COVID-19: Lockdown for domestic violence?

By- Shruti Agrawal


Domestic violence- a very well debated and studied subject, which can never be out of mind and not even action, has always been prevalent in almost all parts of the world. It has always been used as a means of showing power and dominance by mostly men. This practice of domestic violence was once considered to be very normal and women were taught that they were born to live to it; that it was normal to be dominated by the male members of their families- be it father, brother, husband, father-in-law or any male member in the family etc; that they were born to do household chores, satisfy the male members of the family and get themselves physically and mentally tortured. However even over time and even after a lot of debates and strict laws, solving disputes through mediation has still not reduced, but the tolerance of women for it, surely has.

Before the lockdown caused by the pandemic, anyway, the number of domestic violence cases were very high. However, now, the cases have almost doubled. Let’s see how this lockdown has changed the situation.

Women around the world have been granted a lower status than men. Traditionally, women were supposed to be married and settle down in life. The privileges of wealth, place and authority over women have been accorded to men. Women have been very inferior to men in position and rank, as the socio-economic and environmental conditions prevailing in ancient times were not favourable. 

What is the history of Domestic Violence in India?

Indian society is solidified into a grid of patriarchy. Socialization trends ensure the continued superiority of male values over female ones. The focus on strength of men and the corresponding fixation on timidity, fragility and servitude of women, clearly shows that aggression in any type , i.e. physical, verbal or altitudinal, becomes the defining feature of a man and not of a woman. The first and indeed the long-lived victim of patriarchal violence is the female. In a household, therefore, the husband enjoys a higher status than the wife who is considered vulnerable and inferior and thus, treated crudely. A lady who refuses to embrace the traditional role of servility and subordination ought to be tempered to embrace this position and any means, particularly abuse, is justified in achieving this objective. The patriarchal structure of society has consigned women to a subservient position, often obeying the orders of men. The husbands were Pati Parmeshwar (God) for them. They meekly endured discrimination in the form of female infanticide, Pardah, child marriage, Sati Pratha, dowry, negation of widow remarriage, negation of education, Kullin polygamy, denial of family land, etc.

How about religious practices permitting domestic abuse in Ancient India?

(A) Hindu religion

History full of contradictions is attached to Hinduism. The portrayal of women has evolved considerably over the centuries.  It is said that the woman enjoyed a higher status in the Vedic period. The Smrities, the Puranas, and the digests lay great emphasis on the role of women as a wife. Manu declares, ‘a virtuous wife should serve her husband as if he were a god, whether he be of evil character or lustful (loving another woman) or devoid of good qualities.’ (1)

It is declared by the Ramayana (Ayodhya-Kaand) that, ‘the husband is the god and the master of the wife, while she is alive and she obtains the highest heaven by serving her husband.’ Even the Mahabharata fixates upon the responsibilities of a wife. It is said in the Anusasana Parva that ‘the husband is the god of a woman, her (sole) relative, her goal’. The Asvamedhika Parva comments ‘the husband is the highest deity’. In Matsyapurana, it is contained that ‘the husband is the god for women and is their highest goal’.

Poets such as Kalidasa, have also voiced this notion of complete surrender of wife to  her husband, who made one of Kanva’s student say about Shakuntala, ‘this is your wife, abandon her or accept her, since all-round domination of the husband over the wife is proper’. (2)

An exhaustive description of pati-vrata is also given in The Skanda Purana (Brahma-kanda, Dharmaranya section, chap. 7) which says, ‘she should not repeat the name of her husband, as such conduct leads to the decrease of the husband's life and should never take the name of another male, even when she is loudly blamed (by the husband) she does not cry loudly, even when beaten she is smiling’. (3)

It is said in Vyasa that in obeying the husbands' command, a wife should act like a slave. The position in Sukra Niti is taken for granted : “Who does not worship the husband who is the giver of everything?” According to Katyayan Smriti, a woman who does not obey her husband goes to hell and one who serves her husband whether he is good or bad, whether considerate or not, goes to heaven.” (4)

