We have heard time and again age old rhetoric used by feminists on TV debates and elsewhere. While they pom pom the data (that serves their own purpose) collected and developed by organizations that have deep vested interests in these statistics (fund generation, creation of more and more biased laws) , they completely ignore the malaise that is FALSE CASES that have literally choked the Indian Judicial system. What they fail to understand is – thanks to false cases by unscrupulous women, every case of dowry is now looked at with suspicion. Here’s an absolutely brilliant conversation of a false 498A fighter who happens to be a Phd in biostatistics, with a radical Indian feminist (Must read for anyone who presents other side of the dowry story in Media). The questions in this conversation have been raised by the feminist after the fighter wrote to her about his own false case and the situation in the country as of now.
Feminist: You have chosen to adopt a view of society and legal system – all based on your personal experience alone. Understandable maybe, but not correct or justified nevertheless.
Fighter: Don’t we all adopt a view of society based on our “personal” experience? Did not Ambedkar become the champion of the Dalits he became because of his first hand personal experience as an untouchable? Did not Bhagat Singh and the entire litany of freedom fighters plunge into the freedom movement because of their “personal” experience of the ignominy and shame of living under an imperial regime? I think it is not the point whether one is having an opinion based on a “personal” experience. The point is, is the opinion based on sufficient reasonable, rational, logical, verifiable facts. It is for this reason I did the analysis of the data to see if my experience is reflected by the hard data. And what I found is , it does.
Feminist: Have you researched the degree to which other laws are abused? Have you also researched the degree to which women who face violence inside the home, are unable to get justice or even the barest minimum of protection – resulting in countless injuries and deaths of women in domestic violence situations?
The awareness about crime against women is a given reality today. After the nation-shaking protest during the horrendous Nirbhaya rape case in December 2012, the reality that many of our women are not safe in the roads as well as in homes is common knowledge and an accepted fact. All these gender-biased laws (which only let women file cases and bring allegations, but gives the men no such opportunity) only vindicates the fact that even in the highest levels of our polity there is awareness and acknowledgement of crime perpetrated against women and a desire to address this.
A research is more meaningful when it tries to look within a contrarian point of view and see if there is any dimension other than the perceived and majority accepted “reality”. A research to reinforce a point of view already accepted and addressed, will it be of much use?
Feminist: If – as is the case – all laws are ‘abused’ and used, both, then why focus your angst on gender related laws alone? Are women the only ones filing false complaints? Do you have any idea of the huge number of innocents implicated in false cases in other crimes? Does that make us discuss theft or murder or other crimes in the same way we discuss women related laws?
Isn’t the first question akin to faulting Mahatma Gandhi for taking up the cause of the oppressed Indians in South Africa and not the Blacks? Why did Ambedkar take up the cause of the Dalits and the oppressed but not the economically poorer sections of India (of which there were several millions?)
The other thing is- it is true that all laws are ‘abused’.
But there is a fundamental difference between gender-laws and other laws:
1. Gender-based laws (especially 498a and PWDVA) are non-bailable and cognizable. How many criminal cases are there which has these two properties?
2. How many criminal laws are there in our country by which one can be arrested on a mere allegation without the support of any prima facie evidence? If there are such laws (perhaps AFSPA), do you support these laws?
3. If I allege somebody has stolen my purse, will the police go and arrest that accused just like that? If there is an allegation on somebody of murder, will there be an arrest without any initial investigation? On the contrary for 498a cases, the moment there is an allegation, the police arrives at the doorstep of the men’s house and arrests him and all his relatives (including his mother and sisters). How many parallels to other laws of such provisions?
Please try to understand, that the extreme urgency and pro-activeness shown by police in these cases stems not from a genuine desire to provide justice. But these cases provide the perfect opportunity to the police (and I must add the lawyers) to extract money from both the parties (perhaps some more from the man, but also from the woman).
Feminist: I do not doubt your genuine sense of grievance – though of course I have yet to know your wife’s version of the facts.
I will be more than happy to provide you with all the details of my case, as well as the contact information of my wife. The reason I have not mentioned her name in my email is because the purpose of my last email was not to vilify her, but just to share a story perhaps not that heard in all the din surrounding women’s issues. Just as it is not right to take away the right to life and livelihood of perhaps a smaller group of tribals from their land in the name of “development” and “growth” of the majority, similarly, though it is true that men face injustice far less than that of women, it would be extremely insensitive and unfortunate if not inhuman if the injustices faced by several thousand innocent men are not even acknowledged but buttressed under the popular narrative of “crime aganist women”.
Feminist: Still, even accepting that the complaints against you were false and motivated, please acquaint yourself with the lived reality of the vast majority of women in society – before speaking so confidently and arrogantly of ‘the truth’ of gender related crimes! In the vast majority of domestic violence cases, women are trapped, and DO NOT file complaints even after being battered to the point of risk to life and limb.
This logic sounds eerily familiar to the military hawks of the White House justifying the loss of innocent lives in drone attacks in their pursuit against the “terrorists”. Just because I am a man, does that make me an acceptable target – what in the American military lingo can be called as “collateral damage”?
My point is not that the women of my country are not facing a hard time. They are. I personally know many such women. But my point is that these laws, the way they are framed and used today, are hardly helping these women. Slowly but surely the awareness about the misuse of 498a is increasing. There are more and more observations from different High Courts and even the Supreme Court how these laws are used for “legal terrorism”. If this continues, I am afraid in a few years, even the real cases will be construed as false.
Then there is another aspect. It is extremely easy to invoke these laws and slap these cases with little fear of punitive actions for false and damaging charges on the women even when it is proved her charges are false . This makes it even more dangerous even to the girls who files 498a cases. Most times ( okay if you do not agree, “many times”) these cases are filed in a fit of anger and rage. May be the men and his relatives are arrested. The woman feels elated perhaps, to be successful in bringing about the harassment that she wanted to in her rage. But then the Men and his family comes out on bail, and the cases languish for years in the courts. And two lives stand ruined with almost no chance of reconciliation. Once these cases are filed, there is almost no possibility of rapprochement.
It is not my point that we should not have laws to protect women. It is needed. My point is that the laws as they stand now is hardly helping the women, and certainly bringing a lot of pain and harassment to many innocent lives. Can’t we be more imaginative and innovative and draft laws which will be less liable to be misused and as well be able to protect the truly abused women? Is there no way we can be a little more sensitive to the gross injustice faced by some citizens of our country, whose only “crime” is that they are men?
Footnote: If you wish to share your story of abuse by false 498A, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org