“Domestic violence against men in India is not recognized by the law. The general perception is that men cannot be victims of violence. This helps women get away scot-free,” says Rukma.
His estranged wife has accused him of domestic violence and dowry harassment, among other things. He calls this “legal terrorism,” claiming that the judiciary almost always favours women. He added:
“Domestic violence cases are supposed to be resolved in six months, but this never happens. Once a case is filed, the husband has to attend every hearing — which takes place once every 10 days — otherwise he is viewed as the wrongdoer in the court’s eyes. Mind you, there are no questions raised if the woman doesn’t attend hearings.”
In recent study conducted on the small rural village of Haryana, it was found that Gender-based violence was experienced by 52.4% of men in this study. Males experienced violence at the hands of their wives/intimate partners 51.5% of the time and 10.5% of the time in the last year out of 1000.
Emotional violence was the most common type of spousal violence (51.6%), followed by physical violence (6%). Physical assaults occurred in only one-tenth of the cases. In nearly half of the cases, the husband was the one who started the physical and emotional abuse.
If this is the scenario in a small village of one of the states in India that values their male population more than their female population, imagine what could be the situation of men in urban areas, where women sometimes earn more than their husbands, or when they are having an affair, or even when the husband did something wrong?
In India, there is no gender symmetry when it comes to physical violence. While all the women you stand up against domestic violence are applauded, men in the same situation are suppressed and asked to keep quiet or the society will not see them as ‘real’ men. The men are shamed by their own family and shunned out by the society.
Its ironical that the men are facing the exact same situation that women did when they first started speaking against Domestic Violence.
Thus, this article deals with the legal provisions that help men get out of this sticky situation and a vague comparison of India with the world.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence, also referred to as Intimate Partner Violence, Domestic Abuse, Dating Violence, and Intimate Partner Abuse, is a form of violence perpetrated by someone in the victim’s domestic circle.
Partners and ex-partners, family members, close relatives, and family friends are all included. Does this include only married men or women?
No. any person who is in a domestic relationship with the victim. A domestic relationship is when two people share a household. But nowadays, due to the increase in nuclear families, a shared household could include relatives of either of the party as well.
Thus, when the victim and the offender have a close relationship, the term “domestic violence” is used. There is usually a power imbalance between the victim and the offender.
Domestic violence is a major public health concern because it affects many people and frequently results in physical, mental, and financial harm, as well as death.
Section 3 of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 states the Definition of Domestic Violence as:
“For the purposes of this Act, any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence in case it—
(a) harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well‑being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse; or
(b) harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person with a view to coerce her or any other person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any dowry or other property or valuable security; or
(c) has the effect of threatening the aggrieved person or any person related to her by any conduct mentioned in clause (a) or clause (b); or
(d) otherwise injures or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved person.”
According to the above section, it can be said that Domestic Violence constitutes:
- Threats to life, health, and safety, whether physical or mental, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal and emotional abuse, and economic abuse, or
- Harassment in any form, including injuries, harms to the aggrieved person by coercing her or any other person in connection with any unlawful demand for dowry or other property or valuable security, or
- otherwise injuring or causing havoc; or (d) otherwise injuring or causing havoc.
The explanation of Section 3 states that:
“Explanation I.—For the purposes of this section,—
(i) ”physical abuse” means any act or conduct which is of such a nature as to cause bodily pain, harm, or danger to life, limb, or health or impair the health or development of the aggrieved person and includes assault, criminal intimidation and criminal force.”
Physical abuse refers to any type of violent behaviour directed at the victim (Slapping, biting, beating, hitting, kicking, etc.) It also includes coercion into using alcohol or drugs, as well as denial of medical treatment.
As physical abuse is explained here, no where it is mentioned that abuse done is by a male or a female, which means that abuse can be instigated by both, and law recognises that.
“(ii) ”sexual abuse” includes any conduct of a sexual nature that abuses, humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the dignity of woman;”
Sexual Abuse occurs when the abuser attempts to make physical contact with the victim without the victim’s consent. Marital rape, physical violence followed by sex, and attacks on the sexual parts of the body are the most common examples.
Very recently there have been cases where men where sexually assaulted by their wives and subjected to degradation. The law at present does not deal with the situations where a man is assaulted by his wife. Because of this, the man cannot complaint anywhere, and hence, is deprived of justice.
“(iii) ”verbal and emotional abuse” includes—
(a) insults, ridicule, humiliation, name calling and insults or ridicule specially with regard to not having a child or a male child; and
(b) repeated threats to cause physical pain to any person in whom the aggrieved person is interested.”
Emotional Abuse entails undermining or depleting the victim’s sense of self-worth. Constant humiliation, insults, threats of harm, belittling, and threats to take away children are all examples of emotional abuse.
Again, in this explanation, the verbal and emotional abuse a man has to go through is nowhere mentioned and not understood by the lawmakers. But what is mentioned is the repeated threats to cause physical pain.
This explanation is not specifically for women who are in a abusive relationship but also a man who is in an abusive relationship.
“(iv) ”economic abuse” includes—
(a) deprivation of all or any economic or financial resources to which the aggrieved person is entitled under any law or custom whether payable under an order of a court or otherwise or which the aggrieved person requires out of necessity including, but not limited to, household necessities for the aggrieved person and her children, if any, stridhan, property, jointly or separately owned by the aggrieved person, payment of rental related to the shared household and maintenance;
(b) disposal of household effects, any alienation of assets whether movable or immovable, valuables, shares, securities, bonds and the like or other property in which the aggrieved person has an interest or is entitled to use by virtue of the domestic relationship or which may be reasonably required by the aggrieved person or her children or her stridhan or any other property jointly or separately held by the aggrieved person; and
(c) prohibition or restriction to continued access to resources or facilities which the aggrieved person is entitled to use or enjoy by virtue of the domestic relationship including access to the shared household. Explanation II.—For the purpose of determining whether any act, omission, commission or conduct of the respondent constitutes “domestic violence” under this section, the overall facts and circumstances of the case shall be taken into consideration.”
Economic Abuse occurs when the abuser tries or succeeds in making the victim financially dependent. Technological Abuse refers to the use of technology to enslave and control a partner.
Again, the law only acknowledges the property owned by a woman. But what about a situation when a woman is demanding things her husband cannot afford and thus, blackmailing him for the same? There is no provision to save a man in this situation.
What are the reasons of domestic violence cases against men go unreported?
There are a variety of reasons why men do not reveal the violence they are subjected to from their spouses or intimate partners.
- Male stereotypes in general
Men frequently feel discriminated against or uneasy about speaking up about the violence they witness because they are afraid of being judged and labelled as wimpy and effeminate. They believe that their fight against violence will be in vain due to the Indian Constitution’s gender-specific laws and provisions.
They believe they have failed as protectors and nurturers of their families.
- Fear of false cases
Men frequently believe that disclosing the violence will cause undue inconvenience, and they do not want to face legal consequences as a result of our Constitution’s gender-biased or gender-specific laws. They believe they must leave their families and do not want to lose custody of their children, which can be a lengthy process.
- Societal and familial pressures
The majority of Indians live with their families after they marry. Men are ashamed to talk about the violence because of this factor. Society also plays an important role in perpetuating gender-biased laws and stereotypes about a specific gender.
The majority of people believe that domestic violence only affects women. When they learn that a man can be a victim of domestic violence, they live in denial. So, in general, no one really wants to talk about it.
How does India compare to other countries in Domestic Violence cases against men?
In the United States of America, one out of every nine men is subjected to domestic violence by their intimate partner or their wives. One in every seven men has been the victim of physical violence by their wives or intimate partners.
Men account for two out of every five victims of domestic violence in the United Kingdom. This refutes the widely held belief that domestic violence only affects women. Domestic violence against men often goes unnoticed, according to the men’s rights campaign group parity, and their attackers are rarely prosecuted.
According to a British crime survey, 40 percent of domestic violence victims were men between 2004-2005 and 2008-2009. In recent years, it has dropped to 37.7%.
Strangers and in public places are the most common perpetrators of domestic violence against men. Since the age of 15, 1 in 16 Australian men has been subjected to domestic violence in the form of physical or sexual torture by their wives, intimate partners, or cohabiting partners.
Between 2012-13 and 2013-14, one man was killed every month as a result of domestic violence by his current or previous partner.
Domestic violence against men by their wives or intimate partners is not uncommon, according to these surveys and studies from various countries. Appropriate provisions for dealing with domestic violence in a more neutral manner should be in place.
