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The State Governments should carry out the implementation of comprehensive strategies addressing domestic violence against women that are sensitive to the needs and safety of the victims and hold offenders accountable for their crimes.

By: Dr.Tasaduk Hussain Itoo

It is a fact that domestic violence against women is universal across the culture, religion, class and ethnicity. Despite this widespread nature of domestic violence, it is not customarily acknowledged and has remained invisible. This hidden nature of domestic violence against women remains so due to the social construction of the divide between public and private affairs. The law has historically considered the domain of the house to be within the control and unquestionable authority of the male-head of the household.


Domestic violence is a widespread problem. However, its actual extent is difficult to measure. It may be very much higher than what the reports indicate because many instances of domestic violence against women are not reported. The research studies and surveys conducted by individuals generally produce higher estimates of violence than official records. However, they are also assumed to underestimate the actual extent of domestic violence against women. For a variety of reasons, respondents may fail to report violence that takes place in the family. According to available statistics from around the world, around 33.33 percent of the women have experienced violence in one form or the other, in their intimate relationship at some point in their life. This is an average based on available national surveys across industrialised and developing countries published in the report of the World Health Organisation. Statistical evidence available about the actual prevalence of domestic violence against women in India is scant. The only large scale survey conducted by the National Crimes Record Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India relating to crimes against women, reveals a record 71.5 per cent increase in cases of torture and dowry from 1990 to 1995.The study shows that physical abuse of Indian Women is quite high, ranging from 22 percent to 60 per cent of women surveyed.It is  reported that the rate of physical violence against women was 18 to 45 per cent in different communities during the period.


It is necessary to clarify the concept of Domestic Violence against Women. Violence against women in general is defined as a force, whether overt or covert, used to wrest from a woman something that she does not want to give of her own free will and which causes her either physical injury or emotional trauma or both. Thus rape, kidnapping, wife-beating, sexual abuse, eve teasing, mental harassment, physical tourcher are all examples of violence against women. Definition of Domestic Violence may be broad or focussed. It is very important to define domestic violence from the viewpoint of responses. For shaped by a particular understanding of what constitutes domestic violence, whether it be legal reform or the provision of support services and whether it is to be conceptualised as an intra-family conflict or a criminal violation of rights. The definition of Domestic Violence as implied by law is especially critical as it defines standards and thus impacts broader social perception of the problem. Elements of the definition that need to be considered are, then, the boundaries of relationship between the perpetrator and the abused, the norms of acceptable behaviour and the specific acts that constitute violence. The frequent understanding of domestic violence against women is that it is limited to physical harm perpetrated on adult women within a marital relationship. While this conception may capture a large universe of the experience of women, it is predicated on the assumption that women primarily live in nuclear families. However, there are varieties of living arrangements ranging from joint families to nuclear families, to single parent families. Women may also be found in an established relationship or in the process of divorce or separation. Violence may not always be restricted to current husband but may extend to, former husbands and other family members, such as parents-in-law and in-laws. A definition of Domestic Violence that covers these multiple dimensions would lead to intervention that are more inclusive of the experiences of the women. The Definition of Domestic Violence rests upon both the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, as well as, the norms of acceptable differences of opinion regarding which behaviour should be considered violent and also the intensity and frequency required to table a relationship as violent. Another related issue is how to evaluate the intent of the act- why the act was initiated and whose view should determine this. This is further complicated by a common belief that violent acts are expression of love and merely a desire to help the subject to be a better person. The core of definition of domestic violence consists of all the acts that constitute violence. Some definitions are narrow and focus on specific acts of violence, while others are broader and incorporate the full range of acts. A further critical element in the definition is as to whether it is framed as an exclusively interpersonal act or seen more broadly as an expression of power that perpetuates the subordination of women. If it is the former, the definition would include those acts which might be seen as crimes and thus focus only on acts which result in physical injury or violence. If it is the latter, it would include all acts of physical, verbal, visual, mental or sexual abuse that are experienced by a woman, threats, invasion, or assaults and that have the effect of hurting her, or degrading her and/or taking away her ability to control contact with another individual. This type of definition covers more fully all the different processes by which women undergo subordination within intimate relations and fits more rightly in human rights perspective. The definition of domestic violence which reflects the view that the process of subordination becomes manifest in a wide range of violent acts. Hence, for the purpose of study, the definition of domestic violence attempts to be as broad as possible and includes physical, mental, financial and sexual abuse inflicted upon a woman by any member of the family directly or indirectly. Hence, domestic violence is defined as physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse experienced by an adult woman within her home.