(B) Jain Religion

As a way of life, Jainism laid great stress on self-denial, restraint of passion, and a life of renunciation, for both men and women. A woman had a legitimate position in the congregational life. By and large, religious learning and renunciation were allowed to women who have a full right to moksha. However in the religious context, it can not be ignored that in ascetic manuals and sermons there was severe condemnation of women who were looked upon as a temper and seducer and were called tricky, deceptive, hippocratic, fickle, untrustworthy and treacherous. In the context of the family, chastity in women was greatly valued and several stories in Jain scripture are woven around this theme. (5)

(C) Sikh Religion

Sikhism denounces conventional rites and rituals, idolism and superstition. It focused on simple devotion to God. Sikhism saw women as a man's helper and a partner in his domestic life, and that she should be valued. It did not regard women as an agent of sin and evil, nor did it perceive her as an item of pleasure.  There was no distinction between a man and woman for the purpose of devotion. However, in social life, Sikhism did not grant equality to women.

(D) Islamic Religion

The Islamic religion propagates that man and woman stand on a footing of equality in their relationship with the Divine. (6)

Under Islam, women are not considered as an obstruction in the course of faith and religion nor does it regard her as the underlying cause of  a man’s misfortune. 

However, over time, this principle of women's equality in Islam, has distorted and the Muslim Shariat Rule has placed women in a detrimental stand or an inferior role in many respects, over the centuries. 

A woman in Islam, was never allowed to become an Imam, nor could she lead a prayer. She didn’t have any place in the community’s formal religious association and legal matters. She  cannot be chosen as a Kazi. The Quran stresses over chastity, modesty and decorum only for women.  The custom of Talaq or unilateral divorce solely on the part of a man, had put women in a very vulnerable position and had made them very deplorable.  

It is clear from the Quran that men usually resorted to beating women in cases of defiance and disobedience as a measure to discipline them. Just as the parents have the right to discipline their children, husbands in this religion are conferred with the right to discipline their wives. Their objective is not to harm them, but to discipline them. It is clearly stated in Quran that wife-beating is not cruel and is corrective and that it is used as a last resort and hence, it is wrong to equate it with physical abuse. Violent or severe beating is a criminal act and therefore, it is not sanctioned by the Quran. 

(E) Christian Religion

Both men and women were believed, in Christianity, to be created by God in his own image. The Bible placed great importance on the portrayal of a woman as a powerful and constant influence for the better. Women were encouraged to read religious scriptures and to engage in all religious ceremonies. She had the right to be a nun. Her status was even greater than that of a daughter-in - law in the patriarchal families of the Hindu upper caste. Christianity, therefore, embraced equality between men and women and vehemently condemned the violence on women. 

(F) Buddhist Religion

Buddhism identified women and men equally in matters related to religion, with both the genders being treated alike as a commitment to their dharma. Buddhism, as a progressive reception, against the conservative brahmins approach, increased the status of women. Buddhism does not view women as evil or solely responsible for sensuality in the universe. Women enjoy some kind of equality with men especially in relation to religious rites and performances., in places like Ladakh and some other parts of India, where Buddhism prevails. 

(G) Zorostrian Religion

In India, less than 1 lakh people are Parsees who follow Zoroastrianism. It is one of the oldest religions of the world. Zorostrian women are given a position of honour in their families as well as in the society. They are entitled to both secular and religious education. 

Let’s start with understanding what domestic violence is.

What is Domestic Violence?

The definition of domestic violence has been given by the Protection Of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

The Protection Of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is a major bill which was passed by the Parliament of India during UPA1 government regime (2005). This law is very important as it protects the rights and provides for remedies such as financial compensation, right to live in their shared household and get maintenance from their abuser in case they are living apart, etc. to the weaker sex of the society- women from the violence which is faced by her at the place she lives in. It includes physical as well as mental ill-treatment. It is a civil law which not only protects women that are married to men, but also women who are in live-in relationships, as well as members of the family such as mothers, sisters, grand-mothers, etc.

