Domestic Violence in India

Domestic Violence may primarily be defined into 4 classes, a) Physical Abuse, b) Emotional & Verbal Abuse, c) Sexual Abuse and d) Economic Abuse.

Mock Domestic Violence

As per section 3 of the The Protection Of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DV Act), the definition of the various categories of domestic violence are [i]

Physical Abuse: means any act or conduct which is of such a nature as to cause bodily pain, harm, or danger to life, limb, or health or impair the health or development of the aggrieved person and includes assault, criminal intimidation and criminal force.

Sexual Abuse: includes any conduct of a sexual nature that abuses, humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the dignity of the person.

Verbal and Emotional abuse includes-

  • insults, ridicule, humiliation, name calling and insults
  • repeated threats to cause physical pain to any person in whom the aggrieved person is interested.

Economic Abuse includes-

  • deprivation of all or any economic or financial resources to which the aggrieved person is entitled under any law or custom whether payable under an order of a court or otherwise or which the aggrieved person requires out of necessity
  • disposal of household effects, any alienation of assets whether movable or immovable, valuables, shares, securities, bonds and the like or other property in which the aggrieved person has an interest or is entitled to use by virtue of the domestic relationship
  • prohibition or restriction to continued access to resources or facilities which the aggrieved person is entitled to use or enjoy by virtue of the domestic relationship

Majority of the domestic violence studies focus primarily the violence committed by the male spouses on their female counterparts. Many studies conducted in the west have found that domestic violence is not a gender specific issue but affect both the genders equally. Both ‘Husband to wife’ and ‘Wife to Husband’ violence has been found in various studies. In the study by Morse, 1995[ii], the researcher came to a conclusion that both men and women are equally likely to assault their partners. In a study conducted by Whitaker DJ, Haileyesus T, Swahn M, Saltzman LS. in 2007[iii], found that in almost 24% of relationship there was some sort of violence with about 49.7% of violence activities to be reciprocal. In non-reciprocal violence women were the perpetrators in over 70% of the cases.

Women are more likely to use weapons during domestic violence as per an international study by Brown GA, 2004[iv]. As per the study 28.4% of the women were charged by assaulting with a knife, 11% with a blunt instrument and 7.7% with some other weapon.

A gist of some other international domestic violence surveys/studies is given below –

Male-to-Female (%)


Bland & Orn (1986)(a)



Brinkerhoff & Lupri (1988)(b)



DeKeseredy & Schwartz (1998)(ade)



Grandin & Lupri (1997)(b)



Straus & Gelles (1986)(b)

Men’s Reports



Women’s Reports



Magdol et al. (1997)(bd)

Men’s Reports



Women’s Reports



a: prevalence rates (violence experienced ever in the past)
b: one-year prevalence rates
c: violence experienced from a current partner
d: young adult sample
e: women’s reports only

(Source: Gender Differences in Patterns of Relationship Violence In Alberta, 1999- By Kwong M, Bartholomew K and Dutton D)

Domestic Violence Studies conducted in India: Majority of all domestic violence studies conducted in India are primarily targeting male to female domestic violence. Reciprocal violence and female to male violence does not seem to be researched. For example in the research article Violence against Women in India: Evidence from Rural Gujarat, 1999, 346 women were contacted for the survey. Please note that in the sample not a single male respondent is there. Further, the questions asked donot seem to probe the female to male domestic violence (women initiated domestic violence). In another study titled, Domestic violence against women in eastern India: a population-based study on prevalence and related issues, both men and women were part of the sample. In this study, both men and women were administered different questionnaires. For women the questionnaires focused on victimization where they were asked whether their husbands or family members committed violence against them. Men were administered questionnaires on perpetration where they were asked if they had committed violent acts against their wife. The copy of the questionnaire can be found here.

The important points to note in these surveys are –

  • In many studies only women are the respondent and the questions administered are primarily of victimization
  • In other studies where both men and women are respondents questions administered are victimization for women and perpetration for men.

In domestic violence studies conducted, men are never asked if they ever suffered domestic violence at the hands of their wives and women are never asked if they were ever perpetrators of domestic violence against their husbands. The construct of these studies were primarily based on a biased notion that women are victims of domestic violence and men the perpetrators. At the onset of the study, bias has been introduced by the researcher either by way of choosing the sample or by way of administering different sets of questions to different genders. Therefore, the results obtained by these studies cannot be said to be free from bias.

