Gaps in PWDVA Implementation

After six years of the enactment of the PWDVA, there are still glaring gaps in its implementation. A major issue responsible for the limited reach of the legislation is absence of adequate mechanisms and lack of financial resources. The concerns laid out by Lawyers Collective Women’s Rights Initiative (WRI) through its periodic monitoring and evaluation reports, and by other women’s groups working on addressing violence against women are elaborated below.

  • Awareness about the Law: Whether it is the direct stakeholders in PWDVA implementation (like the police, judiciary, lawyers, etc.) or the supportive structures (like the Legal Services Authority), or the general public, awareness regarding the PWDVA law and its provisions remains poor. Large numbers of women in India are still not aware of the legislation and of their entitlements under it. Therefore,the number of cases filed under PWDVA remains quite low.
  • Appointment of Protection Officers (POs): POs have been appointed on a full time basis only in 7 States and their number is inadequate to address the enormity of the issue. Wherever existing officials in the government machinery – like ICDS CDPOs, welfare officers, probation officers, Dowry Prohibition Officers, Child Marriage Prohibition Officers, etc – have been given ‘additional charge’ as POs, they are unableto work effectively as POs since they are already overburdened, and sometimes under-skilled forthe task at hand. Further, POs do not have the infrastructure or sufficient funds to carry out theirduties.
  • Notification of Service Providers (SPs): Out of 33 States and UTs, only 15 States and UTs have notified Service Providers under the Act,and they remain too few in number. No clear guidelines have been drawn for enlisting of SPs,definition of their roles, and their convergence with other stakeholders. SPs are also not beinggiven any financial inputs to carry out their roles.
  • Access to Justice for Vulnerable Women: PWDVA is meant to ensure justice to all women facing domestic violence. However, several vulnerable sections that face gender based violence are unable to access the law and other forumsof justice. These include lesbian and bisexual women, widows in sexual relationships, womenin relationships that cross caste and religious barriers, sex workers, young married women andtransgender people. In cases of bigamy, often only the rights of the first wife are addressed. Moreover, no special provisionshave been made to ensure that disabled women can access the law.
  • Capacity Building: Currently, there is a critical gap with respect to the capacity building of people involved in implementing PWDVA. Where POs have been appointed, the extent and nature of training has been inadequate. Training of other stakeholders like police, lawyers, and judiciary is equally important. Some States have taken initiative in this regard, but it needs sustained support. Due to lack of understanding of gender, violence, patriarchy and sexuality, POs, SPs, police, lawyers and judges, amongst others, often encourage outcomes and decisions like ‘reconciliation’, or label women survivors as ‘bad women’ and ‘home breakers’. These emerge from existing social attitudes of the duty bearers under PWDVA. Addressing these attitudes is critical to enable women to report violence, access justice and exercise choices based on their own needs and interests. Capacity building therefore plays a significant role in starting this shift in attitudes.
  • Coordination, Monitoring and Evaluation: While the Act envisages a multi-agency response to violence against women, many states have not formed Coordination Committees. There is no mechanism for reporting and monitoring PWDVA within the government. This impacts every aspect of PWDVA implementation, like awareness generation, capacity building, service of notice, enforcement or breach of orders, etc.
  • Providing Immediate Relief to the Survivor: The PWDVA Act recognizes that survivors of violence require counseling, shelter, health services and financial support. In this context, the lack of counselors remains a serious concern. Also, no additional shelter homes have been set up for survivors of domestic violence. The meager 260 Swadhar homes in the country and existing short-stay homes are not able to address the vast needs of women in distress who require shelter. Women survivors of violence – particularly those who have no steady source of income, have limited assets, are single, and have dependents to look after – also need some immediate financial support before interim orders for maintenance and shelter are provided under PWDVA. In reality, it is sometimes months and sometimes years before survivors get any monetary relief. Some provision for an ‘untied fund’ to financially support vulnerable women is a basic requirement to help these women access justice.
  • Resource Allocation: As indicated by Centre for Budget & Governance Accountability (2011), the Central government has not provided funds exclusively for implementation of the Act. In the absence of financial support from the Centre, some States have initiated Plan Schemes or allocated some basic resources (e.g. an allocation of Rs.7 crores by the Karnataka government). However, 19 States have not initiated any such scheme. Therefore, it becomes imperative to have a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) to bring to effect the various provisions laid in the Act.
  • Lack of access to services: While the Act recognizes that survivors require access to mental and other health services, shelter and financial support, appropriate access remains considerably low. With a significant lack of counselors and no additional shelter homes, many survivors are faced with no alternative but to return home.
  • Lack of infrastructure: As said earlier the ratio of DV survivors to protection homes, service providers, medical facilities, employment generation facilities, legal aid etc is adversely proportional.
  • Lack of awareness about reporting of DIR: Domestic Incident Report is one of the most essential documents to be prepared by the PO. As the PO is accountable for drafting a DIR and submitting it to the Magistrate becomes his duty to fulfill it within the due course of time. “The DIR is of much value as it gives the details of the aggrieved person who needs protection and that the police in the area are made aware of the same, and can come to the rescue of the woman immediately in case the violence continues. The DIR is also given to the service provider, who can help the woman in obtaining legal aid, counseling, shelter homes and medical facilities in the local area.”