Section 3 of the Act, gives the definition which states-

“For the purposes of this Act, any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence in case it—

(a) harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well‑being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse; or

(b) harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person with a view to coerce her or any other person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any dowry or other property or valuable security; or

(c) has the effect of threatening the aggrieved person or any person related to her by any conduct mentioned in clause (a) or clause (b); or

(d) otherwise injures or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved person. Explanation I.—For the purposes of this section,—

(i) “physical abuse” means any act or conduct which is of such a nature as to cause bodily pain, harm, or danger to life, limb, or health or impair the health or development of the aggrieved person and includes assault, criminal intimidation and criminal force;

(ii) “sexual abuse” includes any conduct of a sexual nature that abuses, humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the dignity of woman;

(iii) “verbal and emotional abuse” includes—

(a) insults, ridicule, humiliation, name calling and insults or ridicule especially with regard to not having a child or a male child; and

(b) repeated threats to cause physical pain to any person in whom the aggrieved person is interested.

(iv) “economic abuse” includes­—

(a) deprivation of all or any economic or financial resources to which the aggrieved person is entitled under any law or custom whether payable under an order of a court or otherwise or which the aggrieved person requires out of necessity including, but not limited to, household necessities for the aggrieved person and her children, if any, stridhan, property, jointly or separately owned by the aggrieved person, payment of rental related to the shared household and maintenance;

(b) disposal of household effects, any alienation of assets whether movable or immovable, valuables, shares, securities, bonds and the like or other property in which the aggrieved person has an interest or is entitled to use by virtue of the domestic relationship or which may be reasonably required by the aggrieved person or her children or her stridhan or any other property jointly or separately held by the aggrieved person; and

(c) prohibition or restriction to continued access to resources or facilities which the aggrieved is entitled to use or enjoy by virtue of the domestic relationship including access to the shared household. 

Explanation II.—For the purpose of determining whether any act, omission, commission or conduct of the respondent constitutes “domestic violence” under this section, the overall facts and circumstances of the case shall be taken into consideration.”

Hence summarizing it in simple words, domestic violence includes:-
Harming or injuring a woman in a domestic relationship, be it-

  • Physical abuse,
  • Sexual abuse,
  • Verbal and emotional abuse,
  • Economical abuse

Therefore, if we read in between the lines, we understand that:-

  • The victim can only be a female
  • The respondent can be the adult males who have been a domestic relationship with the aggrieved woman, and male and female relatives of the husband/male partner
  • Women who are in live-in relationships, are also protected
  • Specific definitions of physical, sexual, verbal and emotional, as well as economical abuse is given in the Act.

The sudden surge of domestic violence following the national lockdown has created another pandemic within a pandemic. Let us understand how.

Why a pandemic within a pandemic?

Victims of domestic violence, all around the world, are more vulnerable and are, at a terrifying new grade of violence. In India, the National Commission for Women (NCW) has raised an emergency about the rising number of domestic violence cases since the national lockdown commenced. Domestic violence comprises a pattern of psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse, as well as acts of assault, threats, humiliation, and intimidation.

A number of dimensions can be attributed to domestic violence, of which one is the division of domestic work according to gender, all of which are rooted in the exercise of patriarchal power. 

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, On 6 April 2020, called for a “ceasefire” to address the “horrifying global surge in domestic violence.” According to sociologist Marianne Hester, “domestic violence goes up whenever families spend more time together, such as the Christmas and summer vacations.” 

In India, shortly after the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced the national lockdown, domestic violence complaints that were received by the National Commission for Women (NCW), doubled. The number of complaints rose from 116, from the first week of March, to 257 between 23rd March and 1st April. As the complaints proliferated, the NCW introduced and announced a whatsapp number, in order to reach out to those women who are victims of abusive families. However, it is rightly said by Jaya Valenkar of the women’s rights organisation, Jagori, to IndiaSpend that, “If a woman has to complain or seek help from a helpline about her family being abusive, she needs to have a landline or mobile phone while being 100% sure that she is not being overheard--whether it is her marital home or natal home.” The possibility of registering complaints under lockdown, through this means, are limited as almost 57% of women in India do not have access to phones. In such cases, women mostly rely on their family members to report on their behalf. 

