Domestic Violence

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Domestic Violence means any kind of physical, sexual, emotional, or economic abuse against a woman which causes any kind of physical or mental injury to a woman. It also includes demand for dowry. (Section 3, Domestic Violence Act)

The definitions of physical, sexual, emotional, and economic abuse are explained below:

  1. Physical Abuse- Causing bodily injury to the woman. For eg- slapping, beating, kicking, etc.
  2. Sexual Abuse- Any sexual conduct which abuses, humiliates, degrades or violates the woman would be sexual violence. For eg- forcing the woman to have sexual intercourse when she is not in a state to, forcing a woman to watch pornography, forcefully filming any sexual act of the woman, etc.
  3. Emotional Abuse-Insulting or humiliating the woman, or threatening her about physical abuse; for example name-calling, or taunting a woman about not having children/not having a male child, etc.
  4. Economic Abuse- Any of the following:
    1. Not maintaining the woman or depriving her of money necessary to maintain herself/children/household.
    2. Not returning the woman’s stridhan , etc.
    3. Disposing of property/assets to which the woman would also have a right.


    • Usually, domestic violence is a combination of multiple types of abuses. Anything which causes harassment to a woman in her house will come under domestic violence.
    • Even threatening to hurt the woman or her family members is domestic violence.

The following ingredients are necessary to constitute domestic violence:

  1. The woman should be or have been in a domestic relationship* with her harasser at any point in time.

    *Domestic Relationship means being related to the person through marriage, or blood(family members) or live-in, or adoption. (Section 2(f), Domestic Violence Act).

  2. The woman should have lived in a shared household* with her harasser at any point in time.

    * Shared Household means any house shared by the woman with her harasser.

Rights Under Domestic Violence Act

The Domestic Violence Act protects each and every woman in India, irrespective of religion, marital status, or age.

Remember: The Domestic Violence Act is not only about domestic violence to married women. It covers domestic violence under all circumstances:

    - From husband

    - From husband’s family members

    - From a woman’s own family members

    - From a live-in partner

    - From adoptive parents/family

The Domestic Violence Act helps women have a life free from any kind of violence or abuse at home. A woman is entitled to the following rights under the Domestic Violence Act:

  • Right to stay in her house: Every woman has the right to live in the house which she shares with her family/husband/husband’s family (i.e. shared household). No one can tell her to leave the house or stop her from living there. (Section 17, Domestic Violence Act)
  • Right to protection against domestic violence: If the woman has suffered from domestic violence or feels threatened about domestic violence, she can get a protection order from the Magistrate. (Section 18, Domestic Violence Act) For more details, see below.
  • Right to monetary relief: The woman can ask the Magistrate for monetary relief to meet her expenses and cover for any loss incurred by her. She also has the right to take all her valuables, jewellery, streedhan, etc. (Section 20, Domestic Violence Act) For more details, see below.
  • Right to the custody of children: The woman can seek custody of her child(ren) at any time from the Magistrate. (Section 21, Domestic Violence Act) For more details, see below.

Anyone can file a complaint against domestic violence:

  1. The woman who has been harassed
  2. Anyone else on her behalf, like family members, an NGO, etc.

A domestic violence complaint can be filed against anyone who harasses the woman. This can include:

  1. Husband
  2. Husband’s family members- like mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law live-in partner
  3. Own family members
  4. Live-in partner
  5. Adoptive family

Remember: The ingredients for domestic violence(i.e. domestic relationship and shared household) must exist. For details, see above.

To understand how to file a complaint against domestic violence, see Taking Action Against Violence At Home.


The court can pass orders to give any/all of the following reliefs to the woman:

