Telegraph misrepresents All India Forgotten Women

Telegraph newspaper recently published an article called BONANZA FOR THE ‘OTHER WOMAN’ in which the reporter, Shabina Akhtar, wrote a paragraph about All India Forgotten Women’s views on maintenance to live-in partners. It says,

“Hyderabad-based Uma Challa, president of the intriguingly-named but hyperactive All India Forgotten Women Forum, has appealed to anybody who is somebody to stop Vyas in her tracks. “A live-in relationship is the preferred arrangement of men and women who want to avoid legal formalities governing their union, separation or the bond itself. Bringing such an arrangement within the purview of law is ridiculous and legally untenable,” argues Challa. She claims that a woman who lives with a man outside wedlock generally has “loose morals”. “Giving her legal recognition would only encourage more and more such women to move in with men without marrying them, thus posing a grave challenge to society,” she maintains.”

The reporter misrepresented All India Forgotten Women and our views, and below is my response to the reporter and the editor of telegraph.

(As I write this post, Shabina Akhtar called me and apologized for the error committed by her and said she would do what she can to correct the error.)

****************************************************

Dear Shabina,

I just happened to come across your article BONANZA FOR THE ‘OTHER WOMAN’ dated 23 July 2008 in the Telegraph.

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080723/jsp/opinion/story_9587692.jsp

I am happy to see that you have gathered opinions of different individuals and organizations who are concerned about the issue. I would also like to thank you for dedicating a paragraph to All India Forgotten Women’s views. However, I would just like to clarify that in our very brief conversation, I, as the President of All India
Forgotten Women, spoke to you about the legal implications of providing maintenance to live-in partners. I spoke about how such provisions would adversely affect the institutions of marriage and family. I did not make any judgments about the moral values or lack thereof of women (or men) who prefer live-in relationships.

All India Forgotten Women stands for true gender equality, and we demand that civil and criminal laws are equally applicable to men and women.

My views on NCW’s proposed amendments are very clearly stated in my letter to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, which you have a copy of and have sought my permission to quote verbatim. I am providing a link to the same below.

https://uchalla.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/aifw_crpc125_amendments.pdf

I request you to publish a correction in the article in the interest of accurate reporting. I will be blogging my communication to you in All India Forgotten Women’s website and my personal blog.

Thanks and regards
Uma Challa
President
All India Forgotten Women

***************************************************

Email sent to follow up on Shabina Akhtar’s phone call on 30 July 2008 1:44 p.m. (ccd to Editor of Telegraph):

Dear Shabina,

Thank you for calling me this afternoon. I hope that, as you mentioned over the phone, you will make the necessary corrections to the article and do the needful to accurately represent the views of All India Forgotten Women. I will make a note on our website and blog about the same.

Thanks and regards
Uma Challa
President
All India Forgotten Women

AIFW’s Recommendations to IPC Section 498A Review Committee

24th July 2008
To,

Ms. Priya Hingorani
49, Lawyers Chamber,
Supreme Court ,
New Delhi -110001

and

Ms. Manali Singhal
84, Lawyers Chamber
Supreme Court ,
New Delhi -110001

Subject: Recommendations to stop misuse of women-protection laws, to promote gender equality and to provide relief to the genuinely aggrieved

Respected Madam,

I am writing on behalf of All India Forgotten Women, an organization dedicated to promoting true gender equality and fighting against the misuse of protections and privileges granted to women. At the outset, we would like to thank you for setting up a committee to review women-protection laws. We would also like to use this opportunity to propose amendments to IPC Section 498A, which has turned into a lethal weapon of blackmail and extortion.

It is an established fact that IPC Section 498A is heavily misused. Several authorities have noted that in close to 98% of cases filed under IPC 498A, the accusations are false and that the complaints were only filed with ulterior motives. Several authorities have noted the widespread misuse of this law.

• The Supreme Court of India termed the misuse of IPC Section 498A as “Legal Terrorism”.
• The Delhi High Court termed IPC Section 498A “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”.
• News reports revealed that many falsely charged, poor and illiterate women are languishing in prison every year.
• News agencies have also reported many cases where individuals have ended their lives unable to endure the humiliation of being arrested and the trauma of fighting false cases, which typically span 5-7 years.
• The National Human Rights Commission noted that the Tihar jail is overflowing with people falsely accused under dowry cases.