What are the laws on Domestic Violence in India?
Gender is a social construct that is influenced by a variety of factors such as race, caste, country, class, culture, sexual preference, ability, and rituals. Gender roles are very rigid in many south Asian countries, such as India. Gender biases and stereotypical ideas arise as a result of this rigidity.
There are many laws in India dealing with the issue of Domestic Violence in India, but there are not inclusive of violence against men. But there many cases of the Supreme Court where the woman has been held liable for domestic violence against her husband.
The legal provisions against Domestic Violence are as follows:
- Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005
The Indian Parliament passed this law to protect women from domestic violence. It outlaws a wide range of physical, sexual, emotional, and financial abuse against women, all of which are broadly defined.
It protects women in a family from male family members. The Act protects not only married women, but also women in live-in relationships, as well as family members such as grandmothers and mothers. Under this Act, a woman has the right to be free of all forms of violence.
Women can seek protection from domestic violence, financial compensation, the right to live in their shared home, and maintenance from their abuser if they are living apart under this law.
This law was enacted to ensure that abused women are not evicted from their homes and are able to support themselves. It also ensures that women are protected from their abusers.
But no where is this Act inclusive of any law to protect a man from abuse by his wife.
Surprisingly, there are provisions in the Act relating to compensation and protection which are gender neutral, but the Courts in India prima facie side with the woman as most of the cases are alleged by a woman on their husbands. The Courts forget the rule of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ and ‘innocent until proven guilty’, that the Indian Judiciary is dependant on.
A man who is abused and has a false case of Domestic Violence against him is deprived of his fundamental right of getting a bail due to the forgetful nature of Courts.
Any person is innocent until proven guilty and the burden of proof to show his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is on the Prosecution that they do not need to work on much as everyone just believes that a woman is the only one who can be subjected to Domestic Violence.
The courts, prima facie, just cannot accept that a man can be abused too.
- Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
The section states:
“Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.—Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. Explanation.—For the purpose of this section, “cruelty” means—
(a) any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.”
Men who are subjected to domestic violence by their wives or intimate partners are exempt from the provisions of the Indian Penal Code that relate to gender violence.
Right off the bat it can be seen that the section states Cruelty by Husband or relative on woman, and cruelty by a woman on a man has nowhere mentioned.
Only a man can be held liable for cruelty to his wife under this section. There is no subsection or provision in the statute that makes a woman responsible for domestic violence.
No one, not even the police, listens to a man who tries to open up and report on the torture and physical violence he has been subjected to. When a man complains about domestic violence, Indian society often labels him as ‘effeminate’ or ‘feeble.’
Many men believe that things will improve soon, and as a result, they do not report the domestic violence they are subjected to. Any form of violence, whether physical or psychological, is a flagrant violation of human rights. Domestic violence that goes unreported and unspoken can lead to breakups, bitter fights, divorces, depression, and even suicide.
Not only this, unfortunately, there have been several cases where Section 498A has been used primarily as a tool of blackmail. Because this section allows the police to arrest anyone a married woman names as a tormentor in her complaint, it lends itself to easy misuse as a tool for wreaking vengeance on entire families.
Following that, bail was denied as a fundamental right in such cases.
Thus, there are a plethora of false cases where women falsely accused a man of rape or domestic violence because of the biased laws in the Indian Penal Statute that favour women, and the sad thing is that these biased laws automatically assume that a man can never be the victim.
Women are not required to provide any proof of their authenticity. By the biased laws, they are assumed to be true creatures.
- Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
This is a law that prohibits the giving and receiving of dowry. Under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, the practise of dowry is prohibited. If someone gives, takes, or even demands dowry, they can be imprisoned for a period of 6 months or fined up to 5,000 rupees under this law.
Dowry prohibition Act, 1961 is only used nowadays to blackmail the husband in order to extort money from them and their families.
Recently, a husband filed an FIR in Mumbai against his wife for allegedly cheating and extort money as well as threatening to file a false dowry case against him. These types of cases are not new and have been increasing rapidly.
Yes, the wife may have right against dowry demands, but what about the mental harassment a husband must go through due to the demands of his wife.
Are there any defences available to the man if he has a false case against him?