    Protection from domestic violence:
  1. Protect the woman/her family members from any kind of domestic violence or threat of domestic violence. (Section 18, Domestic Violence Act)
  2. Right to stay in a safe place:
  3. Right of the woman to stay in her matrimonial home (Section 17, Domestic Violence Act). For more details- see Right to Stay in Matrimonial Home
  4. Ask the harasser to leave the house where the woman is staying (if the harasser is a male). (Section 19, Domestic Violence Act)
  5. Stop any of the harasser’s family members from entering the house where the woman is staying. (Section 19, Domestic Violence Act)
  6. Ask the harasser to provide for alternate accommodation for the woman or to pay for her rent. The alternate accommodation should be of the same level as where she currently stays. (Section 19, Domestic Violence Act)
  7. Against unwanted contact:
  8. Stop the harasser from contacting the woman against her wishes, whether by visiting her house, or her offices, or contacting her over phone/email. (Section 18, Domestic Violence Act)
  9. Protecting the woman’s property:
  10. Stop the harasser from selling any assets, property, stridhan
  11. Money:
  12. Ask the harasser to pay maintenance to the woman- for herself and her children. (Section 20, Domestic Violence Act) This is in addition to maintenance available to the woman under other laws ( Maintenance available to woman) The maintenance may either be lump-sum payment or monthly instalments.
  13. Ask the perpetrator to compensate the woman for the loss of earnings, medical expenses, destruction to property, emotional and physical duress, etc. (Section 20 and Section 22, Domestic Violence Act)
  14. Custody of children:
  15. Grant custody of the child(ren) to the woman at any time during the hearing. The Magistrate may permit the perpetrator to contact/visit the child(ren) if it will not harm them. (Section 21, Domestic Violence Act)
  16. Ask the perpetrator to execute a bond to ensure that he/she does not commit domestic violence.
  17. The Magistrate can also give any other relief which is needed, according to the circumstances.

The Act provides for two types of immediate reliefs which you can get:

  1. Stay in a shelter home: If your matrimonial home is very hostile or if you don’t have a safe place to stay, you can seek shelter in any shelter home for women. It is their duty to provide you shelter. (Section 6, Domestic Violence Act)
  2. Medical help: If you need medical help or examination due to domestic violence, you can go to a medical facility and ask for medical aid. It is their duty to provide you with medical aid. (Section 7, Domestic Violence Act)
  3. The shelter home and medical facility should be affiliated to the government/should be recognised by the government. Only then the above law will apply to them. Each district/city will have its own shelter homes and medical facilities.

Further Information

This amounts to domestic violence. You have every right to stay in your matrimonial house and no one can ask you to leave. You cannot be restricted access to resources, shared household, assets, properties, etc. For further information on your right to residence, see here Right to Reside in Matrimonial House

If your husband is threatening to dispose of your property then it is domestic violence and a complaint can be filed against him. For the procedure, see the Complaint section.

If you have good reason to believe anyone has undergone domestic violence, then you can file a police complaint on behalf of the victim of domestic violence. Make sure the victim will be okay with you filing the complaint on her behalf. For details on how to complain, see the Complaint section.

If your husband’s family is pressuring you for a male child, it will be considered domestic violence. You can file a complaint against it, see the Complaint section.

If your live-in boyfriend commits any kind of domestic violence against you, you can file a complaint against him. See the Complaint section.

Proving Domestic Violence

To prove domestic violence in court, it is important that you collect evidence each time there is an incidence of violence. How you can collect evidence:

  1. Each time anything happens (whether physical or mental harassment), write down all the details about the incident in a safe place (such as a notebook, or in your phone/computer). Make sure to write all small details like time, place, date, who all were there, how did they harass, any witness, etc. The details are very important.
  2. Communicate the incident of harassment to a trusted family member or friend, with all the details, through messages/emails/letters. It is important that the communication is in written form, so that it will serve as evidence. Make sure to store all these messages/emails/letters safely.
  3. If possible, try to record any harassment through audio/video on your phone. Be careful that the harasser does not notice you recording, otherwise, he/she may get aggressive with you.
  4. In case of any physical violence, go for a medical examination as soon as possible. Maintain the records of the medical examination, along with photos of any marks on your body due to the violence (like bruises, scratches, etc.).
I wasn’t able to collect evidence: If you weren’t able to collect evidence in the above manner, don’t worry. What you can do:
  1. Think calmly, and write down all the incidences of domestic violence that you remember, with all the details as given above. Give copies of this document to a trusted family member or friend also.
  2. Make sure to cross-check all the details like date, time, place, who was there, etc. to check that there are no mistakes. If something does not match, the other side will try to use it against you. (For eg- If on 01.01.2020, if your husband got physically violent with you and in front of your mother-in-law, make sure to remember that your mother-in-law was in town, and not travelling on that day).
  3. Remember: File a complaint with the police as soon as any incident occurs, so that they can take fast action and you can prove the incident more easily. In your police complaint, you do not need to write the history of all incidences of domestic violence (if they have been happening over a while)- it is better to do this in court. The most recent incident is enough for the police complaint.


Please note: This information has been made available to you for your benefit on an ‘as is’ basis, and is only for your information. It does not constitute legal advice and cannot substitute professional legal advice. Our disclaimer policy can be viewed here ( disclaimer policy)

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