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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 August 2005, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
India backs domestic abuse bill
By Geeta Pandey
BBC News, Delhi

Women protest against rise in domestic violence in New Delhi, 12 August 2005
Women protest in Delhi against a rise in domestic violence
India's lower house of parliament has passed a bill seeking to protect women from domestic violence.

The bill seeks to ban harassment by way of dowry demands and gives sweeping powers to a magistrate to issue protection orders where needed.

The bill is expected to become law in the next few days once it gets approval from the upper house.

Every six hours in India, a young married woman is burned alive, beaten to death or driven to commit suicide.

Despite the scale of the problem, there has been no specific legislation to deal with actual abuse or the threat of abuse at home.

Wall of silence

According to a recent study, at least 45% of Indian women are slapped, kicked or beaten by their husbands, many of them on a continual basis.

Several women's rights groups and non-governmental organisations have been campaigning for specific laws to deal with the abuse.

Women's activists have welcomed the bill, although many say it is not perfect.

They say a bill alone will not help in preventing domestic abuse; what is needed is a change in mind sets.

A recent survey by the International Institute for Population Studies showed 56% of Indian women believed wife beating to be justified in certain circumstances.

The reasons varied from going out without the husband's permission to cooking a bad meal.

Domestic abuse is often denied by the victims themselves.

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