor' would be ordered not to attempt to communicate with her, including at her workplace.

The court can pass 'protection orders' so that the charged person will not cause violence to the woman's relatives. Apart from this, the woman can rightfully continue to live under the same roof with the man while fighting him in the court. According to the Act, the woman will have the right to a 'secure housing ' in the matrimonial or shared household.

function of Protection Officers

The PO will assist the court in making a Domestic Incident Report or an application for a protection order on behalf of the aggrieved woman and/or child. POs will ensure that aggrieved people are provided legal aid, medical services, safe shelter and other required assistance. POs will ensure that necessary information on service providers is provided to the aggrieved woman, and that orders for monetary relief are complied with. Importantly, the PO can be penalized for failing/refusing to discharge his duty, with the proviso that prior sanction of the state government is required.

A woman who is the victim of domestic violence will have the right to the services of the police, shelter homes and medical establishments. She also has the right to simultaneously file her own complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, Sections 18-23 of the Act provide a large number of avenues for an abused woman to get relief. She can get, through the courts, Protection Orders, Residence Orders, Monetary Relief, Custody Order for her children, Compensation Order and Interim/ Ex parte Orders.