Bringing in gender as a differentiating factor between the victim and the aggressor in any form of violence, particularly domestic violence is not justified. The society which has always been in a set pattern of hierarchy where men have been superior which has led to the mindset where they cannot face any kind of physical, mental, psychological, sexual and emotional violence in their personal lives. The matters related to the domestic violence of a male person is hardly reported due to there being a prevalent fear of getting mocked by others and even though if it gets registered, the laws are so stringent and have been made in the way which either directly or indirectly tends to favor women.
Abusing, torturing, violating someone’s rights are nowhere a sign of superiority and in a country, where laws are progressing at such a positive rate. There is hence a need to take into consideration the abuse and violence which a male might have been suffering at his home, workplace or any other place. Even whenever the laws related to domestic violence have been framed, the framers of the concerned legislation were not at all bothered for men who are victims of domestic violence. The Prevention of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (hereinafter “PWDVA”) was then enacted to make the way easier for female victims of domestic abuse and to address their grievances at an early basis.
The concept of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is very much relevant when it comes to the reason as to why the issues of those men have not been taken seriously who have suffered domestic violence. There has always been a common and prominent gender stereotyping where a villain will always be a male and a female will always be a victim. Even though IPV is different from domestic violence, where, in the former, the abuse takes place in a very intimate relationship and it can only be done by the partners, whereas in the latter, the abuse can be done by any family member on the other. .
Situation in India
Judicial precedents have contributed significantly in broadening the Indian jurisprudence in this regard, one of which is the case of, Harsora v. Harsora, in which the Court widened the definition of Respondent under Section 2 (q). The word ‘adult male’ has been removed and minors and women have also been included. It clearly shows that the idea of a female being the abuser in domestic violence cases has been taken into consideration, whereas the situation where a male is getting abused by a female still seems to be a far-fetched idea, where there is a need to have some laws.
The society, which has been conservative since ages is now shifting towards the liberal era, but still, in a country like India, it is difficult for a man to report a case of abuse which has led to insufficiency in information of such violence. Non-reportage of such crimes is also because of the existing notion of superiority, masculinity and chauvinism attached with the word ‘male’. The fallacy of hasty generalisation of men being perpetrators has always been an easier task than addressing the grievances of those male sufferers.
Whosoever suffers any kind of violence, it is directly leading to the violation of their basic human rights and the situation gets even worsened when there are no such laws to protect the sufferers in a country like India.
India is also a party and signatory to the UDHR, ICCPR, ICESCR. Under the Indian Constitution, India is obligated to make laws in accordance with the provisions of such statutes. It talks about the equality status of both men and women, provided that there should be equality among equals. When the issue of equality arises, it does not matter as to what percentage of people are suffering violence in their respective genders. What needs to be taken into consideration is that if there is an infringement of basic rights, which needs to be protected by introducing the laws if there is not any in that regard.
According to the data released by the National Family Health Survey, there have been instances where a male has been abused either by his wife or her family members. Whenever we talk about domestic violence, it becomes obvious that the abuse is taking place in a marital relationship, where, in the Indian culture, marriage is not only a union of 2 individuals, but also an amalgamation of two different families. So, if the female can suffer abuse from her husband and his family or any of his relatives, then, similarly, men also face harassment from the relatives of his wife and if somehow, they fail to comply with the demands, then it becomes easier to drag men into the case of dowry harassment and so on.
In 2013, the Apex Court, in the case of K Srinivas Rao v. D.A. Deepa observed that false claims by the wife lead to extreme mental cruelty to the husband. Further, in the case of Rajesh Sharma v. State of Uttar Pradesh, it was ruled that men need protection in the situation where women are making unsubstantiated false domestic harassment claims. These imply that the Apex Court has identified them as the victims in domestic violence cases but on a very rare occasion. Cruelty sees no gender. Even though men were not directly targeted but the harassment they face, be it physical, mental, or psychological in situations where they are dragged to the court for doing literally nothing.
Statistics and Legal Remedies
When surveys were conducted in different countries like the UK, Canada and the USA, it has been found that 9% of the male population, which is around 1.4 million of men, have experienced any kind of partner abuse in the UK. Whereas in Canada, the observation has been quite surprising where there are equal proportions of men and women who have reported as the victim of spousal violence. In the USA, it has been found that male IPV victims are frequently kicked, grabbed, slapped, kicked or choked by their partners. While representing the data, there is no intention to compare the situation of both the male and female sufferers but to highlight the situation where there is constant abuse in a relationship and the matter has been taken seriously at a larger level.
Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter “IPC”) and the PWDVA, 2005, deal with domestic violence as a concept, but these laws have been enacted with an intention to protect the women from domestic violence. Taking this into consideration, in Amarjit Kaur and Ors. v. Jaswinder Kaur, the Court has observed that, “It has become a common practice to use the provisions of Section 498-A, IPC, as a weapon, rather than as a shield by disgruntled wives.”
In Sushil Kumar v. Union of India, the Court has observed that, “The simplest way to harass is to get the relatives of the husband roped in under this provision even if they are bedridden grandparents of the husband or relatives living abroad for decades. Over the years, the practice of women trying to trap men with false allegations has become a weapon for them to misuse the laws under domestic violence for monetary gains.”
From the above mentioned case laws, it can be inferred that the violence need not only be physical in nature, i.e. the mental harassment is also a type of domestic violence, which has arisen in these kind of situation, where, false allegations are made by women upon her husband, which evidently results in the harassment.
During the period of lockdown, the situation in the domestic household has worsened, as, in 2020, according to the women redressal cell of the Navi Mumbai police department, 30 percent of the total complaints were filed by men against their spouses. Most of the complaints were about fights over wife not doing any kind of household chores, not cooking on time, spending too much time on social media, or having extra – marital affairs.
Domestic Violence has always affected both men and women, where both are equally violent. In such situation, it is very much possible that the reported cases will picture one side of the story, where women will be presented as weaker sex, being vulnerable to domestic violence. It, clearly, raises a concern about gender bias in reporting cases related to domestic violence. Although, where, there has not been any report generated, taking into consideration, the situation which has arisen during the pandemic, and, in the absence of such population – based estimated before and after COVID – 19 lockdown, existing reports are the only invaluable alternatives, which indicates an upswing in the violence re – victimisation globally, and, it would be early to interpolate or to link such reported cases directly with the the COVID – 19 pandemic only.
Indian laws have not addressed the situation where a male can go through domestic abuse but there are certain provisions under which a male can approach in case of abuse like Section 351, Section 352 which talks about the assault and punishment related to that. Section 319 and Section 321 talks about the hurt and the punishment of hurt. In case of a conspiracy by his spouse’s family, he can seek help under Section 120 A and Section 120 B. If the husband finds himself in the threatening position regarding the injury of body, property or reputation intending to cause him to perform any act or omission which he is not legally entitled to do can report under Section 503 of the IPC.
Since the definition of domestic violence has been given under Section 3 of the PWDVA, where it can be observed that the instances of physical, sexual, verbal and emotional, and economic abuse which have been dealt in this particular section can also be brought under the relevant sections of IPC as mentioned above. Where the law has not provided a specific remedy to the male victims, but still, there are a few available remedies.
The COVID-19 outbreak has created a very unfavourable as well as dangerous situation mostly for the victims of domestic abuse. In the situation where even there was a minuscule chance of approaching the police or the judicial system for the violence caused, the situation would have been significantly better. It can also be said that there could have been so many victims who have lost access to those moments of freedom where they used to have access to the outer world so that they can find ample opportunities to seek help either during school or work hours. The necessary and reasonable restrictions on travelling and the increased economic hardship have evidently aggravated the risk of getting harmed by the abuser with whom they are in close and frequent proximity.
Further, it is clear that if a man wants to seek remedy under the law, then only the general provisions of IPC can be made applicable as there is no specific legislation which deals with the violence suffered by men. Nobody talks about the violence and the trauma which a man might be facing because of the patriarchal thinking where men are not supposed to feel pain has eulogized and patronized the emotional castration of boys from a very tender age, which further teaches them to feel glorified about making sacrifices.
This kind of social conditioning has worked in a negative way and because of this, those who are suffering are unable to show their real condition to their closed ones, relatives and hide their scars, suffer in solitude by wearing a fake and plastic smile for the world and in front of the world. Thus, even if there are fewer men who are suffering, they need to be protected, as after all, India is a country which has always worked in the interest of the ‘minorities’.
(This article is authored by Netri Agrawal and Sanya Singh. They are 3rd and 4th year students of National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi respectively. They are keenly interested in Criminal Law and Human Rights Law)
Cite As: Netri Agrawal and Sanya Singh, ‘Can Men be Victims of Domestic Violence?’ (The Contemporary Law Forum, 20 February 2021) <https://tclf.in/2021/02/20/can-men-be-victims-of-domestic-violence> date of access.