The civil society movements have played a key role in uplifting the issues on women rights and hence, as a result, we are witnessing a change in the representation of women rights at the epicentre of the social and policies. This change has come after centuries of subjugation and oppression of womankind under the yoke of a male-dominated society. The equal rights movement for women is resonating across all spheres from domestics to politics to professional arenas. Though the battle is far from its finish line. Over the year the women leaders have been invigorating the ethos of movement time and time again.
India too has come a long way ahead and has a dedicated ministry for women development. While the universal adult franchise did give equal rights to women but multiple policies and legal frameworks came gradually to support equal rights for women. Every year there is a special focus given in the annual budget for women. In wake of equal rights development across the country, women are now motivated to move out of houses, study and lead into every sphere dominated once by the male.
Especially post LPG (Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization) reforms in India, the western influence on Indian society has grown and women's participation in education, Labour and other sectors have increased significantly. Educated women have become empowered to exercise legal rights for legal remedies. But like every good thing has a dark side, this empowerment is coming at a cost. The laws made to protect the rights of women are being leveraged for malicious intent to conspire against their male counterparts. Above all the media trials (a euphemism for judging accused before judiciary) are major promoters of propaganda's, creating the monster that threatens a male also casting doubts on genuine cases in the legal system.
False Rape Cases
Rape is a heinous crime. No argument on this. While society has become sensitive towards the female, it never recognizes the trauma of male and his family has to go through who are falsely implicated by females. According to a report published by the Delhi Commission for Women in 2014, 53% of cases filed for rape are false (BBC, 2017). Given that Section 376 in IPC is a non-bailable offence, it becomes even more dangerous weapons for females with malicious intent to blackmail or torture male counterparts. One such category, which constitutes a quarter of cases are about falsely obtaining consent on the pretext of marriage (a crime under law).
Male Misery: Will there be a case against a woman who ditched a man and married some other? Does the law provide any provision for a male to charge women for mental harassment and recover the amount spent on a relationship?
Rape with Men
False rape cases are something that is being taken up by a handful of activists but what about rapes with men. It includes both coercing the male into un-consensual intercourse by a female and sodomy by males. Delhi based centre for civil society found in their survey that approximately 18% of Indian men were forced into sex. Out of which 16 per cent perpetrators were women and 2% claimed male perpetrators (Stokes, 2014). While marital rape law for women (a woman-centric law) is being discussed, will it not further vilify the men?
Male Misery: Where does a male rape victim go for help? Neither law nor society takes cognizance albeit might further alleviate his pain by ridiculing him. Do men have consent?
No POSH for Men
POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Work Place) Act needs the hour to promote a diverse and safe organizational culture. But it addresses only the women lodged cases. The act has no provision for male employees to seek justice. Though the organization can frame a gender-neutral policy the central Law only dictates the terms for women to get justice (Khan, 2021). The organizational policy drafted according to the Act cannot be gender-neutral because the Act does not allow it (Sharma, 2020). The women-oriented law can be misused and can potentially jeopardize a person’s professional growth/career.
Male Misery: POSH for the male is a classic joke. How do men live with the trauma, stress of false allegations or being unable to report cases against a female colleague?
Classic Dowry Act
Ask any sane men if the dowry is legal? Most will promptly say illegal. But most of them will ask/take it, giving a lame excuse/rationale. The government protects females against any dowry coercion. Since the enactment of section 498-A (non-bailable) of IPC, many have received justice. Though the injustice at times has been falsely handed to victims. Dowry Prohibition Act could be considered as the mother of all acts that falsely implicate men. The Supreme court had once observed that “anti-dowry harassment laws were being used by disgruntled wives as weapons rather than as shields”(Kalra, 2017). The NCRB data show a low rate of conviction in such cases though this guilty until proven is still debatable (Nair, 2017). Still, it has been observed multiple times by higher courts that the misuse is also in practice.
Male Misery: Non-bailable in the first case, does the law takes in the harassment caused to a falsely implicated man?
Alimony for Qualified/Working Women
As per a report released by the UN in the year 2019-20, the divorce rate in India has doubled though it is 1.1% of the total population (Sharma, 2019). Could this come as the bi-product of Sec 498-A of IPC and Hindu Marriage Act, for the misuse of alimony by fit-to-work or qualified women in India? In the year 2015, the Mumbai family court had pulled up a woman for trying to take undue advantage of the law and using it against her ex-husband. She was sitting idle for 2 years (Chindarkar, 2015). Supreme Court in the year 2017 outlined that a woman will be entitled to alimony if she fails to sustain herself. In recent times, when educated women are moving up the ladder in the professional spaces, the alimony for maintenance requires deliberation on its right usage and to deserving women.
Male Misery: What if a well-qualified woman in job leaves her job after divorce to enjoy the luxury of alimony? Does it still count as her right? Do men have the right to seek alimony if she leaves him?
