Domestic Violence

Domestic violence includes violence that takes place between parents and children, siblings, spouses, grandparents, uncles, aunts, relatives by marriage or individuals in familial relationships to one another. Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) refers particularly to violence that takes place between spouses or partners in an intimate relationship, and can include cohabiting ex-partners of the victim-survivor. While women can be perpetrators of domestic violence, research shows that the vast majority of perpetrators are men who act violently towards women and girls.


Domestic violence is violence perpetrated in the domestic sphere, which targets women because of their role within that sphere, or violence which is intended to impact, directly and negatively on women within the domestic sphere. Friends and family should support women who experience domestic violence and should never force her to remain with the spouse or partner unless the perpetrator is willing to accept that he is at fault and take necessary steps to stop and prevent such violence from occurring again. Forcing a woman to remain with a violent partner or spouse could put her life in grave danger, result in physical injury and psychological illness.

Medical research has shown that domestic violence can have serious repercussions on women’s physical and psychological wellbeing. By witnessing domestic violence at home children sometimes withdraw into isolation or behave violently towards peers and society. In future some may behave violently towards their own families. It is therefore not acceptable to suffer domestic violence in silence. Women who tolerate the first instance of violence will often be vulnerable to experience more violence if she does not stand up against it. If a woman or child suffers domestic violence in any family that is a ‘broken family’ and the incident should be reported and action must be taken, even if it means separation, if all other attempts at resolving the violence do not work.

It is a misconception that domestic violence takes place because of the use of drugs, or alcohol and stress. It is important to recognise that domestic violence takes place because the abuser or perpetrator chooses to act violently towards the victim-survivor. Domestic violence is never the fault of the woman who is battered. Research shows that women are reluctant to use laws and procedures because they believe domestic violence is acceptable and in some instances justifiable. However, the law penalises domestic violence because it is illegal and abusive behaviour which is not socially acceptable. It is also a violation of women’s human rights. The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, No. 34 of 2005 in Sri Lanka defines domestic violence as violence that occurs within the home or outside between individuals in a close relationship. It could take the form of physical, sexual or emotional abuse.



Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals.Somawathie’s eldest son stayed on with her after he married. Cordial Relations between Somawathie and her daughter-in-law, Kusuma lasted only for a short time. Kusuma started quarrelling and ill treating Somawathie. The relations between the mother and son were also strained. Somawathie was harassed in her own home. One night after an altercation Kusuma ran on to the road screaming and left the house. A complaint was made at the police station.



Reporting Domestic Violence

You can always seek help directly but if you are nervous to seek help by yourself, always try to identify a close friend or family member to assist you.

  • Speak to a counselor from a recognized organization.
  • Complain to the police.
  • Report the incident to the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) if the victim-survivor is below the age of 18 years.
  • Seek shelter with a friend, family or at an organization that provides shelter.

Certain organizations provide support through the reporting process. They can clarify your doubts and questions.
Click to learn more about Service Providers.
Click to learn about Laws.


Law against Domestic Violence
  • The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, No. 34 of 2005 (PDV Act) addresses domestic violence and provides for a civil remedy.
  • The Act provides security to the aggrieved person (person affected by domestic violence) by way of an Interim Protection Order and/or Protection Order.
  • The person affected by domestic violence is referred to as an “aggrieved person” to avoid looking at them as just a victim of the situation.
  • Certain types of violence that take place within the domestic sphere may also be general criminal offences in the Penal Code (Amendment) Act, No. 22 of 1995 such as hurt, grievous hurt, grievous sexual abuse and offences against the human body.

Perpetrators of Domestic Violence can be:
  • A spouse
  • An ex-spouse
  • A cohabiting partner
  • A parent
  • Spouse or former spouse or cohabiting partner
  • Father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, stepfather or stepmother
  • Son, daughter, grandson or grand daughter, stepson, stepdaughter
  • Brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, step-brother, step-sister
  • Brother or sister of parent (an uncle or aunt)
  • The child of a brother or sister
  • The child of brother or sister of parent

Although a son-in-law or daughter-in-law could be a perpetrator of abuse they are not included in this law. However, the aggrieved person may file action against such persons according to provisions in the Penal Code.


Remedy under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act: Who may apply for an Interim Protection Order or a Protection Order?

An aggrieved person, affected by domestic violence may obtain an Interim Protection Order (IPO) and a Protection Order (PO) from the Magistrate Court. The IPO and PO prevent the abuser or perpetrator from causing further violence to the aggrieved person. A police officer may make an application on behalf of an aggrieved person. In the case of a child below 18 years: a parent or guardian or person with whom the child resides or a person authorized by the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) may make an application.

What is the procedure for obtaining a Protection Order?


