10 years of Domestic Violence Act: Its impact on children remains undocumented in India

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 Midhat Fatima-

The devastating effects of domestic violence on women are well known and documented
but far less is known about its impact on children. The Protection of Women from Domestic
Violence Act introduced more than a decade ago, was a significant development for women
rights and safety. However, in India, one of its understudied aspects includes the impact
domestic violence has on children’s psyche.

While the issue of domestic violence has gained attention with time and has been
documented by government regulated bodies such as the National Crime Records Bureau
(NCBR) and Ministry of Women and Child Development, instances of children being affected
by it still go unnoticed and undocumented in India.

According to a UNICEF report, as many as 275 million children worldwide are exposed to
violence in the home. Many countries like the US, Australia and Philippines have
documented the instances where children were indirect sufferers of domestic violence.
However, India lacks not in just quantitative research but also in addressing the issue.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development has no provisions for the rehabilitation of
children affected in cases of domestic violence. Seema Naaz, a research scholar in the field
of child development said, “In India even NGOs and social workers are not talking about this
issue.”

Highlighting why this ugly facet of domestic violence has largely remained neglected senior
consultant at the Child Institute at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Dr Roma Kumar said, “They
(parents) think that children are too small and are not affected. When a child asks question,
he is scolded, lied to or not allowed to ask any question at all.”
Pointing out the cultural flaw she adds, “As a responsible parent emotional hygiene of the
child seems to be the most important area but in our culture, we do not talk about the
emotional hygiene.”

In 2015, over 113000 cases were filed under the section “cruelty by husband and relatives”
by the NCBR, up by 80 per cent from 2006 when about 63000 cases were filed. With such
soaring numbers of domestic violence, the number of affected children also increases.
While the problem faced by children in a case of domestic violence is seen incidental, the
impact on children’s mind could be as long lasting as it is on the immediate victim’s mind.
Naaz told, “Domestic violence affects all the domains of children’s lives. Be it physical,
mental, cognitive, emotional, academic.”

Talking about the current scenario she said, “Domestic violence is considered as a very
personal affair in Indian context, people do not want family’s issues to be revealed to the
outside world…the help seeking attitude is missing in the parents.”
She adds, “In India we do not have enough qualified people who could work with these
kids… We have shortage of child counsellors who are specialised to work with these
children.”

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