LITTLE AWARENESS and slow action on the part of the state governments have been cited as major reasons for the poor results of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, 2006, a year after it was enforced.
According to the National Family Health Survey-3, about one-third women in the 15-49 age group face physical violence and one-tenth sexual violence. About 37 per cent of married women were victims of domestic violence while 25 per cent suffered physical or sexual violence at the hands of their husbands in the 12 months preceding the survey.
Women activists like Indira Jaisingh of Lawyers Initiative and Ranjana Kumari of Women Power Connect say successful implementation of the law can help these women. But so far, implementation in many states has been found wanting. “Protection officers are key to proper implementation of the law. In some states, anganwadi workers have been made protection officers. Since they may not be in a position to pursue a case with a magistrate, it makes the law ineffective,” Kumari said. <b1>
A study by Lawyers Initiative has found several loopholes in implementation. Almost all states — except Haryana, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Punjab and Rajasthan — have appointed protection officers but only two states, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi, have appointed them on full-time basis. Protection officers are required, under law, to lodge a complaint with the magistrate, on behalf of the victim, and pursue the case.
Only five states — Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh — have appointed service providers. Under law, service providers (mostly NGOs) are to act as facilitators between the women and protection officers because the protection officers may not be able to reach all the women in their areas. “In the absence of service providers, victims of domestic violence are not able to reach the protection officers,” said a Women and Child Development Ministry official.
The study, to be released on October 26, also says that only 12 states have provided medical facilities and shelters for victims, as required under law. “Government sponsored support facilities are not adequate in meeting the need,” it states.
The study goes on to say that police personnel need to be trained on dealing with women who approach them with complaints of domestic violence. In many cases, the police have been found to be turning away victims. Under law, the police are required to inform the protection officers about the complaints.
The study cites Andhra Pradesh as having the best infrastructure to implement the law. There, police, legal services authorities and protection officers function in coordination to facilitate the provision of relief to women complaining against domestic violence.
According to the study, only 7,913 applications were filed under the law till July 2007. Most of these are pending in courts of law. Rajasthan accounted for the highest number of applications (3,440), followed by Kerala (1,028). Less than 50 cases were filed in 10 states (Assam, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Manipur, Orissa, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and West Bengal). No cases were filed in four states (Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland).