The Problem of Domestic Violence in India: Advances in Law and the Role of Extra-Legal Institutions

  • Sesha KethineniEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Advances in Criminology and Criminal Justice in Asia book series (PACCJA)


This chapter examines the issues of domestic violence in India. One of this chapter’s key arguments is that the problem of ending domestic violence in a society depends on its cultural perception about the status of women. During the Vedic period in India (1500–500 BCE), men and women were treated equally. Vedic women were educated, able to choose their mates, and held prominent positions. In addition, women distinguished themselves in science and learning, and even participated in philosophical debates and wrote some of the Vedic hymns. From the Smriti period (after 500 BCE), the status of women, however, began to be redefined. In the Smriti period, the most significant lawmaker was Manu. According to Manu, a woman should never be allowed to assert her independence. Girls must be in the custody of their fathers when they are young; women must be in the custody of their husbands after marriage; when a woman is a widow, she must be under the custody of her son. From the days of the Muslim conquest in India, women experienced a further deterioration of status. With the onset of modernization in India from the middle of the twentieth century, women began to be educated and began to enter the modern workforce. From the 1970s, in the context of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the spread of the global women’s movement, many new laws to criminalize domestic violence in India were enacted such as the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1986, and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) of 2005. Many notable nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on women issues were also established such as Mahila Samakhya Society (education for women’s equality; MSS), Ahmedabad Women’s Action Group (AWAG); International Center for Research for Women, Jagori (awaken women); and Society for Nutrition Education, and Health Action (SNEHA). But the sad and the alarming fact is that even after the enactment of many laws and the birth of many women NGOs, the incidence of domestic and intimate partner violence in India is still on the rise. Modernization that is based on the cultural principle of equality between men and women is still sharply conflicting with the traditional culture of the status of women in India.


