Wednesday , 22 May 2019

Protecting The Elderly From Family Violence

A report published in this newspaper on Monday presents an alarming picture of violence against the elderly in Salcete. This is something generally not talked about at social gatherings, public meetings or in the media.  The elderly are subjected to violence for not giving away property or money to the younger persons in the family as they dictate them to do. Forcing the elderly to part with their properties and funds with physical coercion, infliction of pain and injury is an area of crime the Goa police has not been paying attention to at all, as the cases in Salcete show. The consequences of physical violence and psychological trauma only worsen the situation for the elderly. Ageing has made them physically weaker and burdened them with diseases. Even minor injuries can cause irreparable damage. Today’s parents have worked hard and benefited from the progress in health and medical care to live longer. They had planned for longer age and bought property and saved enough for their financial security. The cases of violence in Salcete relate mostly to the Goans who went abroad and worked hard under not-so-comfortable situations to earn enough for a roof over their head and their financial security. As they live longer, the cost of living increases with the need for medical treatment. The usual pattern in the past was that parents and grandparents did not have the resources of their own to take care of their own needs in the old age. In the families where the elderly are dependent on the younger members their plight can be imagined.

Longevity is proving to be a curse to today’s elderly. They took care of their diet and lifestyle to live longer, though they are now realizing that it is not so pleasant for them. Younger persons in the family are trying to deprive them of their properties and resources.  The elderly have made their savings for their independence to deal with their own problems, without begging their sons or daughters for support. Most of the elderly survive on limited incomes, so even parting with a small sum of money can leave them financially insecure. The younger persons in the family, instead of supporting the elderly with funds, want money from their savings, on the cynical plea that the elderly do not need any money and must give it to them for their comforts and enjoyment.

The saddest part of the story of the parents and grandparents is that they have little room for escape from the coercive and abusive situation in the family. A large number of cases of family violence against the elderly go unreported as they do not know where to go to if they want to be out of the situation. There is no shelter other than the one they share with their tormentors. They might even find themselves in a most ironical situation: the tormentor might be their best companion in old age. Family violence against the elderly is a very complex issue. It is very different from the violence old persons might face in the streets or homes from thieves, snatchers and robbers. They could in such cases go to the police and report the crime for investigation and prosecution. However, a case of family violence is a crime parents and grandparents do not normally report to the police.

However, the disturbing part of the stories of elderly battering in Salcete is the observation of the non-government organizations working for them is that the police try their best to avoid registering a criminal case in respect of violent abuse of the elderly. The police are not doing their role. This is such a complex situation and the police are playing indifferent or shifting the responsibility to others. First of all, the elderly report very few cases of violence and even those cases are not given importance by the police. The police are thus contributing to the lack of deterrence to the abusers of the elderly in the family. The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act does not specifically cover family violence, but it does contain certain provisions which are enforceable by law. For instance, if a parent transfers his property by way of gift or otherwise, subject to the condition that the transferee shall provide the basic amenities and basic physical needs to the transferor and such transferee refuses or fails to provide such amenities and physical needs, the said transfer of property shall be deemed to have been made by fraud or coercion or under undue influence and shall at the option of the transferor be declared void. Then there are sections of the Indian Penal Code the police can enforce to punish the perpetrators of the violence.