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India: "Wife-beating diplomat" shames nation

The Anil Verma case exposes the extent to which India condones domestic abuse.

India passed legislation in 2005, called the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, that makes domestic abuse a specific crime and grants women the right to protection orders, non-molestation orders and the right to live in a shared home.

However, the act has not been effective because the government has not spent the money necessary to fully implement it, said Flavia Agnes, a leading human rights lawyer in Mumbai.

For example, the act calls for the appointment of protection officers, but that rarely happens. When officers are appointed, they are untrained in how the act works and incapable of offering much help to battered women. Similarly, most judges and lawyers have not received training in the act’s provisions.

Many police find the act a waste of time or energy and do not consider domestic abuse to be within their mandate, said the Centre for Social Research’s Amitabh Kumar. His organization does trainings with police officers about what the domestic violence act means and how to implement it.

“They are totally hostile to it,” he said, referring to the police officers. “The person who is supposed to implement it needs to believe it and know it and stand by it.”

Nonetheless, said Sharma, the law is significant because it recognizes domestic violence as a specific crime and has led to civil society groups around the country educating women about their rights.

“A law is always just the first step,” she said. “But as a first step, it’s a very important [one].”

To make further progress, Sharma and other gender specialists say India needs better monitoring of the implementation of the act, more education of women about their rights and greater sensitization of authorities to domestic violence.

Follow Hanna on Twitter: @Hanna_India