Noted women’s rights 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 of marital cruelty and dowry harassment. Renowned IPS officer Kiran Bedi admitted that many poor and illiterate mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, who are falsely charged under anti-dowry laws are languishing in prison every year.

A look at the National Crime Records data shows that every year, over 1 lakh innocent persons (one innocent person every 5 minutes) are arrested under IPC Section 498A. Every year, close to 30,000 innocent women (one innocent woman every 20 minutes) and 4,000 innocent senior citizens (one innocent elderly person every 2.5 hours) are arrested under IPC Section 498A. Every year close to 350 children (one child per day) are arrested under IPC Section 498A.

Discriminatory laws like IPC Section 498A are harming men, women and children of India. Due to misuse of IPC Section 498A numerous families have been broken beyond repair and are suffering immeasurable economic hardship and emotional trauma. In addition to penalizing innocent citizens, a large backlog of false cases pending in courts prevents genuine victims of abuse from obtaining justice. The country has already incurred a huge social cost in addition to the enormous financial burden imposed on the public exchequer.

In light of the above-mentioned facts, members of All India Forgotten Women, hereby, recommend the following legal amendments to IPC Section 498A to ensure that family harmony is promoted, the innocent are protected and justice is delivered to the genuinely aggrieved irrespective of gender.

1. Ban Police involvement in marital counseling and pass directives to resolve all marital disputes under civil law.

Marriage is a civil matter and should be treated as such. Marital issues should be dealt with utmost caution so that harmony is restored between disputing spouses. Allowing Police intervention in everyday marital issues and allowing them to indiscriminately file criminal cases on the accused husband and in-laws is resulting in destruction of families.

2. Make civil and criminal laws applicable to men and women equally.

Spousal abuse is not gender-specific, and 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, IPC Section 498A should confer equal protection upon men and women against all forms of marital cruelty.

3. Make Section 498A of IPC 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.

4. Make Section 498A of IPC 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 Section 498A, being a cognizable offence, violates a citizen’s right to due process.

5. Allow no arrests without written permission of Senior Police Authorities.

It has become routine for lower cadre Police personnel to make arrests of innocent people based on mere allegations, without proof or investigation. The law needs to be amended so that no arrests of any of the accused (man, woman or child) are made without proper investigation and written approval of police officials of the rank of DCP or above.

6. Punish those who misuse IPC Section 498A.

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 and abuse of the judicial process should be treated as a serious crime, and persons who misuse IPC Section 498A as a weapon for settling personal scores in marital disputes should be severely punished.

7. Ensure that “dowry-givers” are promptly prosecuted.

The family members alleging “dowry torture” or “dowry killing” of their daughter should be promptly prosecuted if they admit or are found to have given dowry because according to Dowry Prohibition Act, giving dowry is also a crime.

We hope that you will take our recommendations and suggestions into serious consideration and promote justice and fairness irrespective of gender.

Thanking you.

Sincerely,

Uma Challa
President
All India Forgotten Women

NCW’s recommendations to address “unnatural deaths” of married women are unreasonable

11th July 2008

To,
Ms. Renuka Chaudhary,
Minister, Government of India,
Ministry of Women and Child Development,
Shastri Bhavan `A’ Wing,
Dr. Rajendra Prasad Road,
New Delhi-110001

Sub: NCW’s recommendations to address “unnatural deaths” of married women are unreasonable

Dear Minister,

We, the members of All India Forgotten Women, are writing to express concern over the unending stream of unreasonable amendments to laws pertaining to women recommended by National Commission for Women (NCW).

Barely a week after NCW made ridiculous recommendations on awarding maintenance for live-in-partners and adulterous wives, it is now pushing for broadening of the Dowry Prohibition Act, so that unnatural death of a woman at ANY stage of her marriage qualifies as dowry death.

