With more and more people passing into the older adult category, adult abuse is becoming more prevalent. Elder abuse is a topic that is usually not acknowledged by others or even hidden by the victims. In most cases, immediate relatives like the son and daughter-in-law, or in some cases, the daughter and son-in-law, or even nephews/nieces, grandchildren, or siblings are the abusers. Abuse is of many kinds – physical, emotional, verbal, material or financial. Older adults also face abuse in the form of abandonment or neglect.
There are more than 100 million older adults in India. Roughly 50% of them face abuse at home. The saddest part of being abused is that most of the older adults think that it is normal for a person their age to be abused. Most of them do not lodge complaints against their abusers fearing retaliation and of spoiling the family name. However, there are laws that protect the rights of Indian elderly. Have a look.
Laws for helping senior citizens
Eviction: In 2017, Delhi High Court passed a ruling saying that abusive adults could be evicted from their parents’ home. This property need not be owned by the parents or self-bought. It could be any property in which the parents are in legal possession of. This law brings much-needed relief to senior citizens who are at the mercy of their children and are abused by them.
Not just sons and daughter-in-laws, but daughters and son-in-laws are also equally responsible to support their parents.
Maintenance: Besides this, the Government of India has passed the Maintenance of Parents Act in 2007, then amended in 2013 and 2018. The original Act decreed that the sons have a legal obligation towards taking care of their parents. In 2013, the parents could complain against them and the sons could be held legally for not supporting their parents. In the amendment of 2018, daughters and sons-in-law were also held responsible for supporting their parents.
The Parents and Senior Citizens Act of 2007 is a bill that makes it a legal obligation for children and legal guardians to provide maintenance to older adults. It permits state governments to start and maintain old age homes in each district. Senior citizens can apply for a monthly allowance from their children, in case they are not able to support themselves. The children or heirs could be punished for not providing maintenance to older adults. The punishment could be paying a fine of Rs.5000 or three months in prison or both.
Most older adults are not aware of the laws that are made to protect them and safeguard their rights. Many people keep quiet to keep their children and near ones safe. Some fear further retaliation or abandonment. Some do it to prevent besmirching their family name. Some worry that they would lose their social standing and become an object of ridicule. Many even think that it is their fate to be ill-treated by their children.
Several NGOs have been relentlessly working to change this mindset. They conduct workshops and visit apartments, old residents’ associations and societies where they can meet older adults and spread awareness about recognizing abuse and the different laws they can take recourse to.
There are cases where the children forcibly acquire property or other assets of their parents. In such cases, the Maintenance Act provides a clause that states that the deed of handing over the said property or asset can be challenged if the older adult in question was forced or if the deed was done when the older adult was not of sound mind or good health.
Older adults are vulnerable and usually physically weak and are easily victimized by the younger generation. Being aware of their own rights and the various laws that protect them can make life much easier for them.
Also Read: Emergency numbers for elderly in India