Incorporation of Battered Woman Syndrome in Indian Criminal Law
Volume III, Issue III, 2020
Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) is a pattern of psychological and behavioural symptoms found in women who have been living in an abusive relationship for a very long time. It is a sub category of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and is manifested in the form of depression, anxiety problems, low self-esteem and often put women at risk of suicide or homicide. Instead of terminating this unhealthy relationship with their abuser, these women kill their abuser to end the chain of domestic violence. The reason why she suffers the physical and psychological violence caused by their abuser for a very long time before killing them is because she develops a ‘learned helplessness’ which makes her submissive, and she accepts the battering as a part of her life. Women lack the physical strength to fight their abusers. So when the violence is at its peak, these women kill their batterers in non-confrontational circumstances but the courts still convict them as murderers.
This article analyses failure of Indian Courts to acknowledge the fact that psychological traits of women and men in cases like these are different and that women shall not be required to fit their psychological traits within the ones pertinent to men. The courts should not judge these women’s actions based on male experience.
Moreover, this article will also highlight that as a feminist model of jurisprudence Battered Woman Syndrome needs to seek judicial recognition in India and needs to be incorporated within the Indian Criminal Framework as a defense for the helpless women. Lastly, the article will conclude by suggesting the ways to integrate BWS under the provisions of Provocation, Private Defense and Insanity as mentioned in the Indian Penal Code, 1860.