A significant aspect involved in the swelling of domestic abuse during this national lockdown is domestic labor. Domestic work has been placed on women’s shoulders, according to gender roles, which is the socially and economically accepted norm, often defined as “women’s work”. Under such lockdown conditions, domestic work can be really exhausting especially if it is not equally divided. The load of domestic work has increased because all the members of the family are locked inside the home. With domestic help being unavailable, it is for the women to fulfill the expectation of bearing the workload single-handedly, and hence, the chances of domestic violence increases if the expectations are not fulfilled. 

According to NCW, the rate of swelling of cases is higher in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana and Punjab. 

The already oppressive condition has become stifling during this lockdown, in India, since the lockdown. Men are stuck at home, many without jobs and any work, which increases the level of frustration in them, hence, resorting to violence, as a resort to venting out frustration on their wives and children. Moreover, the victims are confined in their homes, with no escape, and no one to share their grief with. 

A lot of households, previously free from domestic violence, have now become volatile. It is rightly said by sociologist Marianne Hester that, “domestic violence goes up whenever families spend more time together, such as the Christmas and summer vacations.” Especially given under the current circumstances, uncertainty of the future makes everyone anxious, consequently leading to unnecessary heated arguments, in turn resulting in violent outbursts against women and children, considered as the weaker section of the family. It has become extremely difficult for women to take care of in-laws and spouses and look after their never-ending expectations, never being fulfilled, pertaining to the roots of a patriarchal society.

The state of women with a lower economic strata is even worse when it comes to domestic abuse with their husbands being alcoholic daily wage earners. The husbands of these women either depend on their wives for money and use it for quenching their thirst of alcohol, or spend all their daily wage money on alcohol, and then physically and sexually abuse their wives. However, after the national lockdown, these women are stuck inside their houses, with no-way out and the husbands now, with no active jobs, and no money, unable to feed their addiction, are so extensively frustrated, that the only resort they seek is physical and mental violence to vent out their desperation and frustration. 

The vulnerability of women has increased to such a level, that it seems almost impossible for them to take a stand for themselves. They need external help to escape their tormentors, however, there is no way out. This imposition of lockdown has also taken away their chance of escaping to their parent’s house and sharing their grief with someone.  

The women are being held hostage in their own homes. They have no privacy to communicate their condition to the authorities. Counselling and support networks given to the victims are extremely vital, however, this last resort has also been taken away from these helpless women because of social distancing. 

The divorce rates have spiked since the imposition of lockdown because of the increasing time that couples spend together. Earlier, they used to be together only during festivals and holidays, however, now, because of the excess time spent together, petty fights turn into worst case scenarios. Also, self-isolation with a violent spouse has magnified the problems, which in normal situations, might have been ignored. 

The divorce rate in the younger generation is much higher because of the lack of tolerance towards each other, fear for safety of their lives and children. 

Now, let’s take this forward by looking into the relieves that can be sought by the victims of domestic violence, as provided by the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

What are the remedies that can be availed?

  1. Inform the protection officer
  2. File and application and make use of government official’s duties towards her
  3. Make use of shelter homes, medical facilities and counselling homes if necessary

What are the rights of the aggrieved person under the Act?

  1. Right to reside in the shared household
  2. For the victim’s safety, protection orders issued to the respondent
  3. Residence orders be issued against the respondent as to whether or not he may stay
  4. Monetary relief
  5. Full custody of children may be given to the victim, with visiting hours for the respondent
  6. Penalty to respondent for not following orders
  7. Penalty to protection officer for not taking action

Some of the other relevant features that the PWDVA Act covers are as follows:-

  1. Victim resources
    Under the Act, victims should be provided with adequate medical facilities, counselling and shelter homes as well as legal aid when required.
  2. Section 14 of this Act, gives the provision of Counselling, which states- 

(1) The Magistrate may, at any stage of the proceedings under this Act, direct the respondent or the aggrieved person, either singly or jointly, to undergo counselling with any member of a service provider who possess such qualifications and experience in counselling as may be prescribed.

