India: Cabinet clears proposal for female domestic violence law

The Union Cabinet has approved the introduction of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Bill, 2005 in Parliament.
The proposed Bill will provide effective protection and remedy to women against domestic violence of any kind and will thus fill a void in the existing legal framework.
A comprehensive bill defines "domestic violence" in detail which will include actual abuse or the threat of abuse that is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic.

Harassment by way of unlawful dowry demands to the woman or her relatives would also be covered under this definition of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Bill, 2005.

The Bill, which fills a void in the existing legal framework, seeks to provide effective protection and remedy to women against domestic violence, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said after the cabinet meeting in New Delhi, adding that the Criminal Procedure Code did not adequately protect the women who are meted out such treatment.

The Bill seeks to cover those women who are or have been in a relationship with the abuser where both parties have lived together in a shared household and are related by consanguinity, marriage or adoption.

In addition, relationship with family members living together as a joint family are also included. Even those women who are sisters, widows, mothers, single women or living with the abuser are entitled to legal protection under the proposed legislation, he said.

The Bill seeks to protect the rights of women to secure housing. It also provides for the right of a woman to reside in her matrimonial home or shared household, whether or not she has any title or rights in such homes or households. This right is secured by a residence order which is passed by the Magistrate.

The legisation empowers the Magistrate to pass protection order in favour of the abused to prevent the abuser from aiding or committing an act of domestic violence or any other specified act.

Besides, it provides for appointment of Protection Officers and registration of non-governmental organisations as service providers for providing assistance to the abused with respect to her medical examination, obtaining legal aid and safe shelter.

Originally published on 23 June 2005