Though there is a law styled, Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act-2010, or in short, DVPP Act, to protect women from domestic violence, there is hardly any instance of its use to redress wrongs done to them. However, there are other similar laws such as the Dowry Prohibition Act, 2018, or the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act 2000 which both victims and legal practitioners seem to be aware of. Records also show that in an overwhelming number of cases the victims used these other laws. Now the question is why neither victims nor lawyers are interested to use the law, the DVPP Act? Surprisingly, the victims concerned seemed to be quite unaware of this particular law. The same appeared to be the case with lawyers and enforcers of law. According to a study, the DVPP Act's lack of appeal to implementing agencies as well as legal practitioners has to do with the definition of 'family relationship' under the law. To be specific, the law seems to exclude divorced women from its ambit. This becomes evident especially in the cases of wives who are abused by their husbands and then divorced. As a result, such victims of domestic abuse are deprived of the benefits of this law. Another apparent flaw of the DVPP Act is that it does not specify the punishment in case an offender violates the law.
This is unfortunate. As the law is silent about the divorcee women, the abusive husbands take advantage of this situation and use divorce as a weapon against them to deprive them of justice. When it comes to the case of the children of divorced parents, they too have no protection from the law. Consequently, it is often a double whammy for victim mothers when the burden of the children falls on their shoulders after separation. Under the circumstances, finding no solace from the law, women often resign to their fate and continue to live with their abusive husbands or other family members. As a result of this inadequacy of the DVPP Act, married women are exposed to instances of domestic violence of the worst kind. From a survey carried out by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) in 2015, it was found that 72.6 per cent of the women so studied were subjected to physical violence at the hands of their husbands sometime in their conjugal life. On the other hand, what a legal aid body found after a study conducted between January and September of this year was quite grim. Based on newspaper reports, the findings show that 358 women were subjected to physical violence during this period either by their husbands or other family members. But there were 183 others who were murdered by their husbands. The study makes it quite evident that the victims suffered silently, despite the existence of more than one law to address their plight.
As things stand, the enactment of a new law, or the pre-existence of others to protect women are not in themselves any safeguard against the victims of the scourge of domestic violence. There should also be sufficient awareness about the law or laws among all concerned. Most importantly, the implementers of the law in particular need to be more proactive to rid society of the scourge of domestic violence.