(2) Where the Magistrate has issued any direction under sub-section (1), he shall fix the next date of hearing of the case within a period not exceeding two months.

  1. Section 9 of this Act, gives the provision for the appointment, duties and functions of the protection officer and his/her duties. It states-

(1) It shall be the duty of the Protection Officer—
(a) to assist the Magistrate in the discharge of his functions under this Act;
(b) to make a domestic incident report to the Magistrate, in such form and in such manner as may be prescribed, upon receipt of a complaint of domestic violence and forward copies thereof to the police officer in charge of the police station within the local limits of whose jurisdiction domestic violence is alleged to have been committed and to the service providers in that area;
(c) to make an application in such form and in such manner as may be prescribed to the Magistrate, if the aggrieved person so desires, claiming relief for issuance of a protection order;
(d) to ensure that the aggrieved person is provided legal aid under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 (39 of 1987) and make available free of cost the prescribed form in which a complaint is to be made;
(e) to maintain a list of all service providers providing legal aid or counselling, shelter homes and medical facilities in a local area within the jurisdiction of the Magistrate;
(f) to make available a safe shelter home, if the aggrieved person so requires and forward a copy of his report of having lodged the aggrieved person in a shelter home to the police station and the Magistrate having jurisdiction in the area where the shelter home is situated;
(g) to get the aggrieved person medically examined, if she has sustained bodily injuries and forward a copy of the medical report to the police station and the Magistrate having jurisdiction in the area where the domestic violence is alleged to have been taken place;
(h) to ensure that the order for monetary relief under section 20 is complied with and executed, in accordance with the procedure prescribed under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974);
(i) to perform such other duties as may be prescribed.

(2) The Protection Officer shall be under the control and supervision of the Magistrate, and shall perform the duties imposed on him by the Magistrate and the Government by, or under, this Act.

  1. Section 18 of this Act gives the provision of Protection Orders which are to be passed by the protection officer in favor of the aggrieved person. It states-

The Magistrate may, after giving the aggrieved person and the respondent an opportunity of being heard and on being prima facie satisfied that domestic violence has taken place or is likely to take place, pass a protection order in favour of the aggrieved person and prohibit the respondent from—

(a) committing any act of domestic violence;

(b) aiding or abetting in the commission of acts of domestic violence;

(c) entering the place of employment of the aggrieved person or, if the person aggrieved is a child, its school or any other place frequented by the aggrieved person;

(d) attempting to communicate in any form, whatsoever, with the aggrieved person, including personal, oral or written or electronic or telephonic contact;

(e) alienating any assets, operating bank lockers or bank accounts used or held or enjoyed by both the parties, jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent or singly by the respondent, including her stridhan or any other property held either jointly by the parties or separately by them without the leave of the Magistrate;

(f) causing violence to the dependants, other relatives or any person who give the aggrieved person assistance from domestic violence;

(g) committing any other act as specified in the protection order.

Case Law:

In the case of Vimlaben Ajitbhai Patel Vs. Vatslaben Ashokbhai Patel and Ors 2008 (4) SCC 649, the Supreme Court had held that when it comes to maintenance of wife under the Domestic Violence Act read with the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, it is the personal obligation of the husband to maintain his wife. Property of the mother-in-law can neither be the subject matter of attachment nor during the lifetime of the husband can his personal liability to maintain his wife be directed to be enforced against such property.

  1. Section 19 of this Act gives the provision of Residence Orders, in which the victim is entitled to share the same household, which states-

(1) While disposing of an application under sub-section (1) of section 12, the Magistrate may, on being satisfied that domestic violence has taken place, pass a residence order—

(a) restraining the respondent from dispossessing or in any other manner disturbing the possession of the aggrieved person from the shared household, whether or not the respondent has a legal or equitable interest in the shared household;
(b) directing the respondent to remove himself from the shared household;
(c) restraining the respondent or any of his relatives from entering any portion of the shared household in which the aggrieved person resides;
(d) restraining the respondent from alienating or disposing off the shared household or encumbering the same;
(e) restraining the respondent from renouncing his rights in the shared household except with the leave of the Magistrate; or
(f) directing the respondent to secure same level of alternate accommodation for the aggrieved person as enjoyed by her in the shared household or to pay rent for the same, if the circumstances so require:

Provided that no order under clause (b) shall be passed against any person who is a woman.

