It has been fifteen years since the DV Act came into force and the courts are yet to settle questions that are crucial for its implementation. The improper understanding of domestic violence has led the courts to constantly deliberate as to whether the DV proceedings as civil or criminal, while forgetting that the legislation is relief-oriented.
With utmost respect to the Supreme Court, it is absolutely incorrect to state that domestic violence is gender-neutral. It is not. The world over, a vast majority of domestic violence is experienced by women at the hands of men. It is not a random event of violence but is a consequence and a cause of women’s inequality and is linked to the discrimination and devaluing of women. As per the National Crime Records Bureau, reported cases of domestic violence in India went up from 50,703 in 2003 to 1,18,866 in 2013. These are all cases of domestic violence against men. The U.K. Violent Crime and Sexual Offences study of 2011-2012 reported that 80 per cent of offenders in domestic or sexual violence were male.
The gruesome gang rape in Delhi in December 2012 re-ignited popular demands for fast-track courts to be established to conduct speedy trials in cases of sexual violence against women and on August 13, 2013, the Government of Karnataka passed an order (G.O. No.74 LCE 2013, dated 13.08. 2013) directing 10 fast track courts to be set up in Karnataka solely to try cases of rape and sexual assault against women. CLPR conducted a detailed study of the setup and working of these fast track courts.
On the 8th of November 2013, CLPR hosted Chitra Balakrishnan who presented her research paper titled “Understanding gender and judging through residence orders in Karnataka Trial Courts – A discourse analysis”.
A law on sexual harassment at workplace has been one of the most awaited and anticipated laws since the landmark ruling of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, (1997) 6 SCC 241 where the Supreme Court observed that sexual harassment at workplace constituted a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution. Making the above observation, the Court in an unprecedented move, proceeded to lay down guidelines that were to be followed in all workplaces until a suitable domestic law is provided for by the legislature. Another remarkable and novel feature of the judgment was its inclusion of the private sector apart from the public sector in its direction for employers to establish sufficient preventive and remedial systems in the workplace for female employees.