IMPACT OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ON CHILDREN IN INDIA: A SOCIO-LEGAL APPROACH
Author: Lina Parvin, III year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Indian Institute of Legal Studies, Dagapur, West Bengal
Co-author: Soham Kundu, III year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Indian Institute of Legal Studies, Dagapur, West Bengal
Domestic violence is undeniably a social issue and many studies show that most women or wives are a victim of this social menace and are affected. However, it affects the family as a whole, especially, the children. Children are the talented, young minds of a developing nation, who are also a victim or witnesses of domestic violence. Domestic violence affects a child just like the mother, it leaves them vulnerable to anger, anxiety, fear, and depression and also changes the mindset of that young person. The main objective of this paper is to understand the severity of this issue, understand the grievous impact of domestic violence on children in India, understand the grass-root level problems, study the role of legal aspects in this regard, and suggest solutions this problem. This paper is an attempt to give a comprehensive idea of the Impact of domestic violence on children, particularly in various regions of India, and the prevalent solutions to overcome this issue. To complete this paper a doctrinal way of study has been used. The authors have gone through various books and articles and accessed various websites related to this topic.
Keywords: Children, Domestic Violence, Impact, Socio-Legal approach, India.
Domestic Violence or abuse can be simplified as the pattern of various forms of abuse used by one to dominate the other. The severity of domestic violence is an issue that is much wider than the term itself. Mostly it is said that women are the victims of domestic violence or abuse but the whole family is affected by one’s dominance over the other.A child being a witness of domestic violence or in cases, a victim of such violence affects the whole childhood of that child. It’s not just the mothers who are victimized but the children are equally victimized in situations like these. In India, the effect of domestic violence and children being the witness is still normalized which shows the mindset of each person and also how the child will turn out to be in the mere future. There are many other cases where children witness such violence which results in fear, anxiety, and depression in the adolescence age.
Domestic abuse as stated is simply the abuse that shows the dominance of one over others, in a majority of the cases. Reasons can be poverty, use of substances, single parenthood, divorce, shelter placement, or simply the dominating of one party over the house.
TYPES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
There are many types of domestic abuse:
Physical Abuse: The common form of abuse that is practiced in India, includes voluntarily causing hurt or grievous hurt with or without a weapon. The reasons behind this form are either to show the dominating position or in want of dowry, etc.
Sexual Abuse: Sexual Abuse as defined in the Domestic Violence Act,2005, says that the form of abuse that humiliates the dignity of a woman. Sexual Abuse is said to take place when one without their willful consent is forced into sexual activity or intercourse. The reason behind such form of abuse is “to control the woman” and reproduction.
Emotional Abuse: emotional or psychological abuse is said to happen when one usesothers’ character, and exploits. It is mostly gender inequality abuse. It can happen in the form of jokes, brainwashing, and manipulation. Any form which causes emotional disempower is abuse.
Economic Abuse: Controlling the expenditures of one or not allowing them to spend at all. In many cases, the woman who is housewives have to depend on financial aid from their husband and that’s where the husband uses such vulnerability to control those expenses.
Neglect: When one is neglected, that is they are completely being ignored like they do notexist. Neglect is one form of abuse that overlaps with the other mentioned forms of abuse.
In all these types of violence, the victim, although are the woman, wives, and mothers but children, are the silent group of domestic violence, whether a witness or a victim themselves.
CAUSES BEHIND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
To understand the depth of such impact on children, it is important to understand the reason behind domestic violence. The reasons are:
A patriarchal society: In the 21st century, the societal norms still lie, the patriarchal mindset of people that women need no rights, no rights should be provided and that they are inferior to men, and if they try to raise their voices then using violence is the only way to stop them. The women according to the so-called belief have no opinion of their own, if they have any opinion then they are abused in various forms.
Economic Instability: India is a developing nation that still lives in poverty. It is also to be noted that the impact of COVID-19 had a huge impact on this economical condition relating to an individual and cases of domestic violence and divorce were at large. The complaints of domestic violence snowballed as 1477 complaints were registered between March 25 and May 31 in 2020 (68 days) which was more than the complaints received between March and May in the previous 10 years.
In want of dowry: one of the most famous reasons, in India domestic violence arises in want of dowry. Dowry death has been a major concern because of the majority grievousness in this case. It is not just the husband who is the attacker but it might also be the relative of the husband who abuses the wife in want of dowry.
Substance Abuse:Alcohol and drug abuse are also something that can be commonly found as a reason or cause behind domestic violence. Even children can sometimes be a victim of this domestic violence.
Psychological Disorder: A person of an unsound mind, the one who losses control due to a psychological illness can be one of the reasonsfor domestic violence.
Past Experience: A child who has seen, who has been a witness to domestic violence, growing up to be just like the father as he thinks it is important to show masculinity or to show women as inferior. This kind of behavior or mindset is a result of childhood experience, where he thinks, or what he is taught that it is something normal.
IMPACT ON CHILDREN
WHO IS A CHILD?
Article 1 of the convention on the right of children, which lays down who is a child expresses that a child is a person who is under the age of 18 years.