(2) The Magistrate may impose any additional conditions or pass any other direction which he may deem reasonably necessary to protect or to provide for the safety of the aggrieved person or any child of such an aggrieved person.

(3) The Magistrate may require from the respondent to execute a bond, with or without sureties, for preventing the commission of domestic violence.

(4) An order under sub-section (3) shall be deemed to be an order under Chapter VIII of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) and shall be dealt with accordingly.

(5) While passing an order under sub-section (1), sub-section (2) or sub-section (3), the court may also pass an order directing the officer in charge of the nearest police station to give protection to the aggrieved person or to assist her or the person making an application on her behalf in the implementation of the order.

(6) While making an order under sub-section (1), the Magistrate may impose on the respondent obligations relating to the discharge of rent and other payments, having regard to the financial needs and resources of the parties.

(7) The Magistrate may direct the officer in-charge of the police station in whose jurisdiction the Magistrate has been approached to assist in the implementation of the protection order.

(8) The Magistrate may direct the respondent to return to the possession of the aggrieved person her stridhan or any other property or valuable security to which she is entitled to.

Case Law :

In the case of Shachi Mahajan vs. Santosh Mahajan (10.01.2019 - DELHC) : MANU/DE/0046/2019, the Daughter-in-law had safeguarded protection order of residence of property in her Mother-in-law’s name under Section 19 of Domestic Violence Act, 2005. However, later on, the subject property was sold by the Mother-in-law to a third party by a registered sale deed. In view of the same, the Mother-in-Law contended that as the subject property was sold, the daughter-in-law could not enforce her rights of residence in that shared household.

However, the High Court of Delhi directed the Mother-in-law to provide an alternate residence to the Daughter-in-law and also pay compensation.

The Court also noted that the action of the Mother-in-Law in selling the subject property, yet not strictly illegal, had caused loss to the Daughter- in-Law. Accordingly, one would also have to balance the corresponding rights of the parties. In this context, the Court made reference to Section 19(1)(f) of the Domestic Violence Act which stipulates that the Magistrate shall secure same level of alternative accommodation for the aggrieved person as enjoyed by her in the shared household or direct payment of rent for the same, if the circumstances so require.

6. Section 20 of this Act gives Monetary Relief as a provision to the aggrieved women. It states-

(1) While disposing of an application under sub-section (1) of section 12, the Magistrate may direct the respondent to pay monetary relief to meet the expenses incurred and losses suffered by the aggrieved person and any child of the aggrieved person as a result of the domestic violence and such relief may include, but not limited to,—

(a) the loss of earnings;
(b) the medical expenses;
(c) the loss caused due to the destruction, damage or removal of any property from the control of the aggrieved person; and
(d) the maintenance for the aggrieved person as well as her children, if any, including an order under or in addition to an order of maintenance under section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) or any other law for the time being in force.

(2) The monetary relief granted under this section shall be adequate, fair and reasonable and consistent with the standard of living to which the aggrieved person is accustomed.

(3) The Magistrate shall have the power to order an appropriate lump sum payment or monthly payments of maintenance, as the nature and circumstances of the case may require.

(4) The Magistrate shall send a copy of the order for monetary relief made under sub-section (1) to the parties to the application and to the in charge of the police station within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the respondent resides.

(5) The respondent shall pay the monetary relief granted to the aggrieved person within the period specified in the order under sub-section (1).

(6) Upon the failure on the part of the respondent to make payment in terms of the order under sub-section (1), the Magistrate may direct the employer or a debtor of the respondent, to directly pay to the aggrieved person or to deposit with the court a portion of the wages or salaries or debt due to or accrued to the credit of the respondent, which amount may be adjusted towards the monetary relief payable by the respondent.

