Catholic nuns are criticizing the Indian government over a law meant to protect women from domestic violence.
They say women can be prosecuted under a law that is actually meant to protect them. “This will defeat the very purpose of the law” which is aimed to protect the dignity of women,” said Sister Jessy Kurian, a Supreme Court lawyer.
The federal government’s Women and Child Development ministry told Delhi High Court that the main purpose of the law - Protection of Women against Domestic Violence - is to save women. However, the law is not solely to “protect them from male persons,” the government, said adding that “domestic violence can’t be guided by the gender of the perpetrator.”
The government’s response came when the Delhi High Court sought its response on a case of a woman challenging her estranged daughter-in-law.
The mother-in-law contended the law cannot be used to prosecute women. Courts across India have given conflicting interpretations of the law in similar cases, with some dismissing petitions against women based on the law.
Women lawyers say the government’s stand can lead to misuse of the law as it now allows even men to file petitions against domestic violence.
It could “lead to misuse of the law,’ said Sister Julie George, a lawyer with Streevani (voice of women) NGO based in Pune. In such cases women would not be protected under this law, she said.
However, women should be allowed to file complaints against women, Sister George said.
This is “the only law which protects a woman in a family or a live-in relationship” from violence. Changing its orientation would harm women, she said.
However, Sister Kurian said the law should not allow prosecution of women accepting complaints from men. She favored women filing complaints against women under the law.