Making divorce easy? Or barking up the wrong tree?

Making divorce easy? Or barking up the wrong tree?

– Uma Challa

Published by MyIndMakers 

“lEchiMchi, nidra lEchiMdi mahiLaa lOkaM, daddarilliMdi puruSha prapaMchaM…” https://youtu.be/MmVujeuCKmI (the women’s world has woken up from slumber, and the man’s world shook with panic) was a song I used to love as a child. As a fiery young woman, I frowned upon what I thought was “misogyny” on the part of one of the greatest Telugu lyricists ever. Now I admire the clarity of thought of Sri Pingali Nagendra Rao gaaru who penned the song way back in 1962, at a time when the country was still tolerant to truth.

 

To elaborate on Pingali gaaru’s poetic rendition of facts, the first Lok Sabha in India in 1951 had 22 women MPs. Soon after, in 1955, with the advent of the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) in 1955, Indian society was, for the first time, introduced to the concept of “divorce”. Contrary to its title, the HMA has nothing to do with marriage. It does not explain what marriage means nor does it enumerate the responsibilities of a wife and husband towards themselves, each other, their children, both sides of the family or the society. It enumerates circumstances in which a Hindu marriage can be legally broken. It was introduced to enable women who could not tolerate marriage to legally liberate themselves from wedlock, and to claim share in the marital property in the name of maintenance and alimony (HMA Section 24).

 

The most common grounds for divorce – cruelty, desertion, impotence, adultery etc. – are not only poorly defined, but are also difficult to prove. In addition, because litigation involves evidences and arguments from both parties, HMA did not prove as “empowering” to women as was envisioned by women’s rights activists (WRAs).

 

Enacting the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act of 1956, which entitles a woman to be maintained by her husband during her entire lifetime (Section 18), and CrPC of 1973, which extends maintenance to wives indefinitely even after divorce (Section 125), did not do the magic either, since they still involved time taking two-sided legal procedures.

 

In the year 1983, the Parliament passed a criminal law, Indian Penal Code 498A, which made “cruelty towards a married woman” a cognizable and non-bailable offence. Here, the word “cruelty” was left undefined and allowed to be a function of a woman’s perception and her lawyer’s imagination. Divorce and maintenance cases, combined with this draconian criminal section, which allows immediate arrest and incarceration of the husband and in-laws, proved to be fantastic tool of blackmail, vengeance and extortion in the hands of disgruntled wives for many years. It was accompanied by vigorous campaigns by WRAs to “sensitize” the police and the judiciary to be sympathetic towards women. Even such drastic measures did not prove to be “empowering enough” according to WRAs, because not all husbands succumbed.

 

The conviction rates under IPC 498A remained very low and the law only gained notoriety for its misuse. The hope that all husbands could be reined in and forced to pay a “monetary compensation/settlement” under the fear of arrest and criminal prosecution started waning.

 

In 2005, a new and elaborate civil law, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (DV) Act was introduced. The act not only categorized every possible male action as an act of domestic violence, it also made provisions for a wife and a live-in partner to use DV accusations to claim monetary reliefs including maintenance (Section 20) and residence rights (Section 19) in the same property where the alleged violence had occurred.

 

Every year, several thousands of Indian women leverage the power sanctioned to them under these laws to terrorize husbands and to extract alimony and maintenance from them. Still, the utopia envisioned by the WRAs remained elusive since entangling a man in multiple litigations ensured neither speedy divorce nor quick extraction of maintenance and alimony.

 

In 2013, the Rajya Sabha approved the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill which, once again, claimed to make “divorce friendly for women” by providing for the wife, a share in the husband’s immovable property, after “irretrievable breakdown of marriage”. The Bill empowered the courts to decide the “compensation amount” from the husband’s inherited and inheritable property. Recognizing the “grave and far-reaching legal, social and economic implications of the proposed amendments” as pointed out by senior citizens groups and NGOs working for men, the NDA Government’s Law Ministry decided to put the Bill on hold.

 

According to news reports, there is now a fresh proposal “to explore the possibility of making it easier for women to walk out of a marriage”. This brand new endeavor, backed by the Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, proposes to give legal validity to prenuptial agreements.

 

The Economic Times (18 Sept 2015) quotes an official of the Ministry of WCD who stated that the introduction of prenuptial agreements will “save marriages” because, “once, the liabilities, assets and responsibilities are decided in advance, a husband will be more careful and cautious in seeking dissolution. He would have a clear idea of the amount of alimony he will have to pay to his wife”.

 

The article also quotes another senior official of the Ministry who supported prenuptial agreements as a way to counter the “judicial delays on account of backlog of cases”, and the “delaying tactics husbands resort to”.