At present, unnatural death of a woman within seven years of her marriage is considered as dowry death, attracting punishment to the accused husband and relatives under Section 304(B). While the current seven year rule and the automatic presumption of “dowry death” is in itself is absurd, NCW opines that there should not be any time limit on registering unnatural death of a married woman as dowry death i.e. death caused due to demands for dowry.

Unnatural death “is a category used by coroners and vital statistics specialists for classifying all human deaths not properly describable as death by natural causes. Hence it would include events such as accident, execution, homicide, misadventure (being attacked by insects, reptiles, fishes, lions, tigers, bears, stingrays, or other wild animals), adverse outcome of surgery, suicide, terrorism, war.”

Any person, male or female, married or unmarried, may die an unnatural death due to any of the above causes. Among these, homicide (murder) is the only cause which unambiguously qualifies as a crime that can be committed by one person on another, and is already covered under IPC Section 302. It is, therefore, obvious that providing a Criminal Section specifically to deal with dowry murder is redundant, and only reflects gender bias.

In addition to murder, abetment of suicide is also a crime and punishable under IPC Section 306 which addresses both male and female victims. Therefore, once again, it is unnecessary to have duplications and special provisions in law like Section 304(B) and Section 498(A) to address suicides of women.

Most cases recorded as “dowry death” involve women who died by accident or by committing suicide.

Data from the National Crime Records Bureau indicates that there is no difference between the rate of suicide of married women and never married women. However, radical organizations like NCW would have us believe that every death of a married woman is a dowry death, without providing any justification for such presumption.

Recent data from the National Crime Records Bureau indicate 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 by their wives. 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, followed by a prompt media trial, large-scale suicides of men do not cause any outrage.

Gender obsessed women’s activists also refuse to admit the fact that accidental deaths are also equally likely among men and women. Therefore, it has become routine for police to arrest the husband and his relatives and book them under several sections including, IPC 498(A), 304(B), and Dowry Prohibition Act, every time a deceased woman’s relatives claim that she had been killed or driven to death/suicide for dowry. This is the case even when there are suicide notes or dying declarations absolving everyone including the husband of any responsibility for the woman’s suicide or death. There have even been instances where fake dowry death cases were registered and the “deceased” wife was found to be alive after the accused husband and in-laws were refused bail and imprisoned.

While husbands and their relatives are under constant suspicion leading to frequent violation of their basic human rights, wives are rarely ever questioned leave alone prosecuted if a husband dies or ends his life under similar circumstances. Media finds no incentive in highlighting the truth about abused men. People in power find no financial or political mileage to be gained from taking measures to prevent unnatural deaths of men.

The recent demise of Pushkar Singh is one of the countable few cases that at least caught some media attention. Sadly, even though his suicide note bears evidence to the fact that he was financially and emotionally destroyed because of false criminal cases filed against him and his family by his wife, she was not even called in for questioning by the police until family rights activists like us mounted pressure on them. One can only imagine the fate of cases where men take their lives silently, leaving no note behind. Deaths of these men make for the brief stories in newspapers stating that a certain man “killed himself due to family issues or financial problems”.

NCW is trying to appear very generous by recommending that “arrests of the immediate family members not be made till they are proved guilty”. Why should any individual (man or woman) be arrested unless there is strong basis to believe that they committed the alleged crime? Why is it alright to arrest a husband based on a presumption of dowry death (i.e. murder or abetment of suicide) when the same rule is not applied to a wife upon the unnatural death of the husband? As per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every human being (irrespective of age, sex or any other criterion) charged of a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Through its recommendations, NCW is suggesting that husbands do not count as humans or that they are not entitled to the same basic human rights as others.

Spreading blatant lies and alarmism about increasing crime against women, while ignoring similar abuses and crime against men, may be a lucrative means for radical organizations like NCW to justify their existence and to attract funds from national and international organizations. However, NCW has still to answer some fundamental questions pertaining to women’s welfare.

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? Is the pain of a woman who lost a brother any less than that of a woman who lost a sister?
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?
Do sufferings of innocent mothers and sisters bring justice to genuinely abused women?
Is protection of women’s rights synonymous with gross violation of basic human rights?
Is legal terrorism the solution to all women’s problems?

