India is home to a billion people, from various sections of society. People from all social classes are granted the same, equal status as a citizen of India without any prejudice, yet even in the 21st Century, we get to see violence towards women and the LGBTQ community. This research paper focuses on these issues of violence in India, and legislations that are doing their parts to ease those issues.
Domestic Violence in India
Within the Indian subcontinent, women were and still are victims of all forms of exploitation. Criminal, domestic, and social violence are all forms of violence against women. Rape, murder, female foeticide, and kidnapping are examples of criminal violence. Dowry deaths and sexual assault are all examples of domestic violence. Eve-teasing and inheritance rules that favor men are other forms of social violence.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 33,356 rape cases were registered across India in 2018. Many of these cases include a rapist who is well-known to the victim. Furthermore, these figures conceal the substantial number of rapes that go unreported by the victim. Violence against women is becoming more difficult to negotiate in the sanctity of marriage as marital rape is not a crime in India, according to the constitution.
Crimes against the LGBTQ+ Community
India ranks 84 out of 203 countries on the list of countries with the most hate crimes against the Pride Community and the LGBTQ+ movement. The daily struggles of having to endure assault and public humiliation at the hands of one’s own family and friends just for being themselves are still on the rise in India as the ranking slipped down two places since 2020. The decriminalization of Article 377 had little to no impact on Indian society since homophobia persists in almost all cultures in India.
We hear all kinds of ‘foul and based’ statements by people about boys being Gay just for wearing clothes that even have a slight ‘feminine’ appearance or blatantly calling girls ‘Lesbians’ or sometimes even slurs for being ‘a little too friendly’ with their friends of the same gender. The Supreme Court can only change laws, not the people’s minds. Due to the unavailability of proper education on understanding the pride community among the Indian masses, many people still consider that even supporting the LGBT let alone being from the LGBT+ community is a mental disease or addiction. This is seen with many parents sending their children who come out to be among the LGBT+ genders, to Drug Addiction Centers or to Conversion Therapy to make them ‘normal’ again.
Cases of teen suicide due to being sent for illegal conversion therapy at drug addiction centers are on a rise. Anjana Hareesh a 21-year-old came out to her family as a queer person. In a Facebook Live video on 13th March 2020, she claimed that after learning of her admission, her parents were forced to enroll her in a “de-addiction center,” where she received a severe course of medication (which is illegal conversion therapy). The staff there slapped her when she tried to resist. Hareesh was later discovered hanging from a tree at a resort in Goa, exactly two months since posting the video. Gargi Harithakam, Anjana’s friend, claimed that she did not suffer from a drug or alcohol addiction as she was her roommate and a close friend.
Legality & Legal Precedents
The Indian Government has implemented various legislations to prevent and punish those who commit Domestic Violence, as well as laws that complement women’s health. Following are a few of the laws that benefit women in India.
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005: Domestic violence is defined as any act that causes physical, emotional, sexual, or economic injury to the victim’s life, limb, health, or safety. It is a form of coercion in which one person exerts control over another by threatening the victim, depriving them of their property, physically harming them, and sexually abusing them. The abuser might harm the victim in a variety of ways. Domestic violence, for example, occurs when a woman is starved for three days by her husband.
- In terms of their extended reach and the extent to which they defy heteronormative patriarchal views of family and a woman’s “natural” role within it, the Act’s provisions are undeniably introducing rights into the house. According to the Act, domestic violence now includes violence in all forms of interpersonal relationships, including abuse in a woman’s natal home and partnerships in the “kind of marriage.”
- The Act analyses the frequency of violence against elder women, in addition to child abuse. By allowing women the right to reside in shared households irrespective of who owns the property, the Act expands the scope of the remedy. The Act categorizes males as perpetrators and women as victims, as well as sets a deadline for cases to be addressed.
- If a woman thinks she has been the victim of abuse by the offender or another person, she can file a complaint on her behalf. A child is also legally protected under the Domestic Violence Act. The parent of such a child can petition on behalf of her minor child.
- In the case of Dr. NG Dastane v. Mrs. S Dastane, the Supreme Court decided that the bedrock of a sound marriage is tolerance, adaptability, and respect for one another. In the case of Vinita Saxena v. Pankaj Pandit, the court ruled that each situation is unique and must be judged accordingly. As a result, the proper use and execution of any special legislation are dependent on the judge in question.
- Special laws can get lost in the shuffle of general legislation and end up going off the rails. As a result, it is up to a judge to prioritize the legislative aim as well as victim justice to serve as a deterrent to the perpetrating accused and society.
- From Right to Equality to complete Decriminalization; In the mid-2000’s the LGBT movement took a kickstart in India. Although it was a crime to engage in consensual sexual relationships of any kind other than between a man and a woman, the courts did allow people to voice their opinion in favour of the LGBTQ+ community. In the case of Naz Foundation v. Government of NCT of Delhi, the Delhi High Court stated that Article 14 of the Constitution protects consensual homosexual relationships and behaviour, and that criminalizing it will be a violation of the Right to Equality.
- The Supreme Court in the 2009 Delhi High Court Judgement of Suresh Kumar Kaushal v. Naz Foundation, in 2013 stated that with changing times, laws and society’s thinking change. Pointing to the fact that homosexuality was not accepted a few decades ago but is now widely accepted in many parts of the world, the apex court also stated that prior to the British colonial rule, homosexuality was prevalent in India, which can be seen from the statues, paintings, and murals on ancient temples and structures in India.