Intimate Partner Violence Domestic Violence Child Marriage Wife Beating Section 498A 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Ackerson, L. K., & Subramanian, S. V. (2008). State Gender Inequality, Socioeconomic Status and Intimate Partner Violence (IVY) in India: A Multilevel Analysis. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 43(1), 81–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Basu, D. D. (2003). Constitutional Law of India (7th ed.). Nagpur, India: Wadhwa & Company.Google Scholar
  3. Bhalla, N. (2012, June 13). India Advances, But Many Women Still Trapped in Dark Ages. Thomas Reuters Foundation News. Retrieved March 1, 2016, from
  4. Bhasin, R. (2015, September 5). Domestic Violence Cases—No Harm in Mediating Without Court Order: Bombay High Court. Indian Express. Retrieved March 1, 2016, from
  5. Bhatla, N., & Rajna, A. (2008). Private Concerns in Public Discourse: Women-Initiated Community Responses to Domestic Violence. In J. Deshmukh-Ranadive (Eds.), Democracy in the family: Insights from India. New Delhi, India: Sage.Google Scholar
  6. Blackemore, C., & Jennett, S. (2001). “Purdah” In The Oxford Companion to the Body. Oxford University Press. Retrieved March 2, 2016, from
  7. Code of Criminal Procedure. (1973). (Act No. 2 of 1974). Retrieved March 6, 2016, from
  8. Dhar, R. L. (2014). Domestic Violence in Rural India: Phenomenological Study from Cultural Perspective. Marriage & Family Review, 50(6), 533–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dowry Prohibition Act. (1961). (Act No. 28 of 1961) with (Maintenance of Lists of presents to the Bride and Bridegroom) Rules, 1985. Retrieved March 6, 2016, from
  10. Duvvury, N. (2000). Domestic Violence in India: A Summary Report of a Multi-Site Household Survey. International Center for Research on Women and the Centre for Development and Population Activities. Retrieved March 6, 2016, from
  11. Forbes, G. (1996). The Cambridge History of India: Women in Modern India. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ganguly, A. (2015, February 26). Camp Courts No Use for Victims. Orissa Post’. Retrieved March 15, 2016, from
  13. Gerstein, L. (2000). In India, Poverty and Lack of Education are Associated with Men’s Physical and Sexual Abuse of Their Wives. International Family Planning Perspectives, 26(1), 44–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Government of India. (2006). Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. New Delhi, India: The Parliament of India.Google Scholar
  15. Hindin, J. M. (2002). Who is at risk? Factors Associated with Intimate Partner Violence in the Philippines. Social Science & Medicine, 55, 1385–1399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Indian Penal Code (Act No 45 of 1860). Retrieved December 10, 2016, from
  17. International Center for Research on Women. (2002). Domestic Violence in India: Exploring Strategies, Promoting Dialogue. Women-Initiated Community Level Response to Domestic Violence. Retrieved March 10, 2016, from
  18. International Institute for Population Sciences. (2007). National Family Health Survey 2005–06 (NFHS-3). Mumbai, India: Author. Retrieved March 1, 2016, from Scholar
  19. Iyengar, S. (2007). Case Study: A Study of Nari Adalats (Women’s Courts) and Caste Panchayats in Gujarat. Bangkok, Thailand: United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved January 1, 2015, from http://regionalcentrebangkok.undp.Google Scholar
  20. Jones, R. (2006) All-Women Police Stations: Addressing Domestic Violence in India. Retrieved March 10, 2016, from
  21. Joshi, S. (2012, December 12). Only 442 Women Police Stations across India: Police Research Data. The Hindu, December 25. Retrieved January 15, 2016, from
  22. Kethineni, S., & Srinivasan, M. (2009). Police Handling of Domestic Violence Cases in Tamil Nadu, India. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 25(2), 202–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kethineni, S., & Srinivasan, M. (2013). Victims of Domestic Violence in India: Do They Have Rights? In J. Liu, S. Jou, & B. Hebenton (Eds.), Handbook of Asian Criminology. New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  24. Kethineni, S., Srinivasan, M., & Kakar, S. (2016). Combating Violence Against Women in India: Nari Adalats and Gender-Based Justice. Women and Criminal Justice. doi:  10.1080/08974454.2015.1121850.
  25. Kimuna, S. R., Djamba, Y. K., Ciciurkaite, G., & Cherukuri, S. (2012). Domestic Violence in India: Insights from the 2005–2006 National Family Health Survey. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28(4), 773–807.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kumar, A. (2010). Domestic Violence in India: Causes, Consequences and Remedies. Posted on Youth Ki Awaaz, February 7, 2010. Accessed August 10, 2011, from
  27. Kumar, S. (2015). Married Women’s Views about Domestic Violence: A Qualitative Study of Kandaghat Block of District Solan. International Journal of Applied Research, 1(6), 01–07.Google Scholar
  28. Kumari, R. (1994). Crime Against Women: Role of NGOs. In O. C. Sharma (Ed.), Crime Against Women. New Delhi, India: Ashish Publishing House.Google Scholar
  29. Laungani, N. (2015, January–March) Culture: Women Status in Ancient India. Hinduism Today. Retrieved March 5, 2016, from
  30. MacKinnon, C. A. (2006). Sex Equality Under The Constitution of India: Problems, Prospects, and “Personal Laws”. International Journal of Constitutional Law, 4(2), 181–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Madan, M. (2013). Understanding Attitudes toward Spousal Abuse: Beliefs about Wife-Beating Justification Amongst Men and Women in India. Ph.D. diss., Michigan State University.Google Scholar
  32. Malamuth, N. M., Linz, D., Heavey, C. L., Barnes, G., & Acker, M. (1995). Using the Confluence Model of Sexual Aggression to Predict Men’s Conflict with Women: A Ten-Year Follow-Up Study. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 69(2), 353–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mathur, A., & Slavor, S. (2013). Escaping Domestic Violence: Empowering Women through Employment, Earnings, and Wealth in India. American Enterprise Institute. Retrieved March 1, 2016, from
  34. Nalwa, S., & Kohli, H. D. (2011). Law Relating to Dowry, Dowry Death, Cruelty to Women and Domestic Violence. New Delhi, India: Universal Law.Google Scholar
  35. Natarajan, M. (2006). Dealing with Domestic Disputes/Violence by Women Police in India: Results of a Training Program in Tamil Nadu. International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, 1(1), 1–19.Google Scholar
  36. National Commission for Women. (2013). Engaging Male Politicians from Youth and Student Organizations on Violence against Women. New Delhi, India: India Habitat Centre.Google Scholar
  37. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). (2014). Crime in India 2014. New Delhi, India: Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.Google Scholar
  38. Panchanadeswaran, S., & Koverola, C. (2005). The Voices of Battered Women in India. Violence Against Women, 11(6), 736–758.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ray, R. (1999). Fields of Protest: Women’s Movements in India. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  40. Singh, V. (2008). The Pearson Indian History Manual for the UPSC Civil Service Preliminary Examination. New Delhi, India: Dorling Kindersley.Google Scholar
  41. State Commission for Women, Odisha. (2016). About us. Retrieved March 1, 2016, from
  42. Stern, R. W. (2003). Changing India. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tharakan, S. K., & Tharakan, M. (1975). Status of Women in India: A Historical Perspective. Social Scientist, 4(4/5), 115–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Verma, J. S., Seth, L., & Subramanium, G. (2013) Report of the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law. Retrieved March 1, 2016, from
  45. Visaria, L., Mitra, N., Poonacha, V., & Pandey, D. (1999). Domestic Violence in India: A Summary of Three Studies. Washington, DC: International Center for Research on Women.Google Scholar
  46. Women’s Services Network. (2000). Domestic Violence in Regional Australia: A Literature Review. Canberra, Australia: Commonwealth Department of Transport & Regional Services.Google Scholar
  47. Yang, A. (2008). Whose Sati? Widow Burning in Early-Nineteenth-Century India. In S. Sarkar & T. Sarkar (Eds.), Women and Social Reform in Modern India: A reader. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Justice StudiesCollege of Juvenile Justice and Psychology, Prairie View A&M UniversityPrairie ViewUSA

Personalised recommendations