VIOLENCE WITHIN FOUR WALLS OUT IN THE OPEN

Nirmala M Nagaraj | TNN

Bangalore: After spending almost six months in a hospital ICU battling for life, Seema, 22, recently died of multiple organ failure. She was pushed from the third floor of a building, allegedly by her husband and in-laws. This is one of the recent examples of the rising domestic violence cases in the state.
   According to the women and child department, the incidents of domestic violence cases have trebled in the state. In 2007-08, the total number of cases registered were 826 while in 2009-10, the number rose to 3,036.
   Though awareness of the Act has boosted the number of cases registered, justice to the victims continues to be delayed due to slow disposal of cases. In 2009, of the 3,036 cases registered, only 197 cases were disposed of by the magistrate, 125 received compensation orders and 130 got monetary relief.
   Sources in the women and child department say there are deputy directors and 214 Child Development Protection Officers (CDPOs) deputed across the state, for protection of women against domestic violence. They file the Domestic Violence Information report (DIR) and aid victims in getting justice.
   But since the CDPOs are also responsible for protection of children, with this dual task, efficient implementation of the Domestic Violence Act has suffered in the state.
   Mahila Sahayavani helpline (MSH) – 1091, provides counselling for women in distress. “With awareness, women from all strata of society are approaching the helpline for aid. We usually receive complaints of physical and mental abuse due to suspicion, disrespect and misunderstanding between the spouses. Dowry is also one of the main causes of domestic violence,” said Geetha H C, counsellor.
   However, there is a steady rise in the number of cases settled through counselling. A total of 455 cases registered under the Domestic Violence Act were resolved through counselling, and almost double the cases were settled in the past two years; in 2007, 203 cases were settled, and in 2008, 214 were resolved.
   Activist from Vimochana Donna Fernandes said: “The advantage of implementation of the Domestic Violence Act is that the victim gets interim relief immediately. But usually, justice is delayed for years.”
   In the case of Seema, a victim of dowry harassment, she had to battle for her life in the ICU for six months, fight for her child’s custody and justice for her condition. “It’s unfortunate that these acts for protection of women against violence are most often used after women are victimised, rather they should play a preventive role,” Donna said.

CASE STUDY

Bhanu (name changed), 28, an advocate married to an IT professional, was harassed for six years. She was regularly beaten by her husband, brother-in-law and mother-in-law. Though Bhanu was educated, she feared for the reputation of her parents and tolerated the torture silently.
   Along with physical and mental abuse, she was also forced to give her salary to her in-laws and depend on them for her basic needs. Suffering silently for years, she went into a depression. Her parents, suspecting marital discord, approached a counsellor. It was only than that Bhanu revealed the years of torture she had undergone.
   “We are scared of visiting police stations and courts and in the process of safeguarding our image in society, we forget to fight for our rights and raise our voice against injustice. There are legal provisions like the Domestic Violence Act, but until we educated people don’t utilise it we will continue to suffer,” Bhanu said.

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