Women against misuse of women-protection laws

Press Release
Women Against Misuse of Women-Protection Laws

Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) is a voluntary self-help group
formed with the twin objectives of promoting family harmony and
fighting legal terrorism (carried out through the misuse of
women-protection laws). SIFF is observing International Women’s Day
for the first time this year.

On this occasion, we, the women members of SIFF are organizing a Press
Conference and Seminar on Wednesday, 5th March 2008, at Basheerbagh
Press Club, Hyderabad, to highlight the consequences of women’s
empowerment gone awry. Through this event, we would like to bring to
light the plight of the “forgotten women”, who have actually been
disempowered and whose basic human rights are being violated by the
police and judiciary in the name of women’s rights, protection and
empowerment. We seek to highlight the woes of thousands of mothers and
sisters who have been ignored and written off by organizations
claiming to work for women’s welfare.

Over the last 60 years many policies have been instituted in the
country in the name of women’s liberation and empowerment. Special
laws have been passed specifically in the name of women’s protection
such as IPC Section 498A (law against marital cruelty and dowry
harassment) and Domestic Violence Law. Unfortunately, there are no
safeguards to prevent misuse of these protective provisions.

These “women-protection laws”, which are in essence wife-protection
laws, assume that wives are always honest victims and would never
jeopardize their own family life by making false claims of abuse. The
draconian law, IPC Section 498A, in particular, allows the arrest of
the husband and his male and female relatives, irrespective of their
age, martial status or even health condition, solely on the basis of
allegations of a wife, without any evidence or investigation.

Owing to this blind assumption and due to the absence of inherent
checks and balances to prevent misuse of the laws, many innocent
mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law and other female relatives of husbands
are arrested and harassed through long-drawn trials that last several

Several authorities have noted that in close to 98% of cases filed
under Section 498A, the accusations are false and that the complaints
were only filed with ulterior motives.

Nevertheless, minor girls, pregnant women, married and unmarried
sisters, ailing mothers and even aged grandmothers have been sent
behind bars and prosecuted based on mere allegations. Young mothers
are either torn away from their children or imprisoned along with them
leaving indelible scars on the minds of the mothers and the children.

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 lawyers, police and the
judiciary. Some women have ended their lives unable to bear the
humiliation of being accused and arrested, and the trauma of making
endless trips around the courts.

Noted activist Madhu Kishwar acknowledged that IPC Section 498A is
heavily misused, and that a significant proportion of individuals who
approach “Manushi” these days are mothers-in-law and husbands who are
falsely accused.

Renowned IPS officer Kiran Bedi admitted that many poor and illiterate
mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, who are falsely charged under IPC
Section 498A are languishing in prison every year.

The Supreme Court of India has labeled the misuse of IPC Section 498A
as “legal terrorism”.

The Delhi High Court recently stated that IPC Section 498A is the most
abused provision.

The World Health Organization, in its report on India clearly cited
Section 498A as one of the major reasons for the “Increasing Abuse of
the Elderly in India”.

Recently, the National Human Rights Commission noted that the Tihar
jail is overflowing with people falsely accused under dowry cases.

A look at the crime records shows that every 20 minutes an innocent
woman is arrested under IPC Section 498A.

In addition to penalizing innocent women, a large backlog of false
cases in our highly corrupt and inefficient legal system prevents
genuine victims of abuse from obtaining justice. Through IPC Section
498A the police and the legal fraternity are protecting those women
who indulge in perjury, blackmail, extortion and harassment of their
husbands and in-laws.

Despite having such compelling evidence that more harm than good is
being done to women through IPC Section 498A, none of the leading
women’s organizations, law makers nor the Ministry for Women and Child
Welfare have taken any measures to arrest misuse of this law.

All the warnings, requests, recommendations and demands from several
quarters to amend IPC Section 498A have fallen on deaf ears. Even
before fixing the flaws in IPC Section 498A the Domestic Violence Law
was introduced in 2006 with similar loopholes and without public
discussion. Misuse of the Domestic Violence law began very soon after
its introduction, and under its provisions a number of elderly
mothers-in-law have been thrown out of their own homes by their

It is customary for women’s organizations to trivialize the extent of
misuse of these laws by women and to exaggerate statistics of dowry
harassment, dowry death and domestic abuse. It is also customary for
women’s rights activists to deny domestic abuse against our fathers,
brothers and sons. However, recent data from the National Crime Bureau
indicates that nearly twice as many married men, compared to married
women, commit suicide every year, unable to withstand verbal,
emotional, economic and physical abuse and legal harassment. While
every death of a young married woman is converted into a case of dowry
death leading to immediate arrest of the husband and in-laws,
large-scale suicides of men do not cause any outrage in the society.

Is the pain of a mother who lost a son to domestic abuse or legal
terrorism any less than that of a mother who lost a daughter? How many
more mothers and sisters should lose their sons and brothers before
measures are taken to alleviate their sufferings?

Aren’t mothers and sisters women? Don’t they deserve a life of dignity
and respect?

Does penalizing innocent mothers and sisters under false cases bring
justice to genuinely abused women?

Does women’s empowerment mean destroying family harmony and creating a
fatherless society?

Is protection of women’s rights synonymous with gross violation of
basic human rights?

Is legal terrorism the solution to all women’s problems?

These are the questions we ask the public, women’s organizations,
police, legal fraternity, bureaucrats and politicians in our Press
Conference and Seminar on the occasion of International Women’s Day
2008. We will also be submitting a memorandum to the Prime Minister of
India stating our demands to the Government on this occasion.

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