Domestic Violence in India- A Socio-Economic Perspective
Abstract: This article aims to study the relationship between the economy and domestic abuse and intimate partner violence inflicted upon married, working women in India. It will also attempt to point out the shortcomings in law that enable the exploitation of domestic violence victims in workplaces. Finally, it will recommend legal measures that can be utilized to provide relief to the victim with regard to medical expenses, mental health issues, economic instability, and workplace burden alleviation.
Keywords: Domestic Violence, Working women, Economic impact, Legal and Economic aids.
The Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (“the Act”) is a civil Act that encompasses a wide spectrum of possible harms that could be inflicted upon a woman in a domestic setting. This includes physical, mental, emotional, sexual and economic abuse. Primarily, the Act aims to protect women in domestic relationships, married or otherwise, that involve both nuclear families and joint families. The Act specifies in depth, the various kinds of acts that constitute to violence, such as harming or injuring or endangering the “health, safety, life, limb or well-being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person”. Further, the Act also considers that harassing a woman in the name of dowry, harming her for not giving birth to a male child are also abuses that a woman is eligible to be protected against.
While the Act offers extensive protective measures and remediations for the victim, the impact of domestic violence on a woman’s body, psyche and spirit is a neglected reality. The violence seeps into the socio-economic sphere and leads to economic backlashes. These backlashes that she faces has been systematically and consistently ignored by society and law likewise. This article will delve into the socio-economic struggles of married, working women who are victims of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence in India. With prevailing conditions of lockdown and increased exposure to domestic violence, a study that would discuss the problems of the system and the measure that could be taken, is the need of the hour.
Nexus between Domestic and Social life of women:
In order to understand the expectations from a “modern Indian woman” in the context of the domestic and the social, it is important to understand the origins of such categories. Partha Chatterjee, in his seminal work Colonialism, Nationalism, and Colonized Women: The Contest in India, demarcates the difference between the “inner” and the “outer”, the inner is the ghar (home), the outer is bahar (outside) or the social sphere. With colonialism, came the idea of the modern woman engaging with the outside world. The “new” woman adopted western values but still remained traditional (read spiritual). The “ideal woman” retained her inner spirituality and domesticity even though she existed in the outside world. While it is true that this privilege of the outside was reserved solely for elite, upper caste women, it was nonetheless a precursor to the liberty that the modern working woman enjoys today. But it is crucial to note that the distinction between the inner and the outer is a massive responsibility dumped upon the woman who only desired to be free. Now, she has to bear the burden of the domestic space while also exercising her right to social independence, lest her moral reputation be put under scrutiny. In a way, thus, the demarcation of the domestic and the social, that is, “work” and “life” does not exist for the Indian women.
Economic Impact on Victims:
In an overwhelmingly patriarchal society that we live in, laws seldom provide the relief that they are intended to provide. The Domestic Violence Act, 2005, is one such Act that is glorified on paper, yet is a pitiful failure of the system that stigmatizes reporting of domestic abuse more than the violence itself. It fails to recognize the everyday reality of facing domestic violence and the difficulty of functioning as a regular person in the society while undergoing trauma and abuse. While the Act carefully elaborates on the definition of violence, the things that are left unmentioned, such as paid domestic violence leave, psychological assistance for the victim, and other special work provisions are the ones that highlight the staleness and invalidity of the law.
The economic burden that women carry upon themselves is an ignored fact. The lack of recognition for care taking, emotional and domestic labour that women carry out in households is blatantly negated. A UN report shows that over 51% of women’s domestic work is unpaid, thus barring them from access to economic and financial stability. While patriarchal laws were successfully able to mask these faults in the system, the plight of working women in the clutches of domestic abuse cannot be left unnoticed. Domestic violence in working women’s lives is not simply a feminist issue but is rather a matter of immense importance to the economy of the country. A Forbes survey presents that over 83% of respondents in the US claimed to have a decreased productivity in workplace, while 50% of the respondents lost their job due to domestic violence abuse. Naturally, such circumstances and gender politics in workspaces lead to unemployment in most cases. But loss of employment is also caused by a physical inability to perform due to physical abuse, absenteeism, and stress induced inability.
