//Drunk's wife tests domestic violence law

Drunk's wife tests domestic violence law

Sat Oct 28, 2006

CHENNAI, India (Reuters) – A battered wife in Tamil Nadu had her husband arrested for abuse on Saturday, testing a new law aimed at protecting millions of women from domestic violence.

The act came into force on Oct. 26 and recognises all forms of abuse against women, including physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic abuse, and offers added protection and compensation to victims.

Police said in the first case to be filed under the law, a 47-year-old drunk was arrested after he broke his wife's nose with an umbrella because she refused to give him money for alcohol in the town of Tirunelveli, 600 km south of Chennai.

"She suffered a nasal fracture and required hospitalisation," said R. Dinakaran, Tirunelveli's deputy police commissioner.

Dinakaran said the victim, a 37-year-old school teacher, filed the complaint after years of physical abuse from her alcoholic husband. The new law gives victims rights over their abuser's assets as well as penalising offenders.

Activists said the law could help millions of women, many of whom accept abuse by husbands or male relatives as normal in India's patriarchal society.

"This (law) is most needed and should have been implemented a long time ago since we even have a law for cruelty against animals," said Jhansirani Balakrishna from the All-India Democratic Women's Association.

"Beating up the woman has been taken for granted in the Indian society for generations. It was even condoned as a necessary practice for correcting an erring woman at home."

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 155,552 crimes committed against women last year, 68,810 of which were considered to be domestic violence such as dowry deaths and cruelty by husbands and family.

Women's right activists say the real figure could be 10 times greater as many cases go unreported because victims are unwilling to speak out, fearing the shame and stigma of being a divorced or separated woman in India's traditional society.