Protesting discrimination under law
Misuse of anti-dowry laws and other woman-protection laws has now become a well recognized problem in India. Increasing number of aged parents, sisters and children in the husband’s family are falsely accused and arrested under these inhumane laws, and find themselves defenseless against the harassment unleashed thereafter.
To protest against this outrageous and horrific legal regime and its so called pro-women façade, men and women of the Save Indian Family Foundation are gathering at Jantar Mantar along with their families on 26th of August – The Women’s Equality Day. We are enraged by the misuse of women-protection laws and the nuisance created by women’s organizations that are incessantly pushing for more anti-male, anti-family legal provisions. We would like to highlight how the concerns of a large section of men and women have been completely sidelined in order to accommodate discrimination-based political agendas.
Over the years, various responsible agencies including Indian Judiciary have stressed on the need for amending these atrocious laws. The World Health Organization identified misuse of IPC Section 498A as the prominent reason for elder abuse in India. The Supreme Court of India has described the misuse of IPC Section 498A as ‘Legal Terrorism’, and stressed that the law must be amended in order to protect the innocent, and to ensure justice to the genuinely aggrieved. Rational and responsible citizens from all over the country and abroad have repeatedly warned that these laws in their present form are detrimental to family harmony, and left unchecked, these laws have enormous potential to shatter marital and family stability in years to come.
While ordinary law-abiding men, along with women, senior citizens and children, are being summarily arrested and ruthlessly incarcerated on false charges of dowry harassment every day, the Government has not raised a finger yet. It was not until the Minister for Human Resources Development was accused of dowry harassment that Smt. Renuka Chaudhary finally acknowledged the misuse of anti-dowry laws in public. What is deeply agonizing to us is that contrary to the way common men and women are treated, the Government is according special concessions to the Minister, thereby demonstrating that the otherwise brutal anti-dowry laws do not apply equally to all citizens of India.
Why is the Government not directing the law enforcement system to make proper inquiries before acting on complaints of dowry harassment filed on common citizens? Why are the repeated pleas for amending laws not being heard? Why are the young men and women of India forced to dissipate their energies and waste their most productive years in needless litigation? Why are so many senior citizens being traumatized during the last leg of their lives? Why is the Government sponsoring the destruction of families?
People from all over the country are coming in to Delhi to show how the drive against anti-male, anti-family laws is slowly but steadily gaining momentum. They are coming with the hope that the Government will stop pretending to be asleep, and that it will hear and respond to all our yet unanswered questions.
Social impact of draconian legal provisions and their misuse
Discriminatory laws like IPC 498A and DV Act are harming men, women and children of India.
Due to lack of social support and legal protection many male victims of domestic abuse are taking their lives everyday. Recently, the increasing threat of false cases is also driving many married men to commit suicide.
False cases are severely hampering the personal and professional lives of the most productive section of the Indian population. Aspirations of young men and women are being crushed, and their most fruitful years are being wasted in litigation. Many men have lost their jobs or have had to quit their professions as a result of the never-ending legalized harassment.
Parents are heart-broken to see their sons lose their youth, health, careers, all their earnings, and sometimes even their lives, as they are mercilessly tortured by their estranged wives, aided by the law enforcement system. Retired elders are, thus, being denied mental peace in their old age, resulting in deterioration of their health, and in many cases their premature demise. Falsely accused senior citizens have also ended their lives unable to endure the humiliation of being arrested and the trauma of fighting false cases.
The so-called women-protection laws are also causing more harm than good to women. In every false complaint at least two women, a mother-in-law and a sister-in-law, are accused. 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. Many falsely charged, poor and illiterate women are languishing in prison every year. Due to an excess of false cases and the systemic corruption, genuine victims of domestic abuse are denied timely justice.
Children are not being spared from the suffering either. In case of marital disputes children are being denied access to their fathers, causing great pain to the fathers and children. Children are also being arrested under false charges of dowry harassment, and imprisoned along with older family members. In other cases, children are being torn apart from their parents who are hauled away by the police in front of their eyes, causing indelible scars and fears in their young minds.
Indians residing abroad are equally vulnerable to legalized harassment. Passports of falsely accused NRIs are being impounded. Several individuals who visited India are unable to return to their respective countries of residence, and several others continue to live abroad in fear, separated indefinitely from their loved ones in India. Interpol Red Corner Notices are being misused to force many overseas Indians to return to India.
Unreasonable and easily misused laws like IPC 498A and DV Act are creating a situation of fear and mutual distrust, and adversely affecting interpersonal relationships between men and women in the society. There is a fear psychosis among men who find it difficult to repose faith in women or marriage. Increasing number of women are being misled by false notions of liberation and empowerment, and being encouraged to shun family life.