When a woman loses her job, it could confine her to only the four walls of her house. Therefore, loss of employment while being a victim of domestic violence means the disruption of access to any sort of help, which includes physical and psychological help, and any meagre financial stability. But it also means that the victim has to face medical expenses incurred by physical abuse. They lack the access to basic healthcare in such situations, since they do not have any financial agency. For many women, it is a sign to forego any mental health care that they have been seeking. Even if the victim is out of the situation of violence, health issues pertaining to it persist. In addition to it, expenses related to moving from the site of violence into a safer safe, litigation expenses related to the legal process of seeking justice, etc, are costs that pose as a huge burden on the part of the victim.
Legal and Economic Aids:
The abusive intimate partner typically prefers his female partner to be financially dependent upon him, thereby ensuring continued abuse. While employment is a tool of empowerment, it also acts as a cause for violence since this newfound liberation and financial independence is a blow to the male ego. More often than not, domestic violence is not confined to the walls of the domestic realm. The abuser typically stalks the victim in her place of employment in order to assert more control over her space and actions; her reputation at work is sabotaged with an intention to get her fired, and she is parted from her money through force. There needs to be stronger domestic violence laws in place in workspaces to tackle such issues. The emergence of the working woman is a relatively modern phenomenon for India, laws for women in workplace are common in the several countries. For instance, New Zealand Government is a pioneer in passing legislation that entitles women up to ten days of paid domestic violence leave. Justice Minister Amy Adams said that it is the country with the highest number of domestic violence cases. The Green Party MP Jan Logie, the politician responsible for the passing of the law rightly notes, “Domestic violence doesn’t respect that split between work and life”. A breakthrough in New Zealand and in most parts of China, this is a law that would majorly support women in violent households.
Apart from paid domestic violence leave, other measures such as physical health aids and mental health assistance can be provided. Social welfare groups like Women’s Self-Help Groups (SHG) affiliated to the government are essential and are also viable options that could provide care, shelter and safety to victims. From the side of the legislation, cases of domestic violence must be considered as priority and need to be addressed through fast track trials and other special provisions, in order to bring quick relief and justice to the victim. The victim also needs to be protected from the perpetrator through police protection as and when necessary. The law must ensure that victims are not fired while the proceedings are ongoing in the courts, as this would provide assurance that the victims will not lose their job merely because they are attempting to seek justice.
Given that a considerable percentage of the country’s revenue could take a hit at the cost incurred by providing aids towards women’s physical, mental and economic safety, and well-being, it must not stop the government from implementing it. The challenge lies in answering the question of who bears the costs of implementing such measures. Especially in a developing country like India, it would be a challenge to find ways to stabilize the revenue of the country and the profit of the company, while also ensuring that such measures be taken to address domestic violence. But the adverse effects of the alternate, which is lack of legal action and negligence is a major issue that affects the general well-being of the women of the country. By way of this, it also affects the quality of living of the citizens of the country and creates unhealthy societies, families, and communities. Eventually, it would lead to a disturbance in the stability of the economy.
Beyond legal measures, it is indispensable that better educational system be put in place to create better values in people and prevent domestic violence. In order to cut these costs that would be incurred to battle the dampening of the economy this way, education and legal improvements are necessary. While it is deeply saddening that a humanitarian crisis such as domestic violence would only be considered a serious issue when it affects the economy of the country, such a perspective would hopefully bring about a change in the way we treat women.
Yazhini C.K is a third year student of law at Jindal Global Law School. She is a self-motivated person with a deep interest in contemporary politics, law, gender studies and policy making.
Featured image credit: https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/opinion/domestic-violence-still-a-reality-in-modern-day-india