How Is India’s Anti-Domestic Violence Law Working?

Article Date

20 November 2009

Article Author

By Gillian Gaynair

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

India President Pratibha Patil this month released a report (PDF) by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and India’s Lawyer’s Collective Women’s Rights Initiative that addressed, among other objectives, whether the country’s new anti-domestic abuse law is effectively protecting women from harm.

The report’s release took place at the third conference on the implementation of India’s Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, which was established in 2005. Ravi Verma, ICRW’s regional director in Asia, presented the report’s findings during the event.

Combating violence against women globally is a longstanding area of work for ICRW. In India, the organization since the early 1990s has played a key role in gender-based abuse prevention research and policy-making. Data from ICRW studies were used in public campaigns to end violence and helped prompt India’s anti-domestic violence legislation.

In ICRW’s latest collaborative effort, the lawyer’s collective is, among other efforts, holding training workshops for police, judges and others responsible for enforcing the new law. ICRW’s role in the partnership is to measure the effectiveness of the collective’s interventions with various groups, including women.

At the conference, Verma discussed data from the third evaluation of the law’s impact in the states of Delhi and Rajasthan, which was conducted by ICRW and the collective.

ICRW found, in part, that the primary forms of violence against women were economic and physical; that police, judges and the protection officers who respond to cases still don’t have a clear understanding of the legislation’s provisions and many fail to recognize that sexual violence within a marriage violates the law.

Among its recommendations, the report said that the government should allocate funds and develop a process to hold accountable those responsible for implementing the law, among other suggestions.

“To make the act more effective, it is imperative to engage men and bring about an attitudinal change toward this issue,” Verma added. “It is equally important to have a trained and gender-sensitized body of implementers of the law available for women and families in distress.”

According to news reports, Patil called the monitoring and evaluation of the legislation critical to ensuring that it meets its intended objectives.

She said the government’s overall efforts to address constraints women face is not yet complete.

“Gender equality,” Patil said, “is work in progress.”

Gillian Gaynair is ICRW’s writer/editor. ICRW’s Jyoti Bahri contributed to this report from New Delhi.