  • In the case of an adult (over 18 years) directly to the Magistrate’s Court, or through a lawyer, police officer who makes an application on her/his behalf.
  • The Magistrate’s Court must be in the area where the aggrieved person resides, or in the area that the incident of violence took place or is likely to take place.
  • The aggrieved person can also seek assistance from the Legal Aid Commission, or human rights organizations to make an application. Service Providers.
  • It is not compulsory to make an entry in a police station before going to the Magistrate’s Court.
  • If the aggrieved person is a child (below 18 years), a parent, a guardian, or an adult with whom the child is
  • living or the National Child Protection Authority or a police officer can make an application to the court on behalf of the child.
  • Attach affidavits to the application from anyone who is aware of the acts of violence and abuse. (An affidavit is a statement written and sworn to in the presence of someone authorized to administer an oath, such as a notary public. The person or people making the statements in an affidavit pledge that the facts set out in the affidavit are true to the best of their knowledge).



  • An IPO is issued by the Magistrate when s/he considers it necessary to make the order before final inquiry into the application.
  • Based on the testimony of the aggrieved person, if the Magistrate is satisfied, an IPO will be issued and an inquiry will be held within 14 days of the application.
  • The court takes into consideration the urgent need to prevent further violence and the protection of the aggrieved party.
  • The court may require as evidence previous police complaints/entries, eye witness testimonies to support the application of domestic violence.
  • If the Magistrate decides that an IPO is not necessary, instructions will be given to hold an inquiry within 14 days of the application.
  • The courts will issue a Notice on the respondent to explain his/her position and present his/her facts on the date specified, and why a Protection Order should not be issued against the perpetrator.



  • An IPO prohibits the person who caused the violence from committing or causing any further violence.
  • It is temporary.
  • It will remain in force until a Protection Order is issued or until the Interim Order is removed.
  • The IPO and Protection Order may prohibit the perpetrator from: entering the home, workplace, and/or school of the person against whom the violence was caused; staying in the shared home; contacting or attempting to contact or following the person against whom the violence was caused; harming relatives, friends, the social worker or medical officer who is helping the person against whom the violence was caused and selling the matrimonial home.
  • The Court can appoint a social worker, family counselor, probation officer, family health worker or a child rights promotion officer to ensure the immediate safety of the person who is subject to violence.


  • After the inquiry into the application is completed, if the court is satisfied that it is necessary to do so it will issue a Protection Order.
  • The Protection Order prohibits the perpetrator from committing or getting anyone else to commit any act of domestic violence.
  • The Protection Order will remain in force up to twelve (12) months. But it can be changed or removed when both parties apply to do so and the Court is satisfied that the application has been made freely and that the situation has changed.



  • Report it to the police immediately.
  • It helps if there are witnesses to support your claim.


  • The Interim/Protection Order is a ‘court order’, and therefore if the perpetrator breaks or disobeys this ‘order’, it is a criminal offence.
  • The court may order a fine not exceeding ten thousand rupees (10,000) to be paid by the perpetrator and / or imprisonment not exceeding one year.


The court will take into account the need:

  • For a place to stay for the person who was subject to domestic violence and/or children.
  • To take into account any hardship that may be caused because of the Order and be placed in a shelter or given a temporary place to stay, the details of which will be kept confidential.
  • For the person who caused the violence to provide financial support where he has a duty to do so.


Example of cases filed under the PDV Act

Excerpts from cases filed under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, No. 34 of 2005, An Analysis by Dhara Wijayatilake, Women In Need (2009).

“The Applicant’s wife had been subjected to abuse for over 17 years. After the Respondent was served with the PO he had left and had not been heard of thereafter. The wife and their daughter are reported to be living a peaceful life. The family unit may have not been preserved, but peace prevailed” [p.49].

“The Respondent had pursued the wife and daughter even after he had thrown them out of the matrimonial home and while they were living in the wife’s house. The PO was issued and laid down conditions that the Respondent should not enter the wife’s home or work place or call her on her mobile or send her text messages and was directed also to stay away from their daughter because she had been traumatized by his conduct. The Magistrate had advised the Respondent to refrain from his unacceptable behaviour. It is reported that the wife and daughter are now living peacefully” [p.50].


Remedies under the Penal Code

All acts of domestic violence (other than those of emotional abuse of adult persons) are in fact criminal offences under the Penal Code and the police should act in such circumstances as they would in the case of any other offence.Therefore in cases of grave physical or sexual abuse, the aggrieved person can report the offence to a hospital or police station. If the policeman or doctor is satisfied that the injuries constitute a criminal offense such as hurt, grievous hurt or grave sexual abuse etc. the police may prosecute the perpetrator under the criminal law.