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Redefining Domestic Violence: Recognizing Male Victims in India

Domestic violence has been mostly related to female victims, sidelining the abuse experienced by male victims. The locution "domestic violence/abuse' has been encapsulated as a gendered-specific term, making it harder for society and even legislation to address that males are also victims of these abuses and that it is not a crime that is particular to any one gender.

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviour in any relationship that one partner uses to gain power and control over another intimate partner; domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, and Psychological by means of threat of actions or other patterns of behaviour that influence another partner within an intimate partner relationship, domestic violence victims can be of any gender race, sexual orientation, religion, sex or gender identity.

However, legislation only covers female victims of domestic violence, and there still exists a vacuum of law for protecting male victims. There is a need to burst the bubble of misconceptions that men cannot be victims of domestic violence and address the loopholes present and the urgent need for gender-neutral law.

Manoj Kumar, a resident of Bangalore, made a devastating decision to end his life, tormented by his wife and mother-in-law, underscores a critical reality: male victims of domestic abuse are left unprotected by the law.[i] Yet, there exists a gap in legislation regarding the protection of male victims of domestic abuse/violence. The term Domestic Violence refers to an act or pattern of abusive, coercive, harmful, forceful, violent, or threatening acts or words inflicted by members of the family or household on an individual; mainly, domestic violence involves married or cohabiting couples.

Whenever we hear the term "Domestic Violence," there is a misconception that strikes our mind that the victims are generally women; it is considered as a gendered crime perpetrated by men against women, even though one-third of the domestic abuse victims are men.[ii] When a male victim complains about domestic violence inflicted upon him, there arises a common question: Can men be victims of Domestic Violence/abuse? Men are often overlooked as victims of domestic violence.

As males have dominated Indian society for a long time, people find it hard to believe that males can be victims of domestic violence, too. There are many reasons for society to believe that men cannot be victims of domestic violence because society assumes that men are more robust and challenging to cry or if they ask for help, it is considered humiliating or against the pride or status of the family and may cause them discomfort and the list goes on. Furthermore, men who attempt to report domestic abuse to the police and ask for assistance are typically informed that they are unable to assist them since there are no laws.

Beyond Gender

Men also live in a shared household, yet they are not considered victims of domestic violence; stereotypes such as men are more violent than women prevail. It is not the sex of a person that is the deciding factor of humility and gentleness, but apparently, we do not have any laws recognizing this mere fact; society and the authorities fail to recognize it.
  1. According to a survey of 1000 married men (aged 21 to 49) in rural communities of Haryana, 52.4% of married men are affected by domestic violence [iii].
  2. The most prevalent form of marital or domestic violence is Emotional abuse (51.6%), followed by physical abuse at second (6%)[iv].
  3. According to the National Statistics figures, one in the three victims of domestic abuse is male, equating to 699,000 men 21/22 (1.671m women) [v].
  4. According to the research titled "Prevalence and risk factors of physical violence against husbands," evidence from India 2023 published by Cambridge University Press revealed that in India, spousal violence against men stands at 29 per 1000.[vi] The proportion of currently married women committing spousal violence against their husbands varied from 2 per 1000 in Sikkim to 90 per 1000 in Tamil Nadu in NFHS-4[vii].
  5. Indian wives ranked third in the world in beating their husbands. Egypt was the first, followed by the United Kingdom [viii].
Factors influencing the reluctance of male victims to report domestic violence incidents can be the notion about male strength that men are generally considered physically stronger than women; hence, there is a preconceived notion that men cannot be victims of domestic violence as they can resist violence easily. Society expects men to be emotionally stronger and good at hiding their feelings, which results in feeling ashamed or embarrassed to disclose their experiences, fearing that they may be judged and considered less masculine or the lack of legislation that could provide them with relief.

Male Victims Of Domestic Violence: Courses Of Action And Core Areas:

India as a country has addressed many loopholes in the law, recently repealing the laws that have governed India since the 1860s, but still failed to recognize males as a victim of domestic violence, hanging victims of male domestic violence in between; there exist no laws protecting male victims of domestic violence; only recourse a man can take is through specific indirect measures such as if the individual is treated with some cruelty after the solemnization of marriage.

The petitioner can seek Divorce under section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act[ix]; there is no direct measure for a male victim to look upon for relief, unlike women having domestic violence act of 2005[x]and sections such as 498(A) which directly provide women with recourse.

I.P.C. also contains some provisions that the victim can use to get some relief, like Section 319(hurt). Section 319 deals with bodily harm; whoever causes bodily harm, pain, or infirmity to any person is said to cause hurt. Section 320 (grievous injury), and Section 323 (punishment for causing voluntarily hurt), which are some of the basic general measures male victims can take if they have been caused hurt or inflicted any injury, and Section 193, which will help if the aggrieved has seen any false evidence been lodged against him. He can complain under this section; it punishes false evidence.

While these are some gender-neutral measures a victim can take irrespective of gender, women in Indian society have direct measures that they can seek to get relief while males are deprived of the same. The problem here doesn't lie with women having direct measures; instead, men have no laws that even recognize or talk about men being victims of domestic violence; the only possible way they can seek help is by hook and crook.

Gender-Biased Laws And A Need For Gender-Neutral Law:

The Parliament of India enacted the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act on 26 October 2006 to protect women from domestic abuse. Section 2(f) of the Act[xi] defines a domestic relationship as a relationship between two people sharing the same household and living together or having lived together through marriage, blood kinship, or family members and living in relationships.