 

It is noteworthy that for the last 60 years, champions of women’s empowerment have been preoccupied with women obtaining an easy divorce and collecting maintenance and alimony by hook or crook. Their proposal to legalize prenuptial agreements is neither novel in its approach nor noble in its goals.

 

Aside from the fact that this initiative too has nothing to do with really empowering women, here are just a few problems with prenuptial agreements:

 

  1. Hindu marriages are religious unions and not legal contracts, even when they are registered and legally recognized. A prenuptial agreement is a contract, with the terms and conditions of separation spelled out. It cannot be applied to Hindu marriages without stripping them of their religious sanctity and the underlying philosophy of the union of two souls.
  2. While prenuptial contracts do lay down the terms and conditions of separation, the contracts are not binding nor strictly enforceable, and there are no provisions anywhere in the world to penalize a partner who does not comply with the terms of separation. However, the proposal to include punishments for “offending” spouses in Indian prenuptial agreements is nothing but another attempt to criminalize the marital relationship, pamper women and penalize men.
  3. In spite of having a prenuptial agreement, a woman will still be able to claim that she signed the prenuptial agreement under duress. She will still be able to file complaints under IPC Section 498A, the DV Act and other related civil and criminal provisions.
  4. Rich men will use prenuptial agreements to get rid of women by paying money, and unscrupulous women will use prenuptial agreements as a way to make quick money. We, as a nation and a culture, might do better by just legalising prostitution rather than prostitutionalizing the Hindu marriage in the name of empowering women through delusional and deceitful means.

 

It is about time the Ministry of WCD stops barking up the wrong tree and looks into positive ways of empowering women by helping, stimulating, supporting and encouraging them to achieve true economic independence. It is time we realize that unless women learn to want economic independence and unless they work hard to achieve it, without depending on maintenance and alimony, all the talk about empowerment and equality is meaningless.

 

It is time the “women’s world” awakens to this reality and embraces ways that are uplifting to themselves and the entire society, rather than those that shake men with fear and shatter their lives.

 

Alimony.9

 

 

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Feminists bully, India Times succumbs!

India Times ran an informative poster campaign about men’s issues on International Men’s Day, 19th November, 2015.

Feminists have exposed their intolerance for any discussion about men’s issues and the celebration of International Men’s Day. They bullied India Times into retracting the article from their website and forced them to issue an apology. Here’s the apology note by India Times:

India Times apology

Ironically, India Times only recently updated its cover photo to one which says, “Not afraid”.

Not afraid

Of course you are, India Times! You are just plain afraid!

Thanks to the internet and social media though…Truth can be deleted from a website, but cannot be completely erased!

img-20151122-wa0008img-20151122-wa0007img-20151122-wa0006img-20151122-wa0005img-20151122-wa0004img-20151122-wa0001img-20151122-wa0002img-20151122-wa0003img-20151122-wa0000

Thanks to https://legalfighter.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/indiatimes-bows-down-before-feminists/#comment-3258 for saving, reproducing the posters and making them available for download.

 

Sree Krishna Janamasthaanam

Sree Krishna Janamasthaanam

The state of our prisons and the making of our Prison State

by Uma Challa

(Published by MyIndMakers)

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Media sensationalization of crimes against women is not new to India, neither is the diversely vociferous public response. Just within this decade, starting from “youth icon and female role model”, Nisha Sharma in 2003, all the way to “braveheart”, Jasleen Kaur, in 2015, we have witnessed several cases in which the media has held trials and pronounced “guilty” verdicts against the accused as soon as a complaint was lodged or an FIR was filed. We have witnessed the bloodthirsty lynching mob mentality of a sizable section of Indian public. In each instance, we have also heard quite a few sane voices on various forums, pleading the media and the public to exercise self-restraint and to allow the law of the land to take its course.

In the recent times, especially in the wake of the Rohtak sisters’ and Jasleen Kaur’s cases, enough has been said about the perils of media trials and ignorant demands for extrajudicial punishments. However, little has been said about what “law taking its course” means today, how it impacts the lives of the many who are accused, whether or not they are guilty of a crime. Much less has been said about how we have become a prison state by approving virtually every possible draconian law in the name of curbing crimes against women, condoning arbitrary arrests of ordinary citizens, and imprisoning them in deplorable conditions.

Here is the data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showing the number of arrests made under cognizable and non-bailable offences against women, the number of accused who were pronounced guilty by the end of year 2013 and the number of undertrials under the same laws, in prisons all over India at the end of year 2013.
PrisonData-2

As seen in the above table, a total of 3,90,038 people were arrested and jailed in one year, only under the above mentioned crimes against women.