- It was not before 2018 that homosexuality was truly and completely decriminalized in India in the case of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India.
- National Database of Sexual Offenders; This is a database that was influenced by the Department of Justice National Sex Offender Website. Although, the list of the United States is available to be viewed publicly, in India only law enforcement officers can view it. Only law enforcement agencies will have access to the database, which will be kept by the National Crime Records Bureau under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- It will contain the names, pictures, home addresses, fingerprints, DNA samples, and PAN and Aadhaar numbers of those who have been found guilty of sexual offences. Based on information gathered from prisons around the nation, the database would include details of both first-time and habitual offenders for more than 4.5 lakh instances.
- It will only contain information on those who are at least 18 years old. The name will be added to the registry each time a convict’s information is submitted to a jail.
- State jails will be required to update appeals against convictions, and an accused person can be followed up until an appeal result in an exoneration.
- One Stop Center Scheme; One Stop Center is a Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) initiative that receives central funding to address the issue of violence against women. It is a part of the National Mission for Women’s Empowerment umbrella programme, which also includes the Indira Gandhi Mattritav Sahyaog Yojana. There will be one-stop centres set up all around the nation to offer comprehensive support and help to women who have experienced violence in both private and public settings under one umbrella.
- Funding: The Nirbhaya Fund is used to finance the programme, and the state and union territory administrations receive full financial support from the federal government.
- Auditing: Audits will be carried out as per the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s standards, and civil society organizations will also conduct social audits.
- Services: Women’s helplines and one-stop centres will work together to offer the following services: services for emergency response and rescue, providing medical care, aiding females in filing the First Information Report, psychological and counseling services, legal representation, advice, Shelter, a video conferencing system.
- Privately-Run LGBTQ+ Suicide Helplines; With an increase in teenage LGBTQ+ suicide over the past few years, private organizations have been formed that are providing mental health care to people who identify with the LGBTQ+ community.
- Organizations like Naz Foundations, Smiling Rainbow are among the few with helplines to care of LGBT issues in India. SAHAAY is among the very few organizations with its own toll-free LGBTQ+ suicide helpline number.
- Organizations like these assist the upcoming generation to keep fighting instead of giving in to the pressure created by the small-minded people who try to suppress the Right of Equality and Freedom of Expression of homosexuals.
Data Analysis & Interpretation for Domestic Violence
Research conducted by The Wire showed the number of cases made under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, often known as ‘Cruelty by Husband or His Relatives,’ by the number of women in lakhs. The said the research was done to interpret the scope of domestic violence among women between 18 and 49 years of age.
When these figures are compared to the percentage of women who have complained about Section 498A of the India Penal Code, we see that domestic violence incidences are under-reported in 14 of the 20 states, or 70%. In Lakshadweep and Nagaland, Section 498A reporting is as low as 0, despite NFHS-5 figures indicating otherwise.
Domestic violence appears to be under-reported the most in Bihar, Karnataka, and Manipur, where the frequency of domestic abuse is around 40% or higher while incidence is less than 8%. Case files in Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Telangana, Tripura, and West Bengal are greater than self-reported domestic abuse incidents.
Domestic violence can be controlled, but it will take a longer time to do so because India has extremely dynamic geographical landscapes and cultures, as well as diverse social norms, and connecting to a billion people is more challenging than locating a needle in a haystack. The community should pick ideal spouses that will not only act as role models for those other spouses but also educate other families in society on how to resolve conflicts in a nonviolent and courteous manner. Bringing domestic violence issues into the mainstream and altering social standards that emphasize civil behaviour can assist create an environment that supports behavioural change. On the other hand, the LGBTQ+ issues of violence and discrimination are still at a peak in India.
As stated before, the Supreme Court can only change laws, not people’s minds. Until a mass, national-level, mental block clearing initiative is created to educate the people about the LGBTQ+ community, there is no scope of ending homophobia in India anytime soon. Lessons on human reproduction are introduced in 8th-grade biology in the Indian Education Boards, introducing chapters on gender identity and sexuality in 8th grade can be the first step in expanding the scope of LGBT acceptance, as the age bracket of 12-14 is the onset of puberty and are also the stages of advanced development of the teen mind.
- S. Payal, The Wire. Decoding the Decoding the Extent to Which Domestic Violence Is Under-Reported in India. February, 2021. https://thewire.in/women/domestic-violence-india-underreported
- The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
- Seth P., Decoding the extent to which Domestic Violence is Under-reported in India, The Wire, February 2021, https://thewire.in/women/domestic-violence-india-underreported
- S. Shambhavi, Youth Ki Awaaz. This Year, Tell the Government What You Think of These 9 Problems in Indian Society. January, 2019. https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2019/01/this-year-tell-the-government-what-you-think-of-these-9-problems-in-indian-society/
- Saluja R., India’s LGBTQ+ community faces domestic violence and pressure to convert, The South China Morning Post, https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/people/article/3090851/indias-lgbtq-community-face-domestic-violence-and-pressure-convert
- Dr. NG Dastane v. Mrs. S Dastane, 1975 AIR 1534.
- Naz Foundation v. Government of NCT of Delhi, 160 Delhi Law Times 277.
- Suresh Kumar Kaushal v. Government of NCT of Delhi, Civil Appeal 10972 of 2013.
- Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, AIR 2018 SC 4321.
- Vinita Saxena v. Pankaj Pandit, 17 (2003) DLT 44.
This article is written by Namay Khanna, a 3rd year BBA LLB (Hons.) student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune.