Till dowry do us part: Kerala's tryst with domestic violence is not new

The recent incidents of domestic violence and dowry deaths have shaken the conscience of society 
Till dowry do us part: Kerala's tryst with domestic violence is not new

KOCHI: The day after the death of 24-year-old Vismaya, who was found hanging in her husband’s residence in Kollam following alleged harassment demanding more dowry shocked the state, two more similar incidents were reported one in Thiruvananthapuram and the other in Alappuzha districts  on Tuesday.  Many people took to social media to express their anguish and disappointment over dowry demands and subsequent physical and mental harassment from husband’s families.

Recently, Unni P Dev, son of late actor Rajan P Dev, was arrested for the death by suicide of his wife Priyanka following mental and physical harassment over dowry. Priyanka was a resident of Vembayam in Thiruvananthapuram district and was living in her husband’s residence at Angamaly near Kochi.

As per the data available with the Kerala Police, 1,080 cases of domestic violence by husbands or their families have been reported in the state till May 31 this year. The whole of last year saw 2,715 similar incidents. This means, on average, more than 200 such cases were reported in a month in the last two years.

According to the police, charge sheets in 66 dowry death cases were submitted in various courts in the last five years in the state. Last year, six dowry death cases under Section 304 (B) of the Indian Penal Code were registered in the state. The police are yet to compile the data on dowry deaths from this year. 

Conflict resolution
The state police launched Domestic Conflict Resolution Centres (DCRCs) across the state on May 5 to bring instances of violence at home. These centres are associated with 19 police women’s cells. The complaints on domestic violence received through various channels by the police will be taken up by the DCRCs which then make necessary interventions.


‘Women must come forward’
State police chief Loknath Behera told TNIE that the state police would come up with a project which is more systematic to avoid such instances in the future. “Domestic violence has indeed increased due to the lockdown, but that is not happening in Kerala alone. Even in Western countries, such incidents have been reported. So, we have DCRCs to prevent any casualties.

When I started a state-level consultation programme to address this issue, a total of 43 complaints came to us and 90% of those complaints were settled. Similarly, the DCRCs will do this exercise on a monthly basis. However, the women who face such atrocities should come forward and file complaints. We are here to resolve their issues,” the DGP said. Inspector-General of Police P Vijayan, who coordinates the functioning of DCRCs, said more than 6,00monthlymestic violence had been received by DCRCs in the state in one month since its inception. He also said only the police with the help of counsellors could resolve the complaints.

‘Relationships should be democratic’
Meanwhile, mental health experts said several incidents of domestic violence have been reported since the pandemic hit the state. “The prevalence of domestic violence has gone up probably because spouses are forced to stay together and interact for longer periods due to the lockdown restrictions. The social evil of dowry persists despite awareness and social progress in our society. The attitude of viewing a girl as a commodity and burden is a fundamental error that needs to be cleared. The system of benevolent patriarchy which celebrates masculinity and its associated aggression is also an important reason for this situation. Women empowerment drives should focus on equal rights and opportunities for women inside the family and should also insist on “democracy” in domestic relationships,” said Dr Arun B Nair, psychiatrist, Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram.

2016 topped the charts
The highest number of dowry deaths reported in the state was in 2016 — 25. As per the National Crime Records Bureau, Kerala saw 194 Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act cases in 2019.

Divorce petitions pile up in courts
According to C R Sudesh, a senior lawyer practising at Thiruvananthapuram Family Court, 2,084 divorce petitions were filed in the court in the capital alone till November 30 last year. “At the family courts in Thiruvananthapuram district, nearly 3,000 divorce petitions were received. More petitions might have been filed after November 30, as there is a family court each in Nedumangad and Attingal too. If we take the cases from all family courts in the state, the figure will be huge. The situation is grave. When I started practising, only four to five petitions were filed daily in the court. Now, that is around 14-15 cases. It indicates that the number of broken families is increasing and more and more couples want to go for legal separation,” he said.

While 1,080 cases of domestic abuse were reported in the state till May 31 this year, 2,715 such incidents were brought to light last year. 

Police launched domestic conflict resolution centres on May 5 in a bid to reduce such tragedies, but experts say the society’s attitude towards women must change first

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