According to a Telugu saying, a woman’s worst enemy is another woman. Who could prove it better than our very own National Commission for Women (NCW) and its sister organizations?
At first glance, most feminist organizations appear to be very passionately fighting to empower women. Most women’s groups parrot fabricated statistics of violence against women to justify stringent legal provisions to protect women. However, it requires a closer look to understand the kind of empowerment they are talking about, the category of women they see as worthy of protection under law, and how the laws actually affect women.
It has been shown that in close to 98% of cases filed under Section 498A, the accused are found not guilty, and that the complaints were only filed with ulterior motives. Noted activist Madhu Kishwar acknowledged that Section 498A is heavily misused, and that a significant proportion of individuals who approach “Manushi” these days are mothers-in-law and husbands who were falsely accused. While even the Supreme Court of India has termed the misuse of Section 498A as “legal terrorism”, minor girls, pregnant women, married and unmarried sisters, ailing mothers and even aged grandmothers have been sent behind bars based on mere allegations, and subjected to long-drawn trials before being declared innocent. Renowned IPS officer Kiran Bedi admitted that many falsely charged, poor and illiterate women are languishing in prison every year. Some women have ended their lives unable to bear the humiliation of being arrested. Many mothers and sisters are heart-broken to see their sons and brothers lose their youth, their health, their jobs, all their earnings, and sometimes even their lives, as they are mercilessly tortured by their estranged wives, aided by the law enforcement system. The pain and suffering of these women has not even been acknowledged, leave alone addressed by feminist organizations like NCW. It is now clearer than ever before that by promoting IPC Section 498A feminist organizations are actually protecting those women who indulge in perjury, blackmail, extortion and harassment of their husbands and in-laws. Despite having compelling evidence that more harm than good is being done to women, NCW has not made any attempts to correct misuse of the law.
As if the suffering caused by Section 498A was not enough, NCW pushed for the Domestic Violence Law claiming that it would protect women from physical, verbal, emotional, sexual and economical abuse in a domestic situation. In reality, the law provides protection only to a wife or girlfriend against domestic violence (real or perceived) committed by a man. It ignores domestic violence committed by wives and girlfriends against male partners, and also the several instances where a daughter-in-law commits domestic violence against her mother-in-law, sister-in-law or any other females related by marriage. Interestingly enough, the Domestic Violence Law also favors divorced women and former girlfriends over a legally wedded wife. It supports the encroachment of property by a girlfriend (former or present) at the expense of the right to residence of a man, his legally wedded wife and any other dependent female members of a family. So, in the name of protecting a section of women who may be making true or false allegations, the law penalizes innocent women who are related to an accused man.
Although it may not be obvious to many, women who file false cases also suffer enormously from turning legal protection tools into lethal weapons. Backed by the NCW and greedy law enforcement officials and lawyers, a significant proportion of women have misused laws and have thoughtlessly broken their marriages on the slightest pretext. Many women have been encouraged to use these laws to threaten and blackmail the husband into submission to their terms and conditions in marriage. What most people do not realize is that all such cases eventually result in divorce. Consequently, there is an increasing number of unhappy women who, misled by false notions of liberation and empowerment, shunned the simple joys of family life that no women’s organization or law enforcement official can restore.
In summary, feminist organizations like NCW have done grave injustice to three groups of women. The first group constitutes genuine victims of dowry harassment and domestic abuse whose misery remains unmitigated, but is constantly alluded to in order to justify stringent women-protection laws. It is important to note that due to a huge excess of false complaints of domestic abuse and dowry harassment, justice is seriously delayed and sometimes even denied in genuine cases. The second group consists of innocent mothers, sisters and other female relatives of husbands who are criminalized and harassed by the police and the legal system without any regard to their age, health or marital status. The third group comprises women who are readily breaking their families, misguided by dubious notions of “women’s rights and empowerment” propagated by feminist groups. These women, even if they are initially successful in bargaining huge monetary settlements, end up unhappy and lonely. Fighting endless legal battles only for vengeance, they deny their children a happy childhood, and deprive themselves of the opportunity to settle down and have a happy family.
Unmoved by the large-scale havoc they wreaked on the society, feminist organizations like NCW continue to push for more and more similar “women-protection laws”. It is high time we understand that these laws are not only anti-men, but also anti-women, anti-children, and anti-family. So, anytime you hear about a law claiming to protect women, instead of eagerly endorsing it, please spare a thought at least for the “forgotten women”.
– Uma Challa