Domestic Violence on a Child
Domestic abuse, as mentioned is something where not only the mother but the children are equally the victim of such violence. It might result in mental traumas, like depression, and anxiety. Experience changes everything. Where one lives in fear, another sets the fear in the future. Domestic Violence and child protection is a complex area. A child is someone who needs a safe and secure environment and an openness of mind so that he can grow up well, but in such an environment even where that child is continuously witnessing domestic violence, it results in developmental problems, behavioral problems, and they carry these traumas to the adulthood also. This can even use the child serious health diseases and can developmentally condition like depression which are most common among children. COVID-19 has seen a surge in domestic violence and thus the child is a witness or victim who has been through a lot, as he has nowhere to go and has caused many troubles. They even indulge themselves in substances usages which destroy the future of that child. So, they must be some serious action taken to measure the safeguard of children as they are the neglected persons in this domestic violence.
Children who are a victim of domestic violence must have a legal safeguard. This legal provision will analyze the protection of children and safeguarding their rights:
Constitution of India
It is well known that the constitution is the main law of the land, and all laws, and statutes come under the purview of this act. There are many provisions relating to the protection of children that including Article 21A, fundamental rights that ensure free education for children aging from 6 to 14 years. The right to be protected from being abused under Article 39(e) although ensures the right for children but it is the state who needs to look upon this as this is a directive principle of state policy. Other directive principal rights include the right to be in an equal opportunity under article 39(f) and facilities to develop in a healthy and safe environment and the right to early childhood care under article 45. Most of the rights of children are included under DPSP and it is the state who looks upon this non-justiciable right.
Juvenile Justice Act, 2000
The act has provided an establishment for the child welfare committee for disposing of the matters of the child conflict with laws. The act provides for the care, protection, rehabilitation, and development of children. Not only that, but the act also enforces the establishment of observational homes for temporary reception, care, protection, and shelter homes for the children who require support.
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
The act restricts the practice of domestic violence which is common practice in Indian households. The act includes all women who can be protected from Domestic Violence. The protection of children has been overlooked in this act. Although women are the victims, it is the children who are equally the sufferer of domestic violence.
The commission for protection of the Child Rights Act, 2005, where the national commission for the protection of child rights was established in 2007. The commission works under the ministry of women and child development. The commission works to ensure that all the laws, policies, and programsalign with child rights. It works on the district level, state level, and block levels taking in ordinances with child care and child rights.
IMPACT OF COVID-19
Since the pandemic has stayed, the crisis has risen a lot. Society is still healing or trying to heal from the pandemic and fighting. Since the pandemic, even the cases of domestic violence have risen, a lot, like in India, the total complaints from women rose from 116 in the first week of March, to 257 in the final week of March.Similarly, complaints relating to the “right to live with dignity” started rising from 35 cases to 77 cases. Such cases could pertain to discrimination based on gender, class, or caste, or all three of them combined. If that is the case for women, then it will be hard to distinguish the situation in which the children have suffered. The children who cannot speak to anyone, and who are helpless have been consideredto be through a lot more than anyone.
A young mind especially when seeing a father domestically abusing his mother, leaves a mental trauma that haunts forever, and in many cases also, the children are the victims too of such violence.
Many children exposed to violence in the homeare also victims of domestic abuse. Children who witness and are a victim of domestic violence are at a greater and more serious risk not only for a short period but for a long period. Parents’ being violent in their household is the destruction to the child’s future. Children may have difficulty falling asleep, which in the teenage years can convert into insomnia, a disease that is most common among adolescent childrennowadays. They show signs of terror, signs of being frightened, they hide to stop witnessing this crime. They may feel guilty as they think that they are the reason for this happening. They are happy to be left alone, they become shy to share any of these details. They later may use substances to calm themselves. That’s what happens when the child has been neglected since childhood. A child can recover from this incident. However, it needs a tremendous amount of work to heal the child. There should be rehabilitation centers, with a more victim-centric approach, where they could help a child be settled, be comforted so that they can be healed. The workers must be trained in treating these children making them feel a safe environment. Teachers who arethe frontliner must help children by spreading awareness, making the children be comforted, and then finally handing that child over to Non-Governmental Organizations working for the rights of children. There must be a well and adequate system of foster care, and for that, a commission must be set up, that can fight for these children’srights, and can send children to foster care with proper evaluation of parents, so that it ensures the safe environment of that child, and also later be adopted.
Domestic violence, impact children on a large scale. Being a victim of domestic violence takes a lot from that child, as a whole childhood. That child could never live the life same as again. So, it is important to understand the grievousness of such an impact on a child and serious steps must be taken to ensure the safeguard of Children.
Reading, The impact of exposure to domestic violence on children and young people: A review of the literature 2008 Aggarwal & *, Domestic abuse and its impact on children - a socio-legal analysis 2021 Ibid at 2.  United Nations Human Rights, https://www.ohchr.org/ (last visited, May 20th, 2022)  Vol. 29, Kathleen J. Sternberg, Effects of Domestic Violence on Children's Behavior Problems and Depression, 1993.  Modi, M.N., Palmer, S., Armstrong, A, The Role of Violence Against Women Act in Addressing Intimate Partner Violence: A Public Health Issue. Journal of Women’s Health, 2014. The Constitution of India, 1950.  The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, Act No. 56, Act of Parliament 2000(India).  Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, Act No. 43, Act of Parliament, 2005 (India).  Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, Act No. 04, Act of Parliament, 2006 (India).  National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, https://ncpcr.gov.in/ ( last visited on May 20th, 2022)  The Hindu, https://www.thehindu.com/ ( last visited on May 20th, 2022). Ibid at 11. Office on women health, https://www.womenshealth.gov/ (last visited on May 21st, 2022).  Ibid at 13.