Economic abuse is one form of domestic abuse in a relationship where a partner/spouse (usually the husband) has some sort of control over the other partner’s (usually the wife) access to his economic resources, or where the abuser exploits his partner’s financial resources or earnings, to control their financial freedom. The sort of control exercised by the abuser is because they would want to limit their partner’s freedom, have an abusive kind of dominance over them, and also when the perpetrator likes to be fed a superior sort of control over the aggrieved, which adversely affects every aspect of the victim’s life.
It is related to financial abuse where the offender makes use of his partner’s financial resources without their knowledge, authorization, or legality. This is done to make the victim subservient to the abuser and make her financially dependent on him. Now when that is done, the victim has no other way to support their monetary needs, but to comply with the demands of the abuser.
Types of domestic abuse:-
This happens in two kinds of situations where only one of the spouses earns money and the other depends on them to meet their financial needs and the other situation is where both the partners earn but either of them takes hold of their earnings and misuses them and makes the other go through economic abuse.
As per the Indian law, the husband is bound to pay maintenance to the wife, when the wife is clearly dependent on him to satisfy both hers and her children’s monetary needs. When the husband fails to do so, by denying her the amount and abusing her, it is said that the wife is going through economic abuse.
The victims, usually the women in relationships, go through economic abuse in different ways. For example, the offender usually cuts off her access to his bank accounts, debit cards, credit cards and not including her in making financial decisions which may affect the entire family. Women may be obliged to account for every small amount of money with receipts or forced to pay off their partner’s debts. Economic abuse is frequent once a relationship ends, and it takes the form of withholding or manipulating child support pay.
Now when the woman is earning by herself, and is financially well off, the abuser in this situation takes absolute control over her resources. For instance, the offender might go overboard and restrict her choices as to what she should or shouldn’t buy, what she must spend her money on, prevent the victim to advance in her career, or keep insisting that the properties and assets that they have earned and bought together must be changed to the perpetrator’s name and so on.
Economic abuse is worse when families belong to the economically weaker sections of the society. We have heard of many instances where the man in the house exploits the little amounts of daily wages that the woman earns, and he tries to use it for his gain, like spending everything on alcohol, drugs, gambling and even often leaving debts in those places and leaving nothing for the family where they will have to use the money earned for food, to run the house, or to pay for the children’s educational needs. In these situations, mostly men, act completely irresponsible and threaten to physically abuse the wives and children if not given the money. Also, the previously mentioned debts obviously will have to be paid by the wives, leaving nothing to satisfy the family’s financial obligations.
Solutions to prevention of abuse:-
Any sort of abuse in our Indian society, is often dismissed as “couple’s problems” or “inside problems” by the family members, without the realisation of the magnitude of the issue. Abuse, whichever kind it may be, is normalised to a degree where people brush it off and say “It’s nothing.”
Economic abuse is a serious issue and goes unreported many times. The term has been defined under (1)(iv) of Section 3 of the Act, which reads as follows:-
- (c) 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 including access to the shared household.”
The wife when going through abuse can claim compensation or monetary relief under Section 20 of the “Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
If we want to prevent further incidents, women belonging to destitute families of the society must be educated through workshops and awareness programs about various helplines to be contacted when suffering abuse, and must also be made aware of their rights described in the act, some of which are:-
- Section 18 – Protection Order: The court passes an order to prohibit the abuser from harming the aggrieved person and her family members. He is forbidden from operating their bank lockers, bank accounts, and alienating their assets – irrespective of dual ownership or only by the victim.
- Section 19 – Residence Order for residing at Matrimonial House: The magistrate passes an residence order to restrain the respondent from dispossessing the aggrieved person from their shared household, whether or not the respondent has a legal or equitable interest in their house.
- Section 20 – Monetary Orders which includes maintenance for herself and her Children: The proven abuser has to pay monetary relief to meet the expenses incurred and losses suffered by the aggrieved person and any child of the aggrieved person as a result of the domestic violence and such relief may include the maintenance amount for the victim and their children as well.
- Section 21 – Temporary Custody of Children: The victim is granted temporary custody of their children and if the court believes that the visits of the children by the respondent may be harmful to the interests of the children, then the court has the power to refuse such visitations.
- Section 22 – Compensation order for the damages caused to her: In addition to the other reliefs available under this Act, the Magistrate may, on the aggrieved person’s application, issue an order directing the respondent to pay compensation and damages for injuries, including mental torture and emotional distress, caused by the respondent’s acts of domestic violence.
For women, who are financially independent from their spouses, or the ones who don’t belong to the economically weaker sections of the society, it is advisable to keep your financial information confidential until absolute trust is established. They can make use of the rights mentioned above and take precautionary measures to keep matters relating to finance confidential, until absolute trust is established between the two.
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