There have been a total of 15,075 convictions in one year, which is a mere 3.86 percent of the total number of arrests made only within that year, under these specific crimes against women.

Ironically, a large percentage of prison population constitutes undertrials, meaning, they are in prison without being pronounced guilty. Most of them are under detention not because they might tamper with evidence nor because they are convicted (pending appeal or otherwise). Repeated adjournments of bail hearings due to an overload of cases in courts, poverty and the resultant inability to furnish the required surety, illiteracy and ignorance about legal procedures involved in obtaining bail, shoddy investigation and corruption are the main reasons which contribute to the indefinite detention or delays in release of the accused under bail. Every year, the largest number of undertrials spend upto 3 months in jail, and the number stood at 1,05,457 in year 2013 alone. In the same year, the number of undertrials who spent between 3-6 months in jail was 59,344 and the number that spent between 6-12 months in jail was 49,155. (NCRB statistics, 2013)

The total number of undertrials specifically under crimes against women (mentioned in the table above), in prisons all over India at the end of year 2013 is 40,739.

In essence, among the 55,814 inmates imprisoned for these specific crimes against women, 73 percent are undertrials. This is in accordance with the overall picture, whereby 68 percent of all Indian prison inmates, under every crime listed in the Indian Penal Code, are undertrials.

While the total available prison capacity in India is 3,47,859 inmates, the actual total occupancy of prisons in India is 4,11,992. Thus, there are an excess of 64,133 inmates in our entire prison system, and the total occupancy rate of Indian prisons stands at 118 percent. Not only are the prisons overcrowded, but they are also understaffed.

As a result, prisons, which are, in principle, meant for isolation, and if possible reformation of socially dangerous elements, have now become places for confinement of ordinary citizens accused of all sorts of crimes regardless of their nature or gravity. Unnecessary arrests and imprisonment, and overcrowding of jails, combined with insufficient prison staff and unbearable living conditions have made prisons breeding grounds for depression, anger and violence, not to mention infectious diseases too.

Due to the overburdened judiciary, there are thousands of undertrials who stay imprisoned for periods longer than the term prescribed as punishment for their crimes. Here, it would be useful to note that of the total number of cases pending during year 2013 (including cases pending trial from the previous year), only 15.2 percent of cases have been disposed off by courts (this figure includes cases which were compounded or withdrawn and cases which have resulted in convictions or acquittals). A whopping 84.8 percent of cases remain pending at the end of year 2013. (NCRB statistics, 2013)

Under these circumstances, taking advantage of legal loopholes and biases to have men thrown in prison merely based on a complaint, without evidence, investigation or trial, is one of the easiest methods to harass them. Viewed from the perspective of radical feminist masterminds behind women-centric laws, immediate arrests and incarceration provide instant “justice” (read revenge) to “victim” (read disgruntled) women. The widespread and growing tendency to get men jailed by hook or crook probably also reflects the Indian public’s loss of faith in the legal system, the police and the judiciary. In other words, we probably have extreme faith in the slowness and inefficiency of the system, and can imagine that once someone is pushed into a legal maelstrom, they will not get out of it easily, at least not without serious bruises to their spirit if not its complete annihilation.

The viciousness of our gender-biased laws is matched only by the audacity with which they are being abused every single day and the ignorance and apathy of the public, which turns a blind eye to such misuse. While the rampant misuse of laws is being instantaneously hailed as bravery and valour, sometimes even accompanied by announcement of rewards, the misery of many souls needlessly languishing in prisons is considered “law taking its course”, even by some of the most well meaning citizens, officials, opinion makers and leaders of our country.

Here, I must make an honest admission that I was one of the well-meaning but ignorant (if not downright apathetic) citizens myself. During my childhood, I remember people referring to the prison as “Sree Krishna Janmasthaanam”. I knew about Kamsa incarcerating Devaki and Vasudeva, not because they did any harm to him, his subjects or his kingdom, but only to escape the impending consequence of his own sins, namely, death in the hands of their divine child. Despite knowing this story of Krishna, for the longest time, I thought everyone inside the prison was a thief or a thug…but that’s only until I was granted the divine (and profoundly life changing) opportunity to visit prison myself. Ever since, and for almost  a decade now, I always look at a prison, not with fear or disdain, but with a certain melancholic fondness…I see “Sree Krishna Janmasthaanam”.

On the occasion of Sree Krishna Janmaashtami, I pray for the well-being and speedy release of all those who have been wrongly incarcerated in Indian prisons.

References:

Crime in India, 2013 – Compendium: http://ncrb.gov.in/CD-CII2013/compendium%202013.pdf

Prison Statistics India, 2013: http://ncrb.gov.in/PSI-2013/PrisonStat2013.htm