A detailed analysis on domestic violence studies conducted in India and its deficiencies have been enumerated by Sadhukhan P, in a blog post written in 2012. In this article Sadhukhan concludes that the research conducted in India is administered in a gender biased way and ignores female to male violence (ie. ignores men as a victim of domestic violence)

Men as victims of Domestic Violence: A study conducted by Save Family Foundation by Sarkar S, Dsouza R and Dasgupta A, titled Domestic Violence Against Men, 2006, interviewed 1650 men across India as to whether they suffered domestic violence at the hands of their wives. A substantial percentage of men reported suffering domestic violence at the hands of their wives during the in-depth interviews.

In the paper titled The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence, 2013, by Nupur Bhutani, a research was conducted on instances of domestic violence on men with a sample size of 242 participants. The questionnaire administered contained various questions exploring the above 4 classes of domestic violence. Approximately 93% of the participants indicated that they suffered Verbal and Emotional violence at the hands of their wife. 76% stated that they had experienced Economic Abuse and 48% stated sexual abuse was suffered by them at the hands of their wives. Further, roughly 73% men had experienced physical abuse at the hands of their wives.

Approximately 55% of men had cuts, bruises or aches due to the physical violence at the hands of their wife, 9% men got burnt because of their wife and almost 31% men had eye injuries, sprains or dislocations due to the domestic violence.

The participants were also asked if they had ever initiated domestic violence with their wives. 96% of the participants replied in the negative stating that they never abused or tried to abuse their wives.

Domestic Violence on men in India by Type(Source: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence, 2013 – By Nupur Bhutani)

Domestic Violence Injuries suffered by Men in India

(Source: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence, 2013 – By Nupur Bhutani)

In both the above domestic violence studies conducted in India a high percentage of violence is reported against men. The results of these surveys are consistent with international studies where a higher percentage of men had experienced domestic violence.

Non-Reporting of Domestic Violence by Men: Men typically donot report domestic violence due to the deep rooted bias in the society against them. Mostly, the men who speak-up are made fun off, shamed and even ridiculed when they disclose that they have suffered domestic violence. Further, there is no institutional support to safeguard men against an abusive partner. In certain cases the abusive partner may use the same institution to further abuse the harassed husbands. These social and structural factors serve as a negative catalyst which keeps the husbands in an abusive relationship.

Reasons for non reporting of domestic violence by men in India(Source: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence, 2013 – By Nupur Bhutani)

It is high time we realize this serious issue in the society and Stand Up for a Cause to promote a positive change in the society by making the DV Act gender neutral.  

[i] The definition have been abridged for the purpose of the article. Further, the definitions have also been modified to make them gender neutral.

[ii] Beyond the Conflict Tactics Scale: Assessing Gender Differences in Partner Violence, Author: Morse, Barbara J

[iii] Differences in frequency of violence and reported injury between relationships with reciprocal and nonreciprocal intimate partner violence, Authors: Whitaker DJ, Haileyesus T, Swahn M, Saltzman LS.


7 Responses to Domestic Violence in India

  1. Even Domestic violence happened against me. The reason I could not raise any voice was that the other side was stronger politically and otherwise and I needed to collect enough evidence of that. Since in our DV act DV is not a crime when done by a woman, even after all that I got a DV case against me. This is India

  2. annelocation says:

    Wonderful article. A very one-sided, gynocentric, feminist narrative of gender relations in India is being pushed in western countries. It´s important that the truth comes out.

  3. Rajan says:

    It would be interesting to know how the statistics of violence against men is distributed across cities in India primarily between metros and tier II/III cities.
    And there could be one more reason for the man not publicly acknowledging violence against him by his wife. I say this with experience of a close relative (while my experience has been covered by your article already) and that is the case where the woman has brainwashed the kids against the father. These kids will resist any act of aggressiveness by the man (their dad) – even if in defense – but will support the woman (their mom) to get aggressive to the extent of abusing physically the man (their dad)

  4. Pingback: Marital Rape Epidemic in India | Stand up for a Cause ...

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