To understand the nature and extent of domestic violence against women, to identify the major social factors associated with domestic violence and to suggest measures to control and minimise the occurrence of violence against women, different theoretical models have been developed and used by the social scientists and the psychologists. However, since the present study is concerned more with sociological aspect of the problem, we would restrict our analysis to the sociological perspective only. The sociological perspective deals with both microscopic as well as macroscopic levels of analysis. It is for this reason that different theoretical frameworks used by domestic violence researchers are mentioned here selectively. RESOURCE THEORY rests on the notion that decision-making power in family relationships depends to a large extent on the value of resources each person brings to the relationship. Resource theory has been revised and it has come to be called as STATUS INCONSISTENCY THEORY. It suggests that violence is more likely to occur when a man perceives his status inconsistent with his traditional power in the family, which has been eroded due to increased power of women. However, when used in empirical research it produced inconsistent results. SOCIAL CONTROL THEORY of domestic violence proposes social control model of domestic violence. According to this theory interfamilial relations cannot be broken off easily. Consequently, when family members perceive injustice in daily interaction they resort to violence. SYMBOLIC INTERACTION THEORY of Domestic Violence explores the different meanings of violence people hold and consequences of such meanings in situational setting. This theory has not been used by the researchers for understanding the phenomenon of domestic violence against women. THE SUBCULTURE OF VIOLENCE THEORY suggests that some subcultural groups develop norms and values that emphasize the use of physical violence to a greater extent than is seemed appropriate by dominant culture. PATRIARCHAL PERSPECTIVE OF Domestic Violence states that domestic violence against women tends to occur more often in either wife-dominant or husband-dominant families but occurs more frequently when husband controls the family decision making. GENERAL SYSTEMS THEORY explains the domestic violence as a product of system rather than of individual pathology. It is now clear that the sociologist are seriously addressing themselves to the problem of domestic violence in general and such violence against women in particular. Unfortunately, no theoretical framework mentioned above adopts a holistic approach with the help of which the problem of domestic violence against women at individual level and at the socio-cultural level could be explicated. However, recently a new conceptual framework known as DEPENDENCY FRAMEWORK has been evolved and is being used to understand the phenomenon of domestic violence against women. In the present study we have used dependency framework for understanding domestic violence against women in the Indian context. Different authors have defined dependency differently. Some of them have taken into account economic, social or physical dependency while others have identified three degrees of dependency i.e. inter-dependency, survival dependency and excessive dependency. Dependency designates certain conditions over which the victim of domestic violence has no control. These conditions may be her economic dependency or social dependency which forces her to trace out her identity through her husbands which makes her more committed to marriage. The dependency approach has been used to explain domestic violence against women in another way also. Marital dependency is not treated as a cause of wife abuse but as a condition which forces abused women to continue living in abusive and violent conditions. Lack of alternative support system and habitual tolerance of violence force the victims to remain in the spouse’s family. Thus dependency framework suggests that domestic violence against women is rooted in many factors.


There are a number of causes of domestic violence against women. These causes range from the trivial to bizarre and include mainly the following – Not doing house-work properly, Dressing fashionably, Jealousy of husband, Husband’s alcoholism, Dowry Demands, Husband’s mistress, Laughing without reason, Combing hairs a number of times during day, High tone during dialogue, Free and Social nature, Close relations with friends, Boy friends, Disrespectful behaviour with elders in the family, Refusal to bring money from parent’s house, Partial fulfillment or non-fulfillment of promises made at the time of marriage, Doubt of love affairs before marriage, Doubt of extra-marital relations, Resistance for abnormal sexual behaviour of the husband, No child bearing capability, Birth of girl child repeatedly, Husband economically dependent on parents, Husband has problems at work place, Sexual difficulties, Low job satisfaction, Single personality factor, Antisocial personality disorders. In addition to the reasons listed above there may also be a long list of reasons which are not identified or reported by the victims of domestic violence. In conclusion it can be said that anything can serve as an excuse for inflicting violence against a woman. No single factor explains the phenomenon of domestic violence against women.