Due to misuse of laws like IPC 498A and DV Act numerous families have been broken beyond repair, and are suffering immeasurable economic hardship and emotional trauma. The country has already incurred a huge social cost in addition to the enormous financial burden imposed on the public exchequer. How does the Government propose to compensate individuals for their personal losses, and more importantly, how will it explain the squandering of tax payer money to sponsor its discriminatory politics?
Victims of legal discrimination – the grim statistics
The statistics on suicides in India tell the tale of harsh ground realities faced by men in Indian society.
In the recent years, the number of suicides by males in every age group studied outnumbered the number of suicides by females in those respective age groups. Nearly twice as many married men committed suicide compared to married women in the years 2004 and 2005. Also, nearly twice as many men separated from their wives committed suicide compared to separated women in both years.
Men outnumbered women in every method of committing suicide, except by fire and self-immolation. Nearly nine times more men committed suicide by consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, or by machines. Nearly four times more men committed suicide by firearms, by jumping of trains and fast moving vehicles, or by self-electrocution. In almost every other category of suicide such as hanging, poisoning, or overdose of pills etc., suicides of men were nearly twice the rate of suicides of women.
Overall, the total number of suicides by men nearly tripled between 1983 and 2005 (whereas during the same period female suicides only nearly doubled). Incidentally, the draconian provisions of IPC 498A were introduced in the year 1983, and overwhelming evidence points to the increasing misuse of these provisions ever since.
Every year, there is a rising number of cases fabricated by wives only to threaten, extort money from, and wreak revenge on husbands and their relatives, in case of marital discord. Between 1995 and 2005, the number of cases filed annually nearly doubled. According to data obtained from the Ministry of Home Affairs, in the year 2005 alone, 58,319 cases were registered under charges of cruelty by husband and relatives (IPC 498A), and resulted in the arrest of 1,27,560 individuals including 339 children, 28,579 women and 4,512 adults over the age of 60.
However, the statistics reveal only a small part of the grim reality. Under Section 498A, an individual is charged with a non-bailable, cognizable criminal offense, and is presumed guilty until proven innocent. The accused have to fight the highly corrupt state machinery at their own personal expense, all the while carrying the presumption of guilt on their heads. Sometimes, they lose their employment. Often, they are forced to travel to a different city or state to fight their cases.
Where would these falsely accused men and women gather the strength and the resources needed to fight the corruption and public prosecution effectively? If the accused are already indigent and cannot afford the best defense money can buy, their fate is sealed. They become mere statistics in the arsenal of the proponents of this draconian legislation.
Against this backdrop, one has to examine the statistics of conviction. In 80% of the older cases that concluded in year 2005, the accused were found not guilty. The same is true for the years 2003 and 2004 as well. Multiple sources indicate that, nearly 98% of all 498A cases result in acquittal of the accused. Despite the presumption of guilt and the overwhelming odds the accused is forced to face, the convictions are only a small percentage of the total cases filed.
Isn’t this is a clear indication of how frivolous the charges usually are and how widespread the abuse of the system is?
The Government needs to act NOW
Save Indian Family Foundation urges the Government of India to make the following amendments to the law and ensure that ordinary citizens of India are spared from needless harassment:
1. Section 498A of IPC should be made bailable.
Section 498A, being non-bailable, allows punishing the accused by imprisonment even before guilt is established. This goes against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law. Abused women need protection, but placing unconditional faith in the statements of a woman and confining the accused husband and his family in police or judicial custody, until bail is granted by a court, is not the way to accord protection to women.
2. Section 498A of IPC should be made non-cognizable.
Innocent citizens are being arrested everyday based on mere complaints without requiring evidence or investigation. Even children and senior citizens are not being spared. IPC 498A, being a cognizable offence, violates a citizen’s right to due process.
3. IPC 498A and Domestic Violence Law should be made gender neutral.
Domestic abuse is not gender specific. The assumption that victims of physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse are always women is wrong. According the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “all are equal before the law, and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”. Hence, men should also be accorded protection from physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse by women.
4. Persons who misuse IPC 498A and Domestic Violence Law should be penalized.
Misuse of the process of law not only costs the public exchequer dearly, but also destroys the personal lives of many innocent citizens. Misuse of law should be treated as a serious crime, and persons who use women-protection laws as weapons for settling personal scores in marital disputes should be severely punished.
(On behalf of Save Indian Family Foundation)