Domestic Violence: Laws and Legal Help

Domestic Violence

There have been many debates and discussions on whether women should be granted equal rights as men when it comes to domestic violence in various communities in the country. There are three legislations in place at the federal level that address this issue: The Domestic Violence Act, 2021; The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1960; and the Prevention of Violence Act, 2021.

The government has also incorporated a new penal code provision to address domestic violence, which is known as the Domestic Violence Ordinance or the DVOA. Yet, many women and men continue to challenge these laws on different grounds.

The argument against DVOA lays on the fact that there is no mention of personal safety in the provision. There are various other opinions that the law does not apply to domestic violence in the same way as it does to other types of crimes. According to these opinions, the provision is merely a continuation of previous laws that criminalize certain conduct (like assault, battery, voyeurism, etc.) under the broader heading of “crimes against humanity,” without any reference to the safety of women. In short, these people believe that domestic violence, even if it occurs within the home, does not amount to a crime against a woman.

Domestic Violence Ordinance

But this is a mistaken view of the law. As we have seen, the Domestic Violence Ordinance actually covers a number of different types of conduct, each of which is covered differently by different laws across the country. For example, under the DVOA, a person who commits an act of domestic violence against one or more persons, while such acts are also an offense under the Criminal Code (PC), is liable to imprisonment for a fixed period of five years, or both. This is a much more restrictive law than the PC itself, which only makes it a crime against a person or a single act.

There is also an apparent gender imbalance in relation to the criminalization of domestic abuse. The DVOA only makes specific provisions for women, whereas the Criminal Code punishes men equally, regardless of gender. And the pattern continues – in many jurisdictions, women are far more likely to be prosecuted under the various laws against domestic violence, including in aggravated cases, where they are accused of involvement in physically violent acts or of repeated serious offenses such as repeated assaults, while men are more likely to be charged with simple offenses such as battery. (The pattern is also apparent in cases involving young girls and young boys.)

Victim of Violence 

While the law has some provision for survivors of domestic violence, it tends to apply only to people who have actually been the victim of violence – that is, people who have suffered actual physical abuse by their abuser. This leads many law experts to believe that the law is in effect, and has been for decades, a “yes-but” kind of proposition: If the law doesn’t explicitly say that an individual can be prosecuted for being abused, an abused person is not necessarily going to be convicted of domestic violence. (The same goes for cases in which an individual is, in fact, convicted of domestic violence, but has been charged with something less than violent; for example, if an individual is charged with molestation, instead of with assault.) Even when allegations are proven, the prosecutor is not under any obligation to drop the charges.

Organizations

A number of organizations, such as Women’s Aid and the National Domestic Violence Association, do exist to help victims of domestic violence and abuse find legal advice and assistance. Still, victims need to know and understand that even when they go to an attorney, whether they choose to proceed with the case or not, they will be required to disclose all details about the abuse (including the name of the abuser and the full names of all other individuals who may be related to the abuser).

In most states, this includes a photograph of the abuser. In other words, victims need to be informed and prepared, both in terms of information and in terms of being able to provide that information, so that they may engage in meaningful and productive dialog with their attorneys. If the prosecutor does move forward with the case, then victims should make sure they have a detailed understanding of their legal rights and the process they will face once they decide to fight the charges.

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