Ignorance of the law leads to justify domestic violence : Women, be aware of your rights! | Sunday Observer

Ignorance of the law leads to justify domestic violence : Women, be aware of your rights!

 It is evident that a woman’s right to live a dignified life, free from violence and abuse is constantly violated, mostly within the family itself. Hence, domestic violence is considered to be a gross violation of women’s inherent rights. It has now become a widespread area of concern, affecting females in almost every community.

One may even argue that domestic violence is a conscious intimidation of women and the girl child in a family. Somehow, women have predominantly become victims of domestic violence habitually, especially, in the Asian context. Domestic violence is not an isolated incident of a family. Even though it occurs within the family custody it is always bound with social, economic, cultural and political factors. Even in the Sri Lankan context, most of the women’s inherent rights are continuously violated within the family itself. The patriarchal social system keeps Sri Lankan women continually underneath the guardianship and control of a father, husband, son or brother.

The Sri Lankan context

Under the Sri Lankan legal framework, domestic violence has not been recognized as a crime. Even though the amendment to the Penal code in 1995 has taken a progressive approach to protect women, it does not indicate domestic violence as an offence. The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act No. 34 of 2005 addresses the issue up to a certain extent.

Even if they experience any form of violation of their rights, women are not willing to go to, either, the police or the courts. Long term attitudes and practices of society have made women accept and live with the abuse. Cultural practices of society still continue to monitor women’s behaviour, as a result of which, a majority of them are forced to live with the idea that they are not strong enough to change or dispute traditional boundaries.

Even though the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act has ensured that women are entitled to live a dignified life, devoid of violence, many in society are of the idea that this Act was enacted only with the aim of protecting women’s rights within the household. But, the true purpose of the Act is to protect and promote the rights of both, women and children, within their residence, while paving the way to live a peaceful life within the family, with no threat of violence or difficulty.

Other hindrances

Not only the legal framework, but the socio-economic factors relating to domestic violence as mentioned earlier should be analyzed once more. There still prevails a misconception among society, that domestic violence is only a temporary phase that may arise within any family, and it is normal for a husband to verbally or physically hurt his wife and children. This is not true. Some people even tend to advise women that it is one of their duties as a good and well behaved wife to bear any physical, mental or sexual harassment inflicted upon her by the husband. Such misconceptions should be changed promptly.

Even today, in many families, especially, those below the mid-level income, it is only the male, (either the father or the eldest son) who is the breadwinner of the family. A majority of the women are not economically independent, which ipso facto makes them dependents of a male. It is another reason for the inhumane treatment of women by men. Many women are not even educated enough to start an independent life, due to the fact that many girl children are discouraged from gaining education, sadly by her family itself. This has led to the heart wrenching result that a majority of the women are not even properly aware of the fact that they are entitled to legal protection against violence. Unawareness and lack of education has led to a strong stance that justifies patriarchy and domestic violence within the society.

Specialty of the Act

The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act bears many special features, inter alia, providing remedy against both, physical and mental trauma experienced by women and children. Remedies for physical violence can be obtained via the Penal Code, but there is no other law except this Act that provides relief against mental trauma. Empirical evidence shows that domestic violence in the long term can generate depression and other mental disorders, especially, in children. The Act has taken due action to protect the future generation, which is a very positive aspect.

It is also tragic to see that many girls face inhumane methods of abuse and grievous hurt by their own father, brother or a close relative. A special feature of this Act is that it provides relief for any physical, mental or sexual violence, while enabling legal action against any person having a close relationship with the household. The Act is bound to protect the rights of any person under the age of 18 , which is a very progressive step, by the Legislature.

Another progressive feature is, that it grants relief for women who have not registered their marriage, but live in consortium. A woman who has no legal certificate of marriage is not hindered from achieving justice against a violent partner.

Be aware of your rights!

The proper knowledge of your rights will protect you from violence and suffering. Lack of income should not hinder women from exercising their inherent right to justice. The legal aid commission of Sri Lanka is willing to appear in court on behalf of women of low income and unable to hire an attorney. It is also the duty of the law enforcement authorities and social institutions to create awareness among women and encourage them to speak against the many injustices they face.

Domestic violence should not remain as part of the job description of ‘a good wife’. The court would aid one to obtain justice. The court is the upper guardian of all children, and is dedicated to work in the best interests of any child. It is a friendly aider to women, also bound to protect her privacy as a victim.