Posts Tagged ‘domestic abuse’

Zena CostaGuest post by Zena Costa, independent sports mgmt professor and writer.

Zahra Baker

I have been following the story of this little girl in the news since 2010 and as a result did a couple of reports & features to help. Checking with friends in the US I learnt today that it’s been two years and “investigation” is still ongoing. I decided to share because I do not want Zahra Baker to have lost her life without something positive coming out of it.

It is a senseless, horrific, heartbreaking tragedy. This child got the worst hand dealt to her by life, and I can’t make sense of it all, no matter how hard I try. All I can do now is trying to prevent it from happening to even one child in my community. And none of us should rest until we all do the same.

Do not assume that a male child is safe. In india, 33,000 female and 20,000 boys are abused every minute. Yes, every one minute. And what about the unreported millions?

We all feel helpless when we hear of these stories. And in some cases—either because of our geographic location or circumstances we are. But, if more people in every community started to take action, to get involved in organizations that prevent and aid in child abuse cases, it would make a difference, to the world your own child steps out to.

I did as a former journo report on cases in Goa via CHILDLINE 1098 and the impact it made on my life was significant. I know that my involvement was crucial in at least four cases that involved a child being removed from a dangerous home situation and I hold that memory dear to my heart. The real impact that experience had on me though was the stacks and stacks of folders of abuse in 2003. I was shocked to learn of the sheer number of cases, and over half of them as serious and horrific as the Zahra Baker case.

So many don’t make it into the media, which is why we all, understandably so think these are isolated cases. Abuse seems to happen “somewhere else” in another neighborhood.

But in fact, it happens every day, in every socio-economic situation. In the worst neighborhoods, and in the best. From people you would expect, and people you would never have dreamt could cause harm to a child.

So, here’s my call to action for everyone reading this, everyone I know, Zahra is gone, but the least you can do is protect your own child. Be vigilant, even at your own house, you’d be astounded to realize how many vultures are out there to gnaw at the life of your precious child. That’s the brutal truth. DO SOMETHING. Writing a cheque to an organization, however helpful, is not enough. We need to do much more.


First and foremost, pay attention to the children around you – children in your child’s school, children in your church, your co-worker’s children etc.

We should not be a paranoid society, accusing innocent people of wrong doing. But children give out signals. And most of us know, we get that gut feeling when something is wrong.

If you get these signals, get involved, find out what’s going on and if need be report it. Yes, it is drastic. Yes, it is a HUGE decision not to be taken lightly or for any other reason than the safety and well-being of a child. Remember you could be changing a life, saving a life.

Severe abuse is not always physical. There aren’t always bruises and broken bones. The worst abuse is sometimes emotional and is easy for the abuser (and the victim) to hide. Again, listen to your gut. Does the child seem sad, depressed, timid, or excessively anxious or worried? Do things just seem ‘not right’?

More often than not, your gut is telling you something is wrong because of a series of factors. You know one or both parents and are questioning their actions or lifestyle and more importantly, the children seem to be struggling.

Cases of abuse are not always an obviously evil abusive parent or family member. Unfortunately, the parents or family members are often sick themselves—either fighting addiction or mental illness and in some of these cases they truly can’t see the harm they are doing. But no matter who has what trouble, no matter how tough it all is—children need to be put first. Their safety and well-being is all that matters.

The emotional scars from all kinds of abuse take years , sometimes lifetimes to heal.

Another action we can all take is to get involved with organizations that do good work, hands-on work in the fight against child abuse and neglect.

As parents, we inspire and encourage certain kinds of behavior in our kids; they idolize us, look up to us and turn to us on a dark night for a hug. We are not here to say ”all will be okay ,” I don’t say that anymore , that’s mythic. All can not be okay till you take an action against all that is wrong in your as well as your kid’s life.

What adults-mothers, fathers, relatives, friends do to these kids in abusive households makes me both furious and helpless. It often makes me cry at night.

It is too late for Zahra. But it is not too late for countless other children out there who are enduring the very same abuse and neglect in their homes. Unfortunately, I can almost guarantee you that within your county, your state, your city, even your locality there are several children just like Zahra that need you. NOW. Please do something. Save the Children. They’re the future. Don’t let their present mar the rest of their life.



