Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms to which all human beings are entitled to by virtue of theirs being born in the family of Homo sapiens. The fundamental rationale behind the concept of human rights is that each person is a moral and rational being who deserves to be treated with human dignity and respect. Human rights are based on equality and the concept’s basic philosophy strikes at discrimination among humans. The Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.
Human rights negate gender inequality and discrimination but, in case of women, reality is divorced from theoretical concepts and ideal perceptions. Women form one of the most vulnerable sections of the society, having faced perpetual violence and discrimination since times immemorial. She bears the brunt of hypocrisy and discrimination right from the moment she is conceived in her mother’s womb, and then through different stages of her life- as a daughter, sister, a wife, as a mother and above all as a woman. Violence against women is a universal issue and is a direct violation of their basic human and natural rights. There are many forms of violence directed against women which have been condemned globally but one certain shape of violence , that is, domestic violence has not only not been condemned with the severity it merits but is actually condoned and accepted as a social norm in many parts of the world.
Domestic violence against women means any act of violence that is directed against women in a domestic setting. It may be physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence or the threat of such violence inflicted against a woman by a person intimately connected to her through marriage or family relation with the intention of subduing her or controlling her. Earlier it was considered to be a private affair and an individual matter but it is actually a social disease and consequence of an established gender inequality within the society buttressed by existing structures of power in gender relations, entrenched by traditional education systems, ingrained by dogmatic beliefs and media influences.
Domestic violence is not merely physical form of violence leaving physical injuries and scars but an emotional, psychological pattern of violence that devastates and destroys the identity and personhood of a woman, eats at her dignity and erodes her self- worth in the long term. It, by an intimate partner has harmful effects on the sexual and reproductive health of woman like unwanted pregnancy (Khan et al 1996), gynecological disorders (Golding and Taylor 1996), physical injury to private parts (Starck et al 1979), and large scale mental health impacts (UNICEF 2000).
The right against domestic violence is implicitly mentioned in each and every global convention and declaration that seeks an end to violence against women and exhorts equality among humans. It is implicit in Article 1,23,5,16 of UDHR,1948 ; Article 12(1) of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,1966 ; Article 7 of ICCPR,1966; Article 4(c) of Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women(DEVAW).
Domestic violence violates a woman’s right to a dignified life, right against torture and inhuman treatment, right to liberty and security of person, right against all forms of discrimination. It is now being widely treated as a human rights issue that violates the basic rights of women. Pertinent to mention here is the case of Jessica Gonzales vs United States. Jessica was the first domestic violence survivor to initiate an international legal action against United States’. The Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held in this case that the domestic violence is the violation of basic human rights of a woman. Likewise, in Opuz vs Turkey , the European Court has also held that domestic violence is a human rights issue that violates the basic rights of an individual.
In 2004, the United Nations General Assembly also specifically addressed domestic violence in Resolution 58/147, titled “Elimination of Domestic Violence Against Women”. In this resolution General Assembly recognizing that domestic violence is a human rights issue with serious immediate and long term consequences, strongly condemned all forms of domestic violence against women and called for an elimination of violence in the family. One of the recent developments in the area of human rights and domestic violence is the adoption by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, of the Convention on Preventing and Combating violence against women and domestic violence in April 2011.
Domestic violence is now being recognized as a human rights issue- the European Court’s jurisprudence and the decision of IACHR being very significant in this regard. Conventions have been framed calling for an end to this menace yet there is a wide gulf between the articulation of these goals and their accomplishment. Women continue to suffer in the confines of homes and the secrecy of family, their lives being brutalized and rights trampled upon. Un-remedied domestic violence essentially denies women equality before law and reinforces their subordinate social status.
Ending domestic violence is a long term aim achievable through individual daily efforts for non violent behavior and peaceful resolution of conflicts, by creating an atmosphere of no tolerance against this violence and by creating awareness among people, by providing proper education and sensitizing people about the issue. , Moreover, stringent action should be taken against culprits and speedier remedy be made available to the victims of such violence. Until a multi faceted strategy is adopted, the prevention of domestic violence will remain an elusive dream.
Khan, ME, JW, Townsend; R.Sinha and S.Lakhanpal, 1996;
Sexual violence within marriage, New Delhi, Population Council, Page 32-35;
Sexual assault history and the Premenstrual distress in the General Population Samples. Journal of Women’s Health 5(2):143-152;
UNICEF(2000): Domestic violence against women and girls;
Innocenti Digest Number 6. Innocenti Research centre, Florence, Italy
—The author is studying law at the University of Kashmir and currently doing an internship with State Human Rights Commission. He can be reached at: [email protected]