Updated: Aug 23, 2022
Studies state that about 1 in 3 women in India are a victim to domestic violence. Legal measures such as The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1969 along with social measures such as the Gulabi Gang- (A women’s vigilante group who attempt to protect women from spousal violence, first appearing in Uttar Pradesh) all attempt to protect the rights of women in a society heavily dominated by males and having strong roots of patriarchy. Domestic violence is a serious problem, and can cause physical damage in addition to mental trauma. Studies have shown domestic violence causes several mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, emotional distress, sleeping and eating disorders. What the law in India, and several other countries fail to acknowledge are the unseen victims of domestic violence – men.
A study in Haryana on 1000 married men, about 52.4% experienced domestic violence. Statistical data on victims of domestic violence, particularly men is rarely accurate due to the extreme under reporting of cases. The study, although not representative, throws light on the vast number of victims of domestic violence that the law fails to protect. Societal and patriarchal notions of men being bigger and stronger than women reinforce the stereotype that men in heterosexual relationships cannot be abused by their partners. These beliefs and notions create a sense of embarrassment among male victims preventing them from getting help or support, compelling many to turn to suicide. Moreover, domestic violence laws in India only protect women; the law does not view men as vulnerable to domestic abuse – an inherent flaw which needs immediate change. In India, the law does recognize homosexual relationships, thus providing no legal basis for gay male victims to seek protection.
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The on-going trial between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp further highlights this issue. Depp was dropped from almost all his projects when the allegations first came to the surface. The initial, immediate public support towards Heard and backlash towards Depp in 2016 has turned over as ample evidence proves that Depp was the victim, not the abuser. Studies report that about 1 in 9 men in USA experience some sort of spousal abuse. The Amber Heard and Johnny Depp case highlights a serious but under reported problem – the struggles men face when reporting domestic violence. The severity of under reporting and general awareness about male victims of domestic violence proves that patriarchal notions are harmful to men. Regardless of the outcome of the Depp-Heard trials, the attention it has captured by the global public brings this discussion to the forefront.
Statistics prove that significantly more women are victims rather than perpetrators; however, it is unjust to rule out the possibility that men can be victims too. Any form of abuse, regardless of one’s gender identity is harmful and traumatic for the victim. According to Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code 1860, only a man can be held liable for cruelty to his wife. There is not any subsection or any provisions given in the statute that will make a woman liable for domestic violence. Further, live-in relationships are not categorically defined in the Act but left to the courts for interpretation. Leaving all people cohabitating couples in the mercy of the court. The vague nature of domestic violence laws and poor implementation leaves all victims vulnerable to future violence. Amendments which would ensure protection to all victims, without excluding anyone are vital. The issue of domestic violence needs to be addressed and tackled in a manner upholding equality.
E. (2020, July 6). Domestic Violence Against Men ·. NCDV. https://www.ncdv.org.uk/domestic-violence-against-men/
Norwegian centre for violence and traumatic stress studies. (2022, May 20). Men in domestic violence shelters. NKVTS English. https://www.nkvts.no/english/report/men-in-domestic-violence-shelters/
Verma, A. (2020, December 20). Domestic violence against men in India. iPleaders. https://blog.ipleaders.in/domestic-violence-men-india/