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, as the extended title suggests, is an act that is solely made for the safeguarding of women from domestic violence; the Act completely ignores that even men can be victims too; there is no umbrella law under which male victims of domestic violence are safeguarded with, the Act covers only one gender excluding the others of being a victim for the same the Act is highly gender biased the relief and protection provided under this Act by ensuring protection officers, monetary reliefs, and compensation orders are highly women-centric, these remedies could have been under a comprehensive gender-neutral law.

The legislation does not provide males with the most basic relief of saving themselves from the aggressor, keeping them away, unlike women who are provided with a protection or a restriction order. India is a democratic country that talks about development and gender equality, but the legislation fails to secure men from the violence inflicted upon them by their female counterparts.

Section 498A of I.P.C.

This section talks about cruelty done to a woman by her husband or his relatives. Under this section, cruelty is defined as "any wilful conduct that is such that it is likely to provoke the woman to commit suicide or to endanger her life seriously. It explains that a man can only be held liable for practicing violence against his wife; there is no provision in the section that penalizes women for the same. There is no clause or sort of legislation relief provided under this section that protects male victims and penalizes women for the domestic abuse inflicted on their counterparts.

In addition to being against Indian law, domestic violence against women is also considered as a violation of human rights while men are penalized for the same; when it comes to men being victims of the same crime, they are denied basic reliefs and, in return, are also often faced with stigmas and questions such as Can men also be victims of domestic violence? Article 15 of the Indian constitution [xii] forbids discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, gender, or place of birth. Still, the legislation discriminates against men being victims of violence in the shared household by not having enough adequate measures.

The legislation does not address this. At the same time, there exists a big loophole: a lack of awareness between the victims and society as a whole. Most countries across the world, like New Zealand, Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Australia, have comprehensive gender-neutral domestic violence legislation that applies equally to men and women, providing protection and aid to all the victims irrespective of gender it's high time that the Indian legislation stops looking at domestic violence as a gender-based crime.

Need For Gender-Neutral Laws:

By looking at the current legal scenario, the existing laws in India, the only protection given for domestic violence crimes are to women, while men have no such laws. Section 498-A of I.P.C. and Section 3 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005[xiii] only held men liable for the crime, and there exists no rule that holds women liable for the same. These gender-biased laws create a presupposition that only men are the perpetrators of domestic violence, acquitting the women before even considering and giving a presumption that they are innocent. While there are laws that can be used by men indirectly to get relief but that are very general in nature.

It doesn't consider the fact that men are victims of domestic violence. India is a country that promotes gender equality, and a gender-neutral domestic violence law will foster the standards and India's policy of gender equality. The gender-neutral laws will make sure that all accusations are treated in a fair and equitable manner.

While it is always a good idea for male victims of domestic violence to look forward to the support the I.P.C. provides, the absence of inclusion of males in legislation akin to the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act raises questions about equality before the law (Article 14)[xiv].

Enshrined in the constitution of India that reads as the state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India this makes a necessity for equal protection for everyone regardless of the gender when facing crimes such as domestic violence that's not specific to a particular gender, the gender-neutral law that includes both men and women would provide with a dedicated law that will provide a comprehensive framework and would restrict to the crime of solely domestic abuse such as protection order or a restraint order that is covered under protection of Women from Domestic violence Act.

India as a country takes every possible way to talk and put forth policy promoting gender equality, but without saying that most of the time it is for the women or rights for women or proposing legislation that safeguards women, it goes without saying that women have and are still suffering by the male perpetrators and need to be protected for the same but at the same time we cannot be ignorant of the fact that men are suffering too. The term gender equality is seen in the pretext of women, and the whole purpose is diluted; the men aren't left with any safeguards and are still on the hook.

It's high time the term domestic violence is no longer related to a particular gender but rather considered spousal violence and must not be differentiated due to gender. The words 'men or women' need to be replaced by the common word 'persons', 'husband or wife' with 'spouse.' It would make every individual equal in the eyes of the law without any discrimination of the sexes.

In essence, the comprehensive analysis calls for a holistic approach to addressing domestic violence, recognizing the diverse experiences of victims irrespective of gender. It urges a re-evaluation of existing laws, the implementation of safeguards, and a broader societal shift to foster a more compassionate and equitable environment for all individuals affected by domestic violence.

  1. Techie ends life, names wife, mom-in-law, T.O.I., (Apr 10, 2013, 04:58),
  2. Statistics on Male victims of Domestic Abuse, Mankind Initiative,
  3. Aparjita Chattopadhyay "et al.", Prevalence and risk factors of physical violence against husbands: evidence from India, J. Biosoc. Sci., 31st Aug, 2023, at 2.
  4. Malik, J.S. & Nadda, A., A Cross-Sectional Study of Gender-Based Violence against Men in the Rural Area of Haryana, India, Indian j. Community Med., 44(1), 35-38 (2019).
  5. Office for National Statistics, (2021-2022)
  6. Aparjita Chattopadhyay "et al.", Prevalence and risk factors of physical violence against husbands: evidence from India, J. Biosoc. Sci., 31st Aug, at 6.
  7. Zeeshan Mahmood, India women ranked third in beating their husbands, GVS, Feb 8, 2018, at 1.
  8. Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, � 13, No. 25, 1955, (India).
  9. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, No. 43, Acts of Parliament, 2005 (India).
  10. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, � 2(f), No. 43, Acts of Parliament, 2005 (India).
  11. INDIA CONST. art. 15.
  12. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, � 3, No. 43, Acts of Parliament, 2005 (India).
  13. INDIA CONST. art. 14.

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