Male Domestic Violence
Domestic violence means violence, cruelty on females perpetrated by males. The government has a legal framework in place which has a non-bailable clause to put the perpetrators behind bars. Society and government completely reject the notion of males being abused by females at home thus no provision for male domestic violence. The women get away scot-free. Contrary to a general perception of a female being physically and sexually assaulted in domestic violence, the males are subjected to more intricate emotional and physical violence which is difficult to examine and explain.
In an ICMR funded cross-sectional study of 1000 men, 52.4% of men experienced gender-based violence. The most common was emotionally followed by physical (Nadda, Malik, 2019). Women have unassailable powers under Sec 498-A of IPC to emotionally and physically torture her husband. Though it is hard to corroborate any deaths with male domestic violence a report by Hridaya (men’s rights organization) suggests that “63,343 married men committed suicide in 2012, with a fair amount of them having faced domestic problems”.
Male Misery: No forum, no framework to address domestic violence. Do male also cry/stress because the female is causing them mental grief?
What is the solution?
I often share these concerns with my female friends, colleagues and even credible women leaders. As expected they immediately decry it and call it male anxiety, propaganda to downplay women rights and that men fear women rising to powerful positions. One of them said, “the facts are not there to prove such arguments and there are multiple facts to prove the misery of women in Indian society”. Others said, “all the laws have been made women-centric because of past experiences of men ruling the society by strong-arming women across all spheres of life”. They all are correct in their rights.
Equality before law
While we are discussing progressive ideas (once considered as radical) like monetary compensation for homemakers, women in forces, LGBTQ rights etc., we need to create a space for discussion on promoting a gender-neutral legal system to ensure equality before the law. Being no expert in gender studies or law, I can still emphasize on following aspects for more transparency in the system to mitigate undue advantage to one gender. There is some way to improve the system:
1. Equal rights of every living person on the planet as per the human rights conventions.
2. The fact that the country needs to revisit its legal frameworks and make it more gender-neutral. The societal narrative mustn’t drive a reactionary legal system but we must take a precautionary legal approach in the tech-savvy society. Precaution against the possible misuse or plugging of the loopholes.
3. We don’t understand or highlight the plights of innocent falling prey to the once misusing the system. Hence at first, we must banish the media trials. A person might lose everything. Law/policies must regulate these platforms (which can destroy humanity way more than nuclear weapons).
4. Not everything can be white or black, this is a grey area and it can only be resolved or understood better by continuous deliberations. It calls for progressive debates, training and counselling sessions for dealing with such matters. Especially in divorce cases that involve a third life at stake i.e. the Children.
5. The law must take into account the man's point of view and hold him innocent until proven guilty.
It is a well-understood fact that probably almost 90% of the population in India especially in rural areas may not be aware of these legalizations and their benefits to women. These women are still entrapped in male dominant society and subjugated to the evils of traditional Indian thoughts. Also, the Indian legal system lacks efficiency in handling cases. But this does not deter us from deliberating on the fact that urban India is developing fast and has witnessed the misuse of the law.
Jolly, J. (2017, February 8). Does India have a problem with false rape claims? BBC News; BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-38796457
Stokes, J. (2014, September 10). India’s law should recognise that men can be raped too. Scroll.in; Scroll.in. https://scroll.in/article/676510/indias-law-should-recognise-that-men-can-be-raped-too
Khan, J (2021). Busting Myths around POSH Law. ETHRWorld.com; ETHRWorld Contributor. https://hr.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/workplace-4-0/diversity-and-inclusion/busting-myths-around-posh-law/78524767
Sharma, T. (2020, April 20). Gender Neutrality and POSH Law eLearnPOSH Gender Neutral. ELearnPOSH. https://elearnposh.com/gender-neutrality-and-posh-law/
Kalra J. (2017, August 5). Misuse of dowry laws and the failure of the system. The Hindu; The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/misuse-of-dowry-laws-and-the-failure-of-the-system/article19435399.ece
Nair, M. R. (2017, August 20). Is the dowry law being misused? Statistics can be interpreted to say “Yes” or “No.” Hindustan Times; Hindustan Times. https://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai-news/is-the-dowry-law-being-misused-statistics-can-be-interpreted-to-say-yes-or-no/story-sG1nIm58Wik6LpY4KqlOiN.html
Sharma, N. (2019, June 25). Non-marriage very rare in India but divorces doubled in past two decades: Report. Mint; mint. https://www.livemint.com/news/india/non-marriage-very-rare-in-india-but-divorces-doubled-in-past-two-decades-report-1561486297890.html
Chindarkar, P. (2015, June). Don’t misuse law to claim alimony, Court tells woman. DNA India; DNA India. https://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-don-t-misuse-law-to-claim-alimony-court-tells-woman-2091027
Malik, J. S., & Nadda, A. (2019). A Cross-sectional Study of Gender-Based Violence against Men in the Rural Area of Haryana, India. Indian Journal of Community Medicine : Official Publication of Indian Association of Preventive & Social Medicine, 44(1), 35–38. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijcm.IJCM_222_18
Banerje, M (2016, February). How Indian women misuse the law for divorce. Dailyo.in. https://www.dailyo.in/politics/divorce-marriage-relationships-indian-women-section-498-a-dowry-cases/story/1/8766.html