Abused wives in India pin hope on anti-violence law
The new Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act gives courts sweeping powers to help abused wives. The culture shock to India's male-dominated society has galvanized new recruits for a counterlobby group -- the All-India Harassed Husbands Association.
"The law is so lopsided that a future generation of men might not get married for fear of losing their property and income," said one member, Akhil Gupta.
The new law recognizes physical violence, marital rape and all kinds of abuse -- emotional and verbal -- as crimes. It also bars men from forcing wives to watch pornography, refusing to let them work or banishing them from their houses.
"I didn't want to file a case against him, but it was becoming unbearable," said Mrs. Kumar, 28, who has two daughters. "The last time, he almost strangled me. This law will let me live at home and stop him torturing me."
Hundreds of wives have registered cases under the new law -- the product of a decade of campaigning by women's groups.
A 2005 U.N. Population Fund report found that 70 percent of married women in India were victims of beatings or rape. Even trivial "misdemeanors," such as burning the dinner, can provoke male violence.
More than two-thirds of married women in India aged between 15 and 49 have been beaten, raped or forced to provide sex