It has been more than a year since the Coronavirus pandemic hit the world and became a global health crisis. One of the major concerns that came along the COVID-19 was the increased cases of domestic violence in India. While several academicians and scholars have analysed the problem of domestic violence against women, domestic violence against men, which is not a rarity in India, remains a neglected issue.
Domestic Violence refers to the act of violence, in a domestic household by virtue of the domestic relationship between the partners. Such violence can be emotional, physical, sexual or financial. The general meaning of domestic violence does not confine it to protect any particular gender, however, this term is predominantly used to mean an act of violence against women. The Indian legislation on domestic violence, that is the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (the Act) was formed with the intention keeping to protect women from the different kinds of violence they suffered, by virtue of their shred households.
However, are women the only ones who suffer from domestic violence? The exclusion of men from the purview of a legislation that curbs domestic violence is against the fundamental principles of the Constitution of India, that is Articles 14, right to equality and 21, right to life and personal liberty.
The Gendered Perspective of Domestic Violence
Section 2(a) of the Act defines an aggrieved person as any woman who is or has been in a domestic relationship and has been subjected to any act of domestic violence. This means that the Act at the very onset makes it clear that it is for the protection of women. Further, Section 3 of the Act lays down what constitutes an act of domestic violence against the aggrieved person that is a woman.
Men have no protection from domestic violence under this Act or under any separate legislation in India. Rather, the bitter truth is that domestic violence against men is not considered as a serious matter by the society and even the lawmakers have failed to give this matter due importance and recognition.
Surveys and Reports on Domestic Violence Against Men
There is dearth of discussions on the issue of domestic violence against men. There are hardly any case studies and surveys on this matter. However, the following surveys and reports are enough to highlight the urgency to include men under the protection of this Act or under a separate Act that protects them from such violence.
1. A Cross-Sectional Study from Haryana, India
A case study was conducted in the town of Rohtak, Haryana by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) on domestic violence against men. A total of 1,000 males were personally interviewed by trained male interviewers for the collection of the data. The result of the case study highlighted that 524 males, which is an alarming 52.4 % of the total interviewees, faced domestic violence. This violence was inflicted upon them either by any female (52.4%), the spouse (51.5%) or any female other than the spouse (4.2%). Among the different types of violence, the most common was emotional violence, faced by 51.6% of the males, followed by physical violence (6%) and sexual violence (0.4%).
2. Save Family Foundation Survey
A survey was conducted by the Save Family Foundation, which is an NGO that works for men’s rights. The survey was done through random sampling method and involved 1,650 male interviewees, aged between 15-49 years of age. Out of 1650, 1617 men faced domestic violence, that included economic violence (32.8%), physical violence (25.2%), emotional violence (22.2%) and sexual violence (17.7%).
3. National Crime Bureau’s Record, 2019
The National Crime Bureau Record’s 2019 Report on suicide rates in men and women highlights an alarming ratio of 70.2 : 29.8, with around 98,000 male suicides and 41,000 female suicides. The Report shows that out of these total number of suicides, 66.7 per cent were committed by married men and women. Further, there is not a huge gap between the deaths of men and women due to marriage related problems; 3,382 males and 4,213 females committed suicide due to problems in their marriage.
Suggestions and Solutions
In the United Kingdom the legislation on domestic violence is the Domestic Violence, Crime and Violence Act, 2004. The scope of this legislation is very broad as it provides protection to both men and women from domestic violence. Further, the Act extends to homosexual couples who also, can seek protection under the said Act.
Similarly, in the United States of America, the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorisation Act, 2005 extends the protection to males as the Act defines a dating partner and dating violence which is inclusive of women, men and also the third gender.
The prevalence of domestic violence found in the study from Haryana, that is 51.5 per cent, was found to be higher than the data collected for domestic violence under Partner Abuse State of Knowledge Project (PASK) from the U.S., U.K and Canada. Despite this the Indian lawmakers have failed to address this issue.
The author proposes the following suggestions to tackle address this issue :
(i) An amendment in the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 to include men within the definition of an aggrieved person, or
(ii) Insertion of a specific provision in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 to include different forms of domestic violence against men.
The Hon’ble Apex Court in its landmark judgement in National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, held that everyone regardless of sexual identity or gender identity is entitled to the enjoyment of privacy without arbitrary or unlawful interference as well as protection from unlawful attacks on their honour and reputation. Though, it is a fact that many more women than men have been subjected to domestic violence, since time immemorial, this however, should not confine the legislation to protect only one gender. Article 14 of the Constitution lays down the equality principle. It says, the state shall not deny to any person equality before the law and equal protection of the laws, within the territory of India. When both men and women are the victims of violence in their domestic households, isn’t the exclusion of men from protection under this legislation, a violation of the equality principle? Furthermore, an act of violence in any form, is a crime that harms not just the physical being of a person, but hinders his/her right to life with dignity, which is a fundamental right of every citizen in India. Just as an act of violence destructs the dignity of a woman, so is the case with all those men who face such violence, and whose stories, in many cases, are left unheard.
The inclusion of men under this legislation should not be considered as a dilution of women’s rights rather it is a necessary step to make this gendered legislation, open to the men who are being subjected to domestic violence by their partners.
[The author is a second year law student at the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab.]
 Manob Das, Arijit Das, & Ashish Mandal, Examining the Impact of lockdown (due to COVID-19) on Domestic Violence (DV) : Evidences from India, 54 Asian Journal of Psychiatry (2020).  Eshwar Ranjana, International Men’s Day : I am Men who faced Domestic Abuse, Nov 19, 2019, https://www.thequint.com/news/india/stories-male-victims-domestic-violence-india.  The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (ACT NO. 43 OF 2005).  INDIA CONST. art 14.  Id, art 21.  Supra 2, at S. 2(a).  Supra 2, S 3.  Jagbir Singh Malik & Anuradha Nadda, A Cross-Sectional Study of Gender-based violence against men in the Rural Area of Haryana, India, Indian Journal of Community Medicine (2019).  Anant Kumar, Domestic Violence Against Men in India : A Perspective, Mar 2012, : https://www.researchgate.net/publication/224774507.  National Crime Records Bureau, Crime in India, 2019, Ministry of Home Affairs.  The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act, 2004 (United Kingdom).  The Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorisation Act, 2005, Pub. L. No. 109-162, 119 Stat. 2960.  Supra 7. PASK is the Partner Abuse State of Knowledge Project, which is world’s largest database on domestic violence.  National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India (2014) 5 SCC 438.