Post by Zena Costa, sports journalist from Goa:

Domestic Violence Act 2005 is the first significant attempt in India to recognise domestic abuse as a punishable offence, to extend its provisions to those in live-in relationships, and to provide for emergency relief for the victims, in addition to legal recourse.

Why a legislation for domestic violence?

Domestic violence is among the most prevalent and among the least reported forms of cruel behaviour.

Till the year 2005, remedies available to a victim of domestic violence in the civil courts (divorce) and criminal courts (vide Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code) were limited. There was no emergency relief available to the victim; the remedies that were available were linked to matrimonial proceedings; and the court proceedings were always protracted, during which period the victim was invariably at the mercy of the abuser.

Also the relationships outside marriage were not recognised. This set of circumstances ensured that a majority of women preferred to suffer in silence. It is essentially to address these anomalies that the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was passed.

Who are the primary beneficiaries of this Act?

Women and children. Section 2(a) of the Act will help any woman who is or has been in a domestic relationship with the ‘respondent’ in the case.It empowers women to file a case against a person with whom she is having a ‘domestic relationship’ in a ’shared household’, and who has subjected her to ‘domestic violence’.

Children are also covered by the Act; they too can file a case against a parent or parents who are tormenting or torturing them, physically, mentally, or economically. Any person can file a complaint on behalf of a child.

Who is defined as ‘respondent’ by this law?

Section 2 (q) states that any adult male member who has been in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person is the ‘respondent’. The respondent can also be a relative of the husband or male partner .Thus, a father-in-law, mother-in-law, or even siblings of the husband and other relatives can be proceeded against.

How does the new law define domestic abuse?

Section 3 of the law says any act/conduct/omission/commission that harms or injures or has the potential to harm or injure will be considered ‘domestic violence’.

Under this, the law considers physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, psychological, and economic abuse or threats of the same.

Even a single act of commission or omission may constitute domestic violence — in other words, women do not have to suffer a prolonged period of abuse before taking recourse to the law.

How does the law ensure that a wife who takes legal recourse in the event is not intimidated or harassed?

An important aspect of this law is that it aims to ensure that an aggrieved wife, who takes recourse to the law, cannot be harassed for doing so. Thus, if a husband is accused of any of the above forms of violence, he cannot during the pending disposal of the case prohibit/restrict the wife’s continued access to resources/ facilities to which she is entitled by virtue of the domestic relationship, including access to the shared household. In short, a husband cannot take away her jewellery or money, or throw her out of the house while they are having a dispute.

What are the main rights of a woman as recognised by this law?

The law is so liberal and forward-looking that it recognises a woman’s right to reside in the shared household with her husband or a partner even when a dispute is on .Thus, it legislates against husbands who throw their wives out of the house when there is a dispute. Such an action by a husband will now be deemed illegal, not merely unethical.

Even if she is a victim of domestic violence, she retains right to live in ’shared homes’ that is, a home she shares with the abusive partner. Section 17 of the law, which gives all married women or female partners in a domestic relationship the right to reside in a home that is known in legal terms as the shared household, applies whether or not she has any right, title or beneficial interest in the same.

The law provides that if an abused woman requires, she has to be provided alternate accommodation and in such situations, the accommodation and her maintenance has to be paid for by her husband or partner.

The law, significantly, recognises the need of the abused woman for emergency relief, which will have to be provided by the husband. A woman cannot be stopped from making a complaint/application alleging domestic violence. She has the right to the services and assistance of the Protection Officer and Service Providers, stipulated under the provisions of the law.

A woman who is the victim of domestic violence will have the right to the services of the police, shelter homes and medical establishments. She also has the right to simultaneously file her own complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.

Sections 18-23 provide a large number of options for legal redressal. She can claim through the courts Protection Orders, Residence Orders, Monetary Relief, Custody Order for her children, Compensation Order and Interim/ Ex parte Orders.

If a husband violates any of the above rights of the aggrieved woman, it will be deemed a punishable offence. Charges under Section 498A can be framed by the magistrate, in addition to the charges under this Act. Further, the offences are cognisable and non-bailable. Punishment for violation of the rights enumerated above could extend to one year’s imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of Rs 20,000.