Feb 24, 2023

Understanding Intimate Partner Violence Laws in India

Guest post by Pallavi Mohan

Recently, two gruesome incidents of intimate partner violence have shaken the country. In both cases, the male partner inflicted severe violence on the female partner, resulting in the latter’s death. Let us understand how Indian law addresses Intimate Partner Violence.

What is Intimate Partner Violence?

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) refers to violence that occurs in romantic relationships. This can include violence against a current or former married spouse, live-in partner or dating partner. 

What are the most common forms of IPV?

  • Physical acts of violence such as domestic violence and other acts of physical cruelty, such as slapping, shoving, or intimidating with a weapon. 
  • Sexual violence such as marital rape, sexual assault by a former or current partner, or forceful sexual intercourse. 
  • Emotional or psychological abuse such as constant dowry demands, being humiliated in front of others or having someone close threatened. 
  • Harassment such as being stalked by a current or former partner, receiving unwanted phone calls, messages, or pornographic material from a current or former partner, and voyeurism. 

IPV is fairly common in India; in fact, the 2019-2021 National Family Health Survey concludes that 31.5% of Indian women have experienced physical or sexual violence at least once since the age of 15. These results do not include women who have faced emotional abuse or experienced other forms of harassment from their partners. If we also include these numbers, the percentage of women who have experienced IPV at least once in their lives is likely to be much higher. 

How does Indian law address IPV?

In the past, Indian laws have mainly focussed on domestic violence between married partners as a form of IPV. In 1983, the Parliament introduced Section 498-A in the Indian Penal Code, which punishes men who inflict violence on their wives. Over the years, Indian courts have expanded the scope of domestic violence to include all forms of physical, emotional and psychological abuse. It is notable, however, that Indian law still does not recognise marital rape or forceful sexual acts on a wife as a crime.

In 2005, the parliament enacted the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (DV Act). This act, for the first time, recognised other types of romantic relationships such as a relationship between two people who live or have lived together in a shared household, through marriage or as live-in partners. Under the Act, the definition of domestic violence includes:

  • Physical abuse, such as acts causing injury or bodily pain, endangering the life or health of the woman, or using criminal intimidation or force.
  • Sexual abuse, which includes any sexual act that abuses, humiliates, degrades, or otherwise violates the dignity of a woman.
  • Verbal and emotional abuse such as insulting, ridiculing, humiliating, name calling or threatening to cause harm to anyone close to the woman.
  • Economic abuse such as: 
    • depriving a woman of economic or financial resources, 
    • disposing of household effects and moveable/immovable assets, 
    • restricting continued access to resources or facilities, 

which the woman has an interest in or is entitled to use. 

Indian law, however, does not provide similar protections from violence to women who are in casual relationships or who are not in live-in relationships with their partners or who face violence from former partners. In case of abuse, they can find recourse only in the general provisions of the Indian Penal Code and other statutes such as:

  • Causing hurt and grievous hurt (Sections 319 to 326)
  • Causing grievous hurt by using an acid such as acid attacks (Sections 326A and 326B)
  • Use of criminal force or Assault (Section 350, 351 and 352)
  • Outraging the modesty of a woman (Sections 354 and 509)
  • Sexually harassing a woman (Section 354A) or forcing a woman to disrobe (Section 354B)
  • Voyeurism (Section 354C) 
  • Stalking (Section 354D)
  • Cyber Stalking such as sending obscene or pornographic electronically (Sections 67A and 67B of the IT Act)
  • Rape (Sections 375 and 376), forceful sexual intercourse by a husband on his wife during separation (Section 376B), Gang Rape (Section 376D)

Related Weekly Posts

February 23 2022

Understanding the Law on Live-In Relationships in India

The Allahabad High Court has granted police protection to a couple who were in a live-in relationship. The Court said that a live-in relationship between two adults who are consenting and above the age of 18 is not an offence in India.   What are Live-in relationships? Live-in relationships are relationships where two adults above […]
Read More >

August 12 2022

Darlings: A Portrayal of Domestic Abuse

Guest Post by Pallavi Mohan   “Darlings”, a new Netflix movie, takes a dark yet comic lens on domestic abuse. Set in a Mumbai chawl, it is the story of an alcoholic husband who frequently gets drunk and beats up his wife for big and small, real and imagined incidents. Despite receiving support from her […]
Read More >

March 04 2022

How does Indian law punish rape?

Trigger Warning: This explainer contains information on physical violence and sexual violence which some readers may find disturbing.   The Madhya Pradesh High Court has confirmed the death sentence as punishment for two men held guilty of gang raping an eight year old girl.   Which law punishes rape in India?   The law on […]
Read More >