Women use the Section 498A and Dowry Act as weapons against their husbands by filing a false complaint. Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code allows a husband, his parents, and relatives to be charged with cruelty to a woman in order to meet their illegal demands (dowry).
In most cases, the husband, his parents, and relatives are arrested without a thorough investigation and imprisoned on non-bailable terms.
The accused is presumed guilty until he or she proves innocence in court, even if the complaint is false. If found guilty, the maximum penalty is three years in prison.
Thus, there are two approaches of defence a man has in this situation:
- Defensive Approach
A defensive approach is taken when a man must defend himself and his family, he can take the following steps:
- Collect as many electronic evidence you can find against his wife. Recorded calls, chats, etc. showing that he and his family has never demanded dowry or allegedly committed nay kind of violence.
- Apply for Anticipatory Bail, the moment an FIR is lodged against him.
- Complaint against blackmailing or false allegations to the Police. But sometimes, Police does not believe the husband and thus does not file the report. In this situation, the husband can write a letter to the SP or Commissioner.
- The husband can also file for Restitution of Conjugal Rights available under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act.
- Do not settle with the perpetrator.
- Raise awareness about your situation as much as possible.
A husband can also complaint against these atrocities on:
http://www.pmindia.gov.in/en/interact-with-honble-pm/ – here you can submit your complaint to the Prime Minister of India, or he can send a letter to:
Web information Manager, Rasina Hill, South block, New Delhi – 110011
- Offensive Approach
A husband can also take the offensive approach against his wife, namely:
- The biggest card defence a husband has is Section 227 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The section states the situations of Discharge and if the husband has enough proof that the wife is alleging false complaints, he can file an application under this section.
- Under Section 120B of Indian Penal Code – the husband can allege that his wife is committing Criminal Conspiracy against him.
- Section 167 of Indian Penal Code can also be used against the Police officers who refused to file an FIR and/or helped the wife in making a false complaint. Section 182 of the Indian Penal Code can be used too.
- The husband can also file a defamation case under Section 500 and Section 504 of the Indian Penal Code against his wife as his reputation has been damaged due to her false claims.
What is the Supreme Court’s view on this menace?
The Supreme Court in various cases has given harsh punishments to women who have made false complaints against their husbands. some of their landmark cases are:
- Arnesh Kumar Vs. State of Bihar
The wife claimed that dowry was demanded of her and that she was ejected from the matrimonial home for failing to comply. The husband attempted to get anticipatory bail but was denied. As a result, the husband filed a special leave petition with the Supreme Court.
The Court noted in this case that because Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code is a cognizable and non-bailable offence, it is frequently used as a weapon rather than a shield by disgruntled wives.
It leads to the husband and his relatives being harassed by having them arrested under this Section, and it is even more disturbing to see bedridden grandfathers and grandmothers being arrested without a prima facie case.
As a result, the Court established certain guidelines that a police officer must follow when making an arrest under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code or Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, and that such an arrest must be based on a reasonable belief in the veracity of the allegation. Furthermore, even Magistrates must be cautious about authorising detention on a haphazard and mechanical basis.
- Manju Ram Kalita Vs. State of Assam
The wife accused her husband of physical and mental cruelty and filed a complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. The husband, on the other hand, has denied all of the allegations.
The Court held that “cruelty” for the purposes of Section 498-A Indian Penal Code must be determined in the context of Section 498-A Indian Penal Code because it may differ from other statutory provisions.
It should be determined by looking at the man’s behaviour, weighing the gravity or seriousness of his actions, and determining whether or not it is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide, among other things.
It must be proven that the woman has been subjected to cruelty on a continuous basis, or at the very least in the time leading up to the filing of the complaint. Petty quarrels, the Court went on to say, cannot be classified as “cruelty” under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code.
- Bibi Parwana Khatoon Vs. State of Bihar
The facts of this case are similar to those of previous cases in that the wife was killed by her husband and relatives setting her on fire. The deceased wife’s sister-in-law and brother-in-law appealed the conviction to the Supreme Court.
The Court noted that the appellants in the case did not even live in the area where the accident occurred. There was no proof that their claim was true beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, the Court acquitted them and stated that the Court must avoid falsely implicating relatives.
