Support Indian NGOs' Campaign for Comprehensive Legislation on Domestic Violence

February 27, 2002


Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Women's Learning Partnership's (WLP's) activist colleagues in South Asia have brought to our attention a government bill on domestic violence currently under consideration in India. The proposed legislation, however, does not adequately address all aspects of domestic violence against women, and needs to be expanded and revised in accordance with the suggestions proposed by women activists in India. For background information, please see below. We would like to give support for the realization of a substantial review of the proposed government bill and hope you will join us by adding your signature to WLP's letter to the bill's sponsor, the Minister of Human Resource Development Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi.


Indian NGOs, activists, and women's organizations have been campaigning for a civil law on domestic violence since December 1999. Pursuant to extensive consultations with women's groups from across India, in-depth academic research, grassroots action, and experience working with victims of domestic violence, in 2001 the New Delhi-based Lawyers Collective, Women's Rights Initiative (LCWRI) drafted a bill for the prevention of domestic violence against women with unanimous support from numerous Indian women's organizations. LCWRI had the opportunity to share their proposed legislation with the Government of India at various fora. On December 11, 2001, the Government of India's Ministry of Human Resource Development published and circulated "The Protection from Domestic Violence Bill, 2001". This bill was introduced in Parliament on February 18, 2002.

While LCWRI welcomes the Government's recognition of the necessity of legislation on violence against women, the content of the proposed government bill falls short of the necessary reforms. For example, the government bill defines domestic violence in a manner that fails to capture women's experience of abuse and violence at home, and does not correspond to definitions contained in the United Nations framework for model legislation on domestic violence and in international conventions to which India is party such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1993). The proposed legislation allocates no specific funds for and lacks any mandate for monitoring and effectively implementing the new law, fails to address the need to train and educate law enforcement officers about domestic violence, and proposes no mechanism for disseminating information on the rights of domestic violence survivors or the specific obligations of the state in upholding the new laws. Furthermore, it vests jurisdiction in the Magistrates Court instead of the civil court. Because domestic violence issues are often connected with long standing matrimonial disputes decided by civil courts, it is preferable that civil courts have jurisdiction over matters of domestic violence so that survivors need deal with only one court for all related grievances.

To join WLP in supporting LCWRI's campaign for a substantial review of the proposed government bill, ADD your signature to WLP's letter to the Minister of Human Resource Development (found below).

For additional information, please see the following documents:

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    March 8, 2002

    Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi
    Minister of Human Resource Development
    301, C Wing
    Shastri Bhawan
    New Delhi 110 001, India

    Honorable Minister,

    We are writing in support of India's continued effort to improve the status of women. We are encouraged by the introduction of national legislation on domestic violence that illustrates the government's concern for the situation of Indian women. Furthermore, the Indian people are to be saluted for the creation of a Constitution that subscribes to the principles, rights, and obligations delineated in international covenants and that reaffirms India's commitment to equal rights for all citizens. India's ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1979 and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1993 further bespeak your nation's commitment to improving the condition of Indian women.

    We hope that in its deliberations during the current session, members of Parliament will continue to bear in mind the spirit of the international covenants to which India is a signatory. We believe your personal support for legislation providing survivors of domestic violence greater rights and protection under Indian law is important for ensuring its success. Having reviewed the proposed "Protection From Domestic Violence Bill, 2001," we would like to note that a more detailed definition of domestic violence in accordance with the United Nations framework for model legislation on domestic violence, along with other revisions such as those proposed by NGOs, activists, and women's organizations from across India, would further strengthen an important piece of legislation.

    We, the undersigned international non-governmental organizations and activists, would like to express our whole-hearted support for these significant efforts and urge you to consider revisions that would strengthen the impact of the proposed government bill on domestic violence.

    Respectfully,

    cc:

    Mr. Arun Jaitley
    Minister of Law, Justice & Company Affairs
    401, A Wing
    Shastri Bhawan
    New Delhi 110 001, India

    Smt. Sumitra Mahajan
    Minister of State for Department of Women and Child Development
    Ministry of Human Resource Development
    251, A Wing
    Shastri Bhawan
    New Delhi 110 001, India

    Mrs. Margaret Alva
    Chairperson of the Standing Committee for the Empowerment of Women
    12, Safdarjung Lane
    New Delhi 110 003, India

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