NCW pretends to possess proprietary rights on deciding what is good or bad for women’s empowerment in India. Through its anti-male, anti-family recommendations, NCW is posing a serious threat to the well-being of our families, especially that of our fathers, brothers and sons. We strongly condemn NCW’s radical proposals.

In the interest of justice, fairness and equality to both genders, we, the members of All India Forgotten Women, make the following recommendations:

• Section 304(B) should not be retained in the law; IPC Section 302 already covers murder and IPC Section 306 covers abetment of suicide, and therefore Section 304(B) is only a duplication of law, which is gender-biased.
• All cases of murder, including murder for dowry should be dealt with under IPC Section 302.
• All cases of abetment of suicide, including those allegedly done for dowry, should be dealt with under IPC Section 306.
• If IPC Section 304(B) is not removed from Indian law, then it should be amended and made applicable to men and women equally. Specifically, the word “husband/wife” should be replaced by the word “spouse”.
• Section 304(B) treats the accused as guilty until proven innocent, thus, violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which proclaims that “everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty”. The law needs to be amended so that no arrests of any of the accused (man, woman or child) are made without proper investigation and written approval of police officials of the rank of DCP or above.
• Those who misuse Section 304(B) for settling personal scores should be heavily penalized because false allegations and prosecution can cause irreparable damage to the accused parties even if they are later declared not guilty.

We hope that you will take our recommendations into serious consideration and promote justice irrespective of gender.

Thanking you.

Sincerely,

Uma Challa
President
All India Forgotten Women

Please click the link below for pdf version

aifwtowcd_section304b_finaldraft

National Commission for Women or National Commission for W…es?

7th July 2008

To,

Ms. Renuka Chaudhary,

Minister, Government of India,
Ministry of Women and Child Development,
Shastri Bhavan `A’ Wing,
Dr. Rajendra Prasad Road,
New Delhi-110001

Sub: Amendments to CrPC 125 recommended by NCW promote adultery and extortion

Honorable Minister,

We, the members of All India Forgotten Women, are appalled by the recent recommendations forwarded by the National Commission for Women (NCW) to the Ministry of Women and Child Development on the amendments sought in Section 125 of CrPC.

CrPC 125 is a Criminal Section which is biased towards women. Under this section, any legally married woman who cannot sustain life on her own can legally claim maintenance from the husband, while an impoverished husband cannot claim maintenance from his gainfully-employed wife. It is a well-known fact that a large proportion of women who are well educated, employed or qualified enough to find gainful employment are approaching courts to demand maintenance from the husband. Such women also simultaneously entangle the husband in false criminal cases under Section 498A and Dowry Prohibition Act. They also use civil provisions like the Domestic Violence Act and Section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act (in addition to CrPC 125) to demand maintenance from the husband.

Various media reports indicate that NCW is pushing for providing maintenance not only to legally wedded/separated/divorced wives but also to female live-in partners. Another major amendment sought by NCW in Section 125 of CrPC is that ‘adultery should no longer be a ground for denying maintenance to a woman’. We feel that these recommendations are extremely sinister and ill-conceived. Through this letter we explain why the above recommendations of NCW should not be accepted, and also propose amendments that promote gender equality.

A live-in relationship, unlike marriage, is not a legally binding contract. Women (and men) who enter live-in relationships are implicitly accepting the risk of a break-up, whatever the reasons for the break-up may be. Live-in relationship is, in fact, the preferred arrangement for men and women who wish to avoid legal formalities governing their union, separation or the relationship therein. Forcing legal interference into a relationship that is legally invalid is simply ridiculous. Even if one were to condone legalization of live-in relationships, the idea of protecting the interests of just the female live-in partner, and leaving the male partner in the lurch, open to economic abuse, betrays the anti-male sentiments of radical groups like NCW. By providing maintenance to female live-in partners, NCW would only be encouraging unscrupulous women to enter into relationships, break-up at will and extort money from the male partner. Given that the length of a legally valid live-in relationship has not been defined by NCW, a woman who has shared just one night with a man can technically claim maintenance from him. Therefore, whether the legal amendment recommended by NCW is a tool of women’s empowerment or a tool of legalized extortion is a moot question.

