On January 10th, a 19-year-old teenager shared an incident of domestic violence in Mumbai on the city-based website Safecity, which encourages citizens to report all kinds of violence. “My friend has an abusive household where her mother was always beaten up. It hasn’t changed and due to lockdown, things had gotten worse as they couldn’t get out,” she said. Like her, many others have been reporting and sharing incidents of violence on the website. So far in 2022, over 20 citizens have reported domestic violence cases in Mumbai anonymously on Safecity.
Indeed, domestic violence cases in Mumbai have risen. In the last five years, for women between 18 and 49 years, domestic violence in the city jumped from 21.3% in 2015-16 to over 25% in 2019-20, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS). While these numbers are still below the national average, it is imperative for survivors to understand due process for their protection, and the protection of others who could go through similar situations in the future.
What the law says
Under Section 3 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, domestic violence includes causing any harm or injury to the safety, life, health or well-being of the aggrieved woman by committing any physical, sexual, verbal or economic abuse. It also includes any injury or harm done to the aggrieved woman or her relative with the intention of coercing her or any person to meet unlawful dowry demand. Threats to commit violence are also covered under this definition.
Under the Act, any woman who is or has been, in a domestic relationship with the respondent, and who alleges to have been subjected to any act of domestic violence by the respondent, can file a complaint.
A relative, neighbour, or social worker is allowed to file a complaint on behalf of the aggrieved person. This is beneficial when a survivor cannot file a complaint due to vulnerabilities to further violence.
Conditions that trigger domestic violence
In 2013, a community-based cross-section study found significant associations between domestic violence and age, education, alcoholism and duration of partnership. Conducted over six months in the urban slum of Malwani, Malad, the proportion of domestic violence was found to be 36.9% as per the response of the participants in the study. The most common form of violence was verbal in 87 (86.1%) cases followed by physical in 64 (63.4%).
Where to file a complaint and how
The Act proposes appointments of Protection Officers in each district of India, who would facilitate the reporting of domestic violence. The PO can be the first point of contact for survivors and is an important link between survivors and law enforcement officers. The officers, generally women, are appointed by the state government. They guide survivors through legal procedure, help them access medical services and shelter if required.
The PO is also required to prepare a ‘Domestic Incident Report’ (DIR) for the Magistrate, seek relief from the Magistrate on behalf of the survivor and forward the report to the concerned police station within the survivor’s jurisdiction.
Names of Protection Officers in Mumbai can be found here.
Filing a case at a police station
A survivor can directly file an FIR (First Information Report) at the nearest police station. The police are required to respond to every domestic violence complaint, whether the complainant is a survivor or not. The complaint should be written down by them or the survivor, and the complainant should keep a copy of the recorded complaint.
Read more: Explainer: How to file an FIR in Mumbai?
What the written complaint should include
- Relationship and gender of the parties involved.
- Names of the parties.
- Date, place and time the alleged incident occurred.
- Information relating to the history of domestic violence between the parties.
- The date and time when the complaint was received.
- The type of abuse and the weapon used, if any.
If the incident in question does not fall under the area (jurisdiction) of a police station the survivor has visited, then a zero-FIR can be registered. An FIR can be filed in any police station, and later, it can be transferred to the appropriate police station.
In December 2021, the Bombay High Court passed a judgement stating that a survivor cannot file a case from an area she is only visiting, as it is not the same as a ‘permanent/temporary place of residence’. The Court was hearing the domestic violence case of a Hyderabad-based woman. Justice SK Shinde observed that filing complaints in any area that one briefly visits could lead to abuse of law.
Support measures for survivors
- Monetary relief: The survivor is entitled to maintenance and medical expenses. Respondents can be directed to meet the expenses incurred and losses suffered. A PO can assist a survivor with obtaining necessary measures. Under Section 20 of the Domestic Violence Act, an order for monetary relief can be passed by the court. The compensation should be fair and consistent with the standard of living to which the survivor is accustomed.
- Compensation order: The aggrieved person can be compensated for the injuries sustained including emotional distress and physical injuries.
- Protection: After the survivor files a complaint or approaches the police, a magistrate can pass orders to stop the offender from committing violence towards the survivor or interacting with them.
- Residence: Every woman has the right to reside in the shared household without the fear of being evicted. The respondent can be restrained from entering the area or room allotted to the survivor and/or from having any type of communication.
List of helpline numbers in Mumbai
- Dial 100 (emergency police number)
- Dial 103 (Nirbhaya Squad helpline)
- Dial 1091(emergency helpline number for women)
- Dial +91 91675 35765 or +91 98330 52684 (Sneha NGO)
Organisations in Mumbai to help women regarding domestic violence cases
SNEHA – A non-profit organisation that works on social issues related to women and children. They also focus on public health and safety systems. Their work in urban settlements and aim at reducing maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity, child malnutrition and gender-based violence.
Safecity – A platform that empowers individuals, communities, police and city governments to create safer public and private spaces. With the help of technology, they collect and examine crowdsourced, anonymous reports of sexual violence by identifying patterns. This data enables citizens, communities, civic authorities, police, researchers and policymakers to create safer spaces by increasing awareness, public accountability, and improving policies.
Stand Up Against Violence – The website is developed by Mumbai-based Akshara Centre, a women’s resource centre. Their programmes empower women to know their rights, live without threats of violence within their homes and communities.
This explainer is part of a series on ‘Explainers and Information Resources for Mumbaikars’ supported by a grant from the A.T.E. Chandra Foundation.