Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Monday, June 1, 2009

State Government Must Introduce a Bill on Domestic Violence in the J&K State Legislature

Rifat wonders why the Bill on domestic violence against women, passed by the Indian Parliament in 2006, is getting the cold treatment in J&K

(Rifat Kawoosa is a member of the Lawyers Collective Women's Rights Initiative (LCWRI), serving as its Legal/Advocacy Officer.)

Law and domestic violence

The law on domestic violence against women passed by the Parliament is effective from October 2006, but our legislature till date has not seen the passage of this Act. Domestic violence implies violence at home in its various forms but the legal connotation given to it by the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 defines it as ‘omission or commission of any act or conduct that harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well being of a person, any other act of threat or coercion that includes any form of physical, sexual, verbal and emotional and economic abuse’.

A very significant development recently on the subject has been made by Prof. Bashir Ahmed Dabla, Head of Department, Sociology, University of Kashmir by bringing forth an empirical research in the form of a book, ‘Domestic violence against women in the Kashmir valley’. As we all know that domestic violence is found in our society as well.

In the following passages wherein some highlights of the domestic violence Act will be given, the readers will understand how the Act has recognized all the possible relations in the ambit of this problem as the stake holders.

In the recent past, our valley has witnessed a number of cases of domestic violence, be it in the heart of the city at Zaina Kadal or in the villages of Chadura and Pulwama. These instances have resulted into deaths of girls who were tortured physically as well as mentally by their husbands and in-laws either for dowry or for bearing a girl child.

Women have been traditionally considered to have adjustability/adaptability as one of their virtues irrespective of the conditions, be it in the parental or marital homes. They are conditioned to the fact that they have to compromise whatever be the circumstances particularly after marriage. Here are sown the seeds of her suffering that ultimately ripens into domestic violence. Now if we see the recent victims of domestic violence, all of them were domesticated girls. Here, if we analyze the findings of Prof. Dabla, the attainment of the role of working woman has developed a degree of jealousy among the family members of the marital side and this has contributed to the enormity and intensity of domestic violence. Now who is safe; a woman who is a submissive homely girl or a professional working woman?!

Therefore, domestic violence is a challenge to our society. If we roughly analyze our laws it will take us to some of the sections of Ranbir Penal Code. Section 498A of the RPC speaks of the cruelty by husband or relatives of husband, Section 304B speaks of dowry death. These sections are punitive in nature and a weapon in the hands of the state. I am sure that as a student of law, I and all my colleagues very well understand the fate of such cases. These either get misused during investigations for reasons known to all of us or are not properly investigated or for that matter at the stage of examination, most of the witnesses baring few turn hostile (contradict with their statements given to the police). If all this does not arise then the matter gets delayed for want of witnesses in the court baring a few of cases.

A very important issue that needs a clear mention here is that a family is and should be a priority for a man as well as a woman and attempt should be to save a family from being thrown to winds. This is because a family not only involves a man and a woman but their children, parents, and siblings as well. It cannot be denied that all of them are affected.

About the Act:

The Protection of women from domestic violence Act in contrast to the existing penal laws has opened multiple options of redress for a woman who is a victim of domestic violence. It is a civil law which is directed towards providing compensation and support to the woman. It is victim driven and not police driven. Therefore it gives more scope to a woman for direct accessibility in the court of law. It recognizes a woman’s right to reside in a shared household. It aims at provide relief to women facing domestic violence. It may be used in addition to criminal laws on cruelty. Any woman who is or has been in a domestic relationship includes wives, sisters, mothers, daughters and widows. Relief under the Act is designed to end violence immediately in the form of protection orders or stop violence orders.

Support systems in the form of residence orders providing for shelter to guard woman from being rendered homeless. Orders for monetary relief compensate loss suffered including maintenance and temporary custody orders. Protection officers are the chief implementing authorities under the Act and they most importantly serve as a link between the victim and the court by facilitating a woman’s access to court and support services. Service providers under the act which include the NGOs working for such issues provide the victim with necessary support including medical relief.

Applications under the law are to be filed before a magistrate or in any other pending proceedings. It provides for disposal of the application within 60 days. An appeal against any order of the magistrate can be filed within 30 days.

It, although being a non punitive law attracts an offence for breach of orders which carries with it an imprisonment up to 1 year or fine up to Rs 20,000 or both. An order under this law remains in force till the aggrieved woman applies for its discharge. Any order under the law can be modified or altered on an application by the aggrieved party.

Also the single window clearance system which is an inbuilt mechanism within the Act keeps open the option to a woman asking for any order pending any civil/criminal complaint.

One of the significant features of the Act is that under Section 14 of the Act, option is open to a magistrate to direct the respondent or the aggrieved person singly or jointly to undergo counseling with any member of a service provider who possesses such qualifications/experience. This has been mentioned in the previous passages as a family savior tool with the courts.

The Act has succeeded in many cases in dealing with the menace of domestic violence particularly in the state of Andhra pradesh as has been mentioned in the reports of Lawyers Collective, Women’s Rights Initiative. It has also a negative side to it wherein the lack of proper implementation and technical difficulties are creating hurdles as was pointed out recently at a press release of the Hand Book on domestic violence in Delhi.

Conclusively I insist that domestic violence is with us today, so why not to end this menace by proper passage and effective implementation of the Domestic Violence Act and last but not the least bring a change within ourselves and the system by changing our attitude towards the role of women and families in our society.

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