Domestic abuse plagues India's upper crust

Sun Jun 7, 2009 9:12pm EDT
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By Matthias Williams

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - With stylish sunglasses on her head, brightly painted nails and dressed in black designer gear, the woman sitting at a trendy New Delhi cafe might not look like a battered wife.

But the woman, who asked that her name be withheld to protect her identity and that of her children, was abused for years by her husband, a lawyer.

"He strangled me, he spat on me, he slapped me," the woman, a 37-year-old mother of two who grew up in a wealthy London-based Indian family, told Reuters in an interview.

She is among millions of Indian women, from all classes, who are abused by their husbands. A recent government survey said one in three Indian women were victims of domestic violence.

Her education and status among India's elite gave little protection against her well-heeled and well-connected spouse.

After years of abuse, she took her husband to court under a landmark domestic violence act meant to protect battered wives and give stiff penalties to abusers, but so far to no avail.

"This law, which is enacted by the parliament in 2006, has not been taken seriously," her lawyer, K.K. Manan, told Reuters. "On one pretext or another, the case is being adjourned."

A total of 185,312 crimes against women were reported in India in 2007, compared to 164,765 in 2006. Rights groups say many more cases go unreported.   Continued...

<p>A victim of domestic violence poses for a picture outside a district court in New Delhi March 4, 2009. REUTERS/Vijay Mathur</p>