- Rajesh Kumar & Ors. Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh
In this case, the husband and other relatives were accused of torturing the wife in the absence of a dowry demand. Other relatives, on the other hand, demanded that there be some guidelines in place to prevent over-implication. As a result, in the majority of Section 498A cases, the husband’s relatives are also dragged into Court.
It is not necessary, however, that they were involved in the crime. As a result, the appeal raised a question about the need for directions to prevent the misuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
The Supreme Court issued broad guidelines to prevent the misuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, in the following areas:
- Family Welfare Committees – the Supreme Court said that a Family Welfare Committee should be established in every district to look into the complaints made under Section 498A.
- An Investigating Officer should be designated to look into the complaint.
- Disposal of cases where settlement have been reached.
- Passports to be impounded by the issuance of a Red Corner Notice.
- Regulations related to Bail were also changed.
- Cases with same parties could be clubbed.
- Personal appearance of all family members is now not a mandatory requirement.
These directions, however, will not apply to offences involving tangible physical injuries or death, according to the Court. The Supreme Court also issued directions to the National Legal Services Authority stating that it may submit a report after a six-month trial period, but no later than March 31, 2018, for any changes to the directions issued or any additional directions.
What can be done to curb this advancing menace?
The need of the hour are gender neutral laws in the scope of the phrase domestic violence.
Both men and women are entitled to human rights and gender equality. Gender-neutral laws are urgently needed in today’s world, where men are falsely accused of rapes, domestic violence, and sexual assault.
Domestic violence is a term that does not imply that only women can be victims of domestic violence; men can be victims as well as perpetrators. Domestic violence should be classified as spousal violence because it affects both men and women.
Domestic violence laws in India only protect women, not men. It creates the false impression that men can only be perpetrators, not victims. The rate of domestic violence against men is steadily rising.
As a result, special provisions and amendments are required to create gender-neutral laws that will assist victims in obtaining redress and punishment for the perpetrators, regardless of gender. Domestic violence, which is still prevalent in our society, requires specific laws and amendments to protect both spouses.
Society’s values, culture, and norms have changed dramatically in recent years as a result of modernization and westernisation. Previously, men were seen as protectors of their families, but nowadays, both men and women work, raise, and manage their households, contributing equally to their incomes.
Men have begun to open up about the domestic violence they face, and they have begun to openly share their pain, agony, and struggles. Men are no longer superior to women in terms of strength.
It’s past time for statutes and laws to acknowledge their problem as a social issue or problem. Domestic violence against men can be recognised through effective legislative changes, public awareness campaigns, and the dismantling of stereotypes and preconceived notions.
False accusations against men are on the rise, and it’s a serious problem because it violates basic human rights. Nobody is unaware of the problem; everyone is aware of how women abuse legal provisions to fulfil their unlawful demands against their husbands.
Section 498A is also non-compoundable, making it more severe for men. Though the government recently issued guidelines for amending existing laws to ensure that men and women are treated equally.
The Supreme Court is also working hard to improve things for Indian men, and in a recent decision, the court issued some guidelines to prevent arbitrary arrests of men in 498A cases.
There have also been landmark decisions in favour of men due to the widespread misuse of Section 489A. According to a recent decision, if a woman makes a false accusation against her husband, it is grounds for divorce.
The country is moving forward but not a pace that is required by the rising problem.
- Dhwani Desai, When Husbands are victims of Domestic Violence, available at: timesofindia.indiatimes.com(Last Visited on June 24th 2021) ↑
- Ibid ↑
- A cross-sectional study on gender-based violence against men in the rural area of Haryana available at: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov (Last Visited on June 24th 2021) ↑
- Statistics, available at:ncadv.org (Last Visited on June 24th 2021) ↑
- More than 40% of Domestic Violence victims are male, reports suggest, available at: theguardian.com(Last Visited on June 24th 2021) ↑
- PTI, FIR against wife for alleged bid to extort money from Husband, available at: business-standard.com (Last Visited on June 24th 2021) ↑
- Arnesh Kumar Vs. State of Bihar (2014) 8 SCC 273 ↑
- Manju Ram Kalita Vs. State of Assam (2009) 13 SCC 330 ↑
- Bibi Parwana Khatoon Vs. State of Bihar (2017) 6 SCC 792 ↑
- Rajesh Kumar & Ors. Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh (2017) SCC OnLine SC 821 ↑