- Author Name: Anupama Kumari Rai
- Details: Advocate, Bombay High Court, B.Sc, LLM
The World Health Organization defines elder abuse as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.” According to WHO, elder abuse can take various forms such as physical, psychological or emotional, sexual and financial abuse. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect.
Senior citizens in the country can avoid ill-treatment or abuse at the hands of their family under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007. This law aims to prevent elder abuse by making it a legal obligation of children to provide maintenance to their parents. Under the Act, parents and grandparents who are unable to maintain themselves from their own incomes can demand maintenance from their children. The Act also provides for ‘Childless Senior Citizens,’ who are unable to maintain themselves from their own income and can demand maintenance from their relatives. Maintenance in this case includes provision for food, clothing, residence, medical attendance and treatment. There are also cases where the elderly have been forced by their children to gift away the property to their children. Under the Maintenance Act, the tribunals give the option to challenge the gift deed if the elder was forced or was not of sound mind. Seniors can apply to a maintenance tribunal under Section 4 giving names, full details and addresses of the persons from whom they are demanding maintenance. If the senior citizen is incapable of making an application on their own, any other
a person or registered voluntary organization authorised by him/her can make the application. Upon receipt of the application, the maintenance tribunal would issue notices to the children, conduct hearings, take evidence and order maintenance. Maintenance tribunal may also refer the case for reconciliation or pass interim orders for maintenance.
As long as older people are devalued and marginalized by society, they will suffer from loss of self-identity and remain highly susceptible to discrimination and all forms of abuse. Among the priorities for confronting and eradicating the problem of elder abuse are greater knowledge about the problem, stronger laws and policies and more effective prevention strategies. The elderly citizens need urgent attention. It is our duty to see that they do not spend the twilight years of their life in isolation, pain and misery. Older persons are, therefore, in need of vital support that will keep important aspects of their lifestyle intact while improving their overall quality of life.