The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Law to bar home violence kicks in

New Delhi, Oct. 25: From tomorrow, domestic violence of any kind against women — physical, verbal, sexual as well as economic — will become an offence punishable by law.

Without terming it such, marital rape has for the first time been introduced in the legal vocabulary of violence.

The ministry of women and child development has issued a notification that will from Thursday bring into effect the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, passed in Parliament last year.

The act provides protection not only to the wife but all women sharing a household with a man, like live-in partners, daughters, sisters, mothers and widows.

It is also the first act that has tried to deal with every form of violence, categorised under four heads — physical, sexual, verbal/emotional and economic.

Without calling it “marital rape”, forced sexual intercourse has entered the catalogue of violence. A husband can also be hauled up for any other act that violates his wife’s dignity like forcing her to look at pornography or other “obscene material or picture”.

Calling a woman names smearing her character or conduct and insulting her for not having a son or for not bringing dowry fall under verbal and emotional violence. The category also includes forcing a woman to leave her job or preventing her from taking up one.

Stopping a daughter/sister from leaving home or forcing her to get married will also be counted among the offences. Several categories of economic violence, too, are listed.

A person accused of any one of these forms of violence can be tried under Sections 18 and 19 of the act. Under the two sections, a magistrate can issue a protection order that will entitle the woman to her stridhan, jewellery and clothes and bar the offender from operating joint bank accounts or lockers without the court’s permission.

According to Hindu custom, stridhan is the exclusive property of women, which includes money, property, jewellery or a share in a family business given to a woman as a daughter, sister, wife or daughter-in-law. It also covers wealth she inherits or has generated through her own enterprise. No one in the family can touch stridhan unless the woman gifts it.

A magistrate can prevent the offender from selling the house in which the aggrieved person is staying. If the house is on rent, a protection order can make the offender pick up the tab or provide accommodation that will offer the woman the same “security and facilities” as the earlier house.

The offender cannot give away his rights on a property in which the victim is staying without the court’s consent.

The ministry took almost a year to draw up the rules in consultation with the states and NGOs. The act was framed in the face of a backlash from some male-dominated groups.

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