Committing adultery amounts to criminal breach of trust and violation of the social sanctity and legal contract of marriage. Adultery should be considered an offence whether it is committed by a man or woman, and equal penalty should be imposed on the erring spouse irrespective of gender. Earlier, NCW shot down proposals for amending Section 497 which suggested that women should be prosecuted for adultery. NCW categorically stated that adulterous women were “hapless victims”, while it considered adulterous men as criminals deserving to be prosecuted. It is shameful that NCW is now recommending amendments to CrPC 125 to convert it into an extortion tool and to award maintenance to adulterous women, in the name of women’s empowerment.

Many men have been forced to pay maintenance to undeserving women merely based on the assumption of perpetual victimhood of women promoted by organizations like NCW. Men who fail to pay maintenance for any reason risk going to jail and even losing the property they own. While scores of wives use existing laws to treat husbands as free ATM machines, NCW is now pushing for new provisions so that women who are not legally married, as well as women who violated the legal contract of marriage by committing adultery, can exploit male partners financially.

As fellow women, we feel that enjoying a parasitic life by siphoning money away from an estranged husband or partner is merely extortion in broad daylight and definitely not a sign of women’s empowerment. If anything, NCW’s idea of women’s empowerment is demeaning to hard-working, self-respecting and individualistic women. By supporting unscrupulous women and providing them more tools for misuse of law NCW is harming many families. Before pushing for anymore deceitful provisions claiming to empower women, NCW should think of ways to provide justice to the 1,20,645 innocent mothers and sisters arrested and tormented in the last four years under false complaints of cruelty and dowry harassment. If NCW were genuinely interested in welfare of women, it must strive to stop future arrests of innocent mothers and sisters.

We, the members of All India Forgotten Women, hereby, condemn the recommendations to CrPC 125 made by NCW. These recommendations are not only an insult to truly empowered women, but also a serious threat to the well-being of our beloved fathers, sons, brothers and male colleagues. Recommendations of NCW, which encourage adultery and live-in relationships, are also a good recipe for destruction of family and creation of a fatherless society.

We, therefore, request lawmakers to amend the CrPC 125 as under:

  1. The word men/women should be replaced by the word person; the word husband/wife should be replaced by the word spouse.
  2. No maintenance should be awarded to a spouse who is educated, employed or qualified to find gainful employment.
  3. The phrase “living in adultery” should be replaced by the word “living or lived in adultery”, and the person who indulged in adultery should not be entitled to any maintenance from his/her spouse, as adultery is nothing but criminal breach of trust.
  4. If a person files for maintenance under CrPC 125, he/she should not be allowed to file for maintenance under Section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act or Domestic Violence Act.
  5. A maximum limit on monthly maintenance should be fixed and very strictly enforced irrespective of the gender of the spouse claiming maintenance.

We hope that you will take our recommendations and suggestions into serious consideration and promote justice and fairness irrespective of gender.

Thanking you.

Yours Sincerely,

Uma Challa

President

All India Forgotten Women

Please click on the link below for pdf version!

aifw_crpc125_amendments

Letter to Ms. Renuka Chowdhury from All India Forgotten Women

3rd July 2008

To,

Ms. Renuka Chaudhary,

Minister, Government of India,
Ministry of Women and Child Development,
Shastri Bhavan `A’ Wing,
Dr. Rajendra Prasad Road,
New Delhi-110001

Sub: Presentation of our views in continuation of the 25/06/08 Round Table Conference

Honorable Minister,

I am writing to express regret that representatives of All India Forgotten Women, a leading organization working in the field of family harmony, were not invited for the historic round table conference held at the India Islamic Centre, New Delhi on 25th June, 2008.

I will appreciate it if you could please give us the opportunity to meet with you and present our recommendations and suggestions regarding laws pertaining to women.

Awaiting a positive response from your end.

Yours sincerely,

Uma Challa

+91 9704683163

President

All India Forgotten Women

Click the link below for downloading the pdf version.

aifw_letter_to_wcdministry