Fri, 26 May 2023

Economic abuse of women

Exam View: Why women don’t leave abusive homes?; Provisions by the Indian government; Case study of the United Kingdom.

Context: Apart from legal and policy interventions, greater awareness and education among women are key to combating economic abuse. Economic considerations play an important role in women acquiescing to abusive relationships.

Decoding the editorial: Why women don’t leave abusive homes?

  • Economic abuse:
    • Apart from psychological, and emotional reasons and coercive control that perpetrators often exert, economic, financial and material barriers are crucial considerations for survivors trying to leave abusive situations.
  • Dowry and stridhan:
    • Specific to the Indian context, economic abuse also brings up related issues such as dowry and stridhan.
    • Courts have held that deprivation of economic or financial resources or stridhan amounts to domestic violence under the PWDV Act.
  • Socially accepted economic norms:
    • Prohibiting women from working outside the home and accessing the job market, or

    • Insisting that women quit their jobs after getting married, or
    • The husband or the father-in-law controlling the salary earned by the wife or daughter-in-law respectively, and
    • Complete decision-making power over the family’s finances resting with men.

Provisions in India

  • Constitutional
    • Article 39(a) mentions that the State shall direct its policy towards securing to all citizens men and women, equally, the right to means of livelihood.
    • The Constitution imposes a fundamental duty on every citizen through Articles 51 (A)(e) to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
  • Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDV Act)
    • Economic abuse, as per this law, is the deprivation of all or any economic or financial resources to which the aggrieved person is entitled under any law.
    • Further, the disposal of household effects, any alienation of assets whether movable or immovable, valuables or other property in which the aggrieved woman has an interest is also included under the meaning of economic abuse.
    • Under section 18 of the Act, a protection order can be passed in favour of the aggrieved woman prohibiting the alienation of any assets, operating bank lockers or bank accounts, regardless of single or joint ownership, without the leave of the Magistrate. This also includes the aggrieved woman’s stridhan or any other property held either jointly or separately by both parties.

  • Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme
    • An increasing number of women have access to a bank account and banking services for the first time due to these schemes. About 56 percent of PMJDY accounts are owned by women according to data from the Ministry of Finance, as of August 2022.
    • Appropriate training and support from the banking industry that helps banking professionals recognise signs of financial abuse and assist victims would go a long way in providing much-needed support to women looking to leave abusive situations.
  • National Policy for the Empowerment of Women
    • It is meant to bring about the advancement, development and empowerment of women through a process of change in societal attitudes towards them, to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and to ensure active participation of women in all spheres of life and activities.

Case study of the United Kingdom

  • Economic abuse has been recognised as a form of domestic violence in the United Kingdom (UK) under the Domestic Abuse Act, 2021.
  • In 2021, UK Finance, the industry body for the banking and finance industry in the country, released its 2021 Financial Abuse Code, which laid down principles designed to provide guidance on how to support victim-survivors of financial and economic abuse.
  • Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the British conduct regulator for the financial services industry provides guidance on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers, which recognises domestic abuse (including economic control) as a life event that is associated with being a driver of vulnerability.
  • These are tools and systems that support survivors apart from the law and ought to be considered in India as well.

Changing notions about masculine gender roles alongside social attitudes with respect to men’s control of the family’s financial resources is critical to bring about change at a larger social level. Greater awareness and education among women are key to combating economic abuse.


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