The domestic violence against women may be in the form of; (a) Physical Violence: The most common and frequently used forms of physical violence used against women are- Slaps (ii) beating (iii) pulsing (iv) Kicking (v) throwing objects (vi) beating with cane (vii) Burning with rod (viii) holding with rope (ix) Sexual coercion or assault (b)Emotional Abuse : The mental or emotional abuse of a woman may take the following forms –(i) Using abusive language (ii) Insulting her in the presence of children, other

member of the family and relatives (iii) Blaming her for everything that goes wrong in the family (iv) Charging her frequently on small and negligible issues (v) Making her feel guilty for no fault of her (vi) Calling her names (vii) Giving her threat of divorce (viii) Treating her like a servant (ix) Keeping a strict watch on her movements (x) Prohibiting her from meeting her friends and relatives (xi) Prohibiting her from expression of her view on family matters (xii) Suspecting her for extra-marital relations (xiv) Using ugly and insulting language for her parents (xv) Insulting her for house-keeping (xvi) Demeaning her family background (xvii) Criticising her for lacking intelligence (xviii) Threatening her to commit suicide (xviv) Giving her verbal threats to use physical force (xvv) Threats to kill or burn. (c) Economic Abuse: Following are the most frequently used forms of economic abuse against women–(i) Preventing her from taking a job (ii) Forcing her to leave present job (iii) Not allowing her to purchase things of her liking and choice (iv) Stopping her from access to resources or money (v) Pressurising her to bring money from her parents and so on.


Following recommendations are to reduce the incidence and impact of domestic violence against women;

(1) A massive awareness campaign involving the community, religious leaders, women’s organizations, National Service Scheme (N.S.S.), NGOs, and opinion makers at all levels is necessary to counter the present trend of violence against women in general and domestic violence in particular.

(2) Domestic violence against women is an area where rights of women are not fully secured by laws and there are laws which are either discriminatory against women or provide a weak enforcement and punishment mechanism which do not deter the recurrence of crimes against women. Victims of domestic violence do not approach to seek relief available to them under different legislations as they were not sure that the law would give them sufficient and durable relief. Hence, it is necessary to see that the legal provisions against perpetrators of domestic violence are strictly enforced and no one is left without punishment. Moreover, the entire gamut of laws related to abuse and harassment of women need a comprehensive and thorough review in the light of the present trends and requirements.

(3) The Central and State Governments should introduce a new scheme for women in difficult circumstances. We would like to suggest that women who are victims of domestic violence should be covered under the proposed scheme.

(4) A carefully planned mass media strategy is of critical importance for women’s employment in general and domestic violence against women in particular. This can be done through media intervention. Issues relating to domestic violence against women and awareness of family members on the tragic effects of domestic violence should be packaged in interesting, viewer friendly programmes for assimilation and absorption in social psyche. It is, therefore, necessary to plan a media strategy for bringing a massive awareness and education on the issue of domestic violence against women. The Government of India should provide adequate resources for implementation of such a comprehensive media strategy for social change.

(5) The Central and State Governments should conduct regular training programmes of law enforcement officers, judges, other court personnel and prosecutors to identify and respond more effectively to the cases of domestic violence against women in particular and crimes against women in general. The units of law enforcement officers specially targeting domestic violence against women should be created, develop, trained and expanded. Similarly, data collection and communication systems, linking police, prosecutors and courts for the purpose of identifying domestic violence against women should be introduced at the earliest.

(6) The Central and State Governments should develop, enlarge and strengthen social support services programmes for the women who are victims of domestic violence.

(7) Very few victims of domestic violence approach to medical professionals for treatment. Very few, again, disclose that the mental or physical injury is caused due to domestic violence. It is, therefore, necessary to give proper training to our medical personnel in dealing with and treating the cases of domestic violence against women. The training should cover the collection and preservation of evidence, analysis, providing expert testimony and treatment.

(8) The State Governments should carry out the implementation of comprehensive strategies addressing domestic violence against women that are sensitive to the needs and safety of the victims and hold offenders accountable for their crimes.

(9) The Central and State Governments should encourage developing and supporting projects to implement community driven initiatives to address the needs of victims of domestic violence. A large number of NGOs have emerged in different parts of the country, having to their credit significant contribution, expertise, and experience at grass-root level in projecting and addressing women’’ issues. The services of these organizations should be encouraged, supported and availed of, so that the eradication of the evil of domestic violence against women becomes a truly national and peoples movement.

(10) Another deep concern of women in the rural areas, is the tremendous physical and emotional violence which they experience when the men in their families are drunk. Freedom of families from liquor is their first need. The State Governments should enforce the prohibition in more widespread and effective ways in their efforts to minimize the incidence of domestic violence against women.

(11) Most of the victims of Domestic Violence are uneducated, backward and economically disadvantaged. The legal aid and advice should be made available to them without any cost.

The writer is Medical Practioner at Acharya Shri Chander College of Medical Sciences and Hospital, Jammu, J&K. He also work as – Activist/Educator at Unacademy.  Email address : [email protected]

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