Venue: Public Gardens, Opposite Jubilee Hall
Date and Time: 18 October 2009, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Mothers-in-law in our country are being severely discriminated against, neglected and subjected to all forms of domestic abuse over the last decade. Unless provisions are made to protect mothers-in-law from discrimination, domestic violence, and legal harassment, and unless steps are taken to ensure their welfare during their post-menopausal years, we will witness serious deterioration in the health conditions of aging women in the country, and reduction in their life span.
Andhra Pradesh Mothers-in-law Protection Association (APMPA) is the first ever social forum created to protect the rights and interests of mothers-in-law in Andhra Pradesh. APMPA is the Andhra Pradesh chapter of All India Mothers-in-law Protection Forum (http://www.aimpf.org) which was launched on 6 September 2009 in Bangalore, followed by the launch of local chapters in Delhi, Nagpur and Lucknow.
Mothers-in-law have historically been portrayed as evil and bloodthirsty by media and popular culture. However, it is a scientifically and also statistically established fact that mothers-in-law are unnecessarily maligned and subjected to discrimination by the society.
The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) (http://www.nfhsindia.org Vol-1 Page 500) has conclusively established that a woman in the age group of 15-49 years of age faces 8 times more violence from her own mother compared to her mother-in-law. 13.7% women have faced violence from their own mother as compared to 1.7% women who have faced from their mothers-in-law.
Recent Research has shown that “daughters-in-law are programmed to hate mothers-in-law”. This is one of the most important causes of the stereotyping of mothers-in-law in the society.
Mothers-in-law are being discriminated against in spite of their generosity just for the sin of giving birth to sons and getting them married. They are being forced to part with their earnings, savings and inherited wealth and they are being thrown out of their own property at the behest of a disgruntled daughter-in-law. They are losing their mental peace and health, and many a time even their husbands and sons to untimely death or suicide when daughters-in-law indulge in making false allegations and defamation of the husband’s family. In many instances, the mothers-in-law themselves commit suicide.
Mothers -in-law in India face severe abuse from daughters-in-law:
• Physical harassment including assault, locking up the mother-in-law in a room, denying food and medication etc.
• Mental harassment including taunts, allegations, caustic comments, threatening to file police cases, disallowing communication with her son, grandchildren, defaming her and her family etc.
• Verbal harassment including name calling, insulting, abusing, etc.
• Economic abuse including extorting her money and wealth, throwing her out of her own house and forcibly occupying the house, etc.
• Legal harassment including inciting the police to threaten her, filing false cases under Dowry Prohibition Act, IPC Section 498A, Domestic Violence Act, and other related sections, sending her to jail or forcing her to run around the court for years together.
• Driving mothers-in-law to commit suicide.
The National Family Health Survey, conducted by the Ministry of Family Health and Welfare only counts women between the ages of 15-49 as women. Mothers-in-law who fall in the age bracket above 49 do not count as women, and their health and welfare is not a matter of concern for the Government of India.
While there are close to 15 laws that provide protection to daughters-in-law, mothers-in-law do not have any societal support or legal protection from any form of discrimination or abuse.
In the last four years, over 1,23,497 women, most of them being mothers-in-law, have been arrested under IPC Section 498A alone, without evidence or investigation, not for committing any crime under law, but only because they were related to a man.
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, who are falsely charged under anti-dowry laws, are languishing in prison every year.
Several elderly women, falsely accused under IPC Section 498A (for the only crime of mothering sons and getting the sons married) approached the National Commission for Women, seeking justice. These women have long heart-rending accounts of how they are being harassed by their daughters-in-law. The NCW’s short, yet prompt and candid response to these mothers was, “Your matter does not fall under the mandate of the Commission”.
Similarly, in June 2009, a 45 year old mother-in-law was arrested in a dowry harassment case filed by her daughter-in-law. The poor lady was allegedly gang-raped in police custody, in Bhopal. The news, which was reported in leading newspapers, went completely unnoticed by the NCW or any other women’s organization that harps about fighting atrocities against women. No panel was set up. No probe was initiated and no action has been taken against this brutality perpetrated against a mother-in-law.
On 8 October 2009, a news report described the gut-wrenching tale of a 75-year-old mother-in-law, Jiwan Devi, who is another victim of societal and legal bias against mothers-in-law. Holding back her tears, here is what she said to the journalist who visited her:
“What is the point?…I and my sons were in jail for four years before we were acquitted. And my grandchildren were at the mercy of our neighbours and distant relatives. Why?… My granddaughter is 19. While all her friends are in college, she is still in class 11. This happened only because there was no one to take care of them while we were in jail. They were also in deep shock”’
There are thousands of Jiwan Devis in this country, whose lives have been destroyed, just for having given life to sons. These are the women whose woes do not fall under the agenda of the Ministry for Women and Child Development, the National Commission for Women, or any other related women’s organization, and they have nowhere to go to seek help and support for problems specifically affecting them.
APMPA will work towards the protection and welfare of such mothers-in-law in distress by creating awareness, giving them moral support and counseling. We will also urge the government to reform the present “wife-centric” domestic violence laws and demand equal protection for mothers-in-law from domestic violence.
The helpline numbers of the Andhra Pradesh Mothers-in-law Protection Association are 9704683163, 9573605415. Mothers-in-law facing harassment from their daughters-in-law can contact these numbers.