Case Law:

Under the provisions of section 20 (1), the magistrate while dealing with an application under sub-section (1) of section 12 is empowered to direct the respondent(s) to pay monetary relief to meet the expenses incurred and losses suffered by the aggrieved person and any child of the aggrieved person as a result of domestic violence. This may include but is not limited to an order of maintenance of the aggrieved person as well as her children, if any, including an order under or in addition to an order for maintenance under section 125 of the Cr.P.C. or any other law for the time being in force. (Ajay Kumar vs. Lata and Ors. (2019) 15 SCC 352)

7. Section 21 of this Act talks about Custody Orders, which gives the rights to the aggrieved woman to have full custody of children with visiting rights to the respondent, if necessary. It states-

Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, the Magistrate may, at any stage of hearing of the application for protection order or for any other relief under this Act grant temporary custody of any child or children to the aggrieved person or the person making an application on her behalf and specify, if necessary, the arrangements for visit of such child or children by the respondent:

Also Read: Ragini Dwivedi bail plea adjourned to January 21

Provided that if the Magistrate is of the opinion that any visit of the respondent may be harmful to the interests of the child or children, the Magistrate shall refuse to allow such visit.

What more can be done?

The times have changed and women still have no individual identity. Before marriage, she’s guided by her parents, and after her marriage, she’s ruled by her husband and in-laws, and then by her grown up son. Our brains are trained from childhood that women have the responsibility of the family and her condition is the past and participle of this mindset and training. Domestic violence during COVID, is the extension of the already existing domestic violence in our society.

Domestic violence, as mentioned earlier, is a social evil to which many women have fallen prey. The harsh truth about this is that it is prevalent in most of the households in the society. It's generally the women who fall prey to it, but there have been cases where men have been a victim too. From the above research and findings, it's evident that the current pandemic situation has definitely caused a rise in the domestic violence cases as reported by the NCW. The pandemic has caused a mental strain on people and it is one of the factors for violent outbursts. Not to forget the easy availability of alcohol to people that further escalates the violence. Men use alcohol as means of pleasure and after getting drunk, violence as a means of showing off their masculinity. Much more severe and rigorous provisions must be made in order to protect women from domestic violence so that people think at least a thousand times before committing this crime and these laws must be made aware to the people so that they don't commit the act of domestic violence, especially in the rural areas. The difference between rural and urban areas in matters of domestic violence not reaching the authorities and women not seeking help and not raising their voices is that in rural areas, the women aren’t educated enough because of which they do not know what all laws are there, whereas in urban areas, women, knowing the law, still don’t seek resort because they don’t want to defame themselves and their families and do not want to make a fool out of themselves. If women will treat themselves weak, they’ll be treated by others as weak. Men should take the responsibility towards the house and do the household chores along with women because it's not a "women's" responsibility alone, it's gender neutral. This also helps in building the relationship and making the bond between the husband and wife stronger. People have to change their mindset that has been orthodox since the ages. 

Urban women need to be educated beyond their qualifications and need to learn that to live with dignity is their right and a NO means NO. Also it’s time that men talk with men about how to treat women rather than women talking to women about their rights.

Also Read: Supreme Court to hear petition challenging physical hearing in Delhi courts tomorrow

The Author is a Law Student, Amity Law School, Noida, B.B.A, 4th year 


  1. Kane, Dr. Pandurang; (1973), History of Dharmasastra (Ancient and Medieval Religions and Civil Law) 2nd Ed. published by Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona. P - 561.
  2. Ibid, p - 562.
  3. Ibid, p - 565.
  4.  Mahajan, Amaijit and Madhurima (1995); Family Violence And Abuse In India, Deep and Deep Publications, New Delhi, p - 5.
  5. Ibid, p -13.
  6. Begum, Hasna, "Violence In Islamic Texts And Its Relevance To Practice", in Moitra, Shefali (Ed) (1996), Women Heritage And Violence, Papyrus, New Delhi, p - 42.