Are the Laws to protect women sexist toward men?
Author : MyLegalWork Staff
We live in a sexist world. I’m not just talking about female sexism here. There is injustice and bias faced by men too!
Let’s take this situation. A couple have a marital dispute. In the midst of a heated dispute, the wife pressurizes the husband to bow down to her demands or she would file a case of domestic violence against him and his old parents. He does not do as she says. The wife, as she had warned will file an FIR and the husband and his old parents will be put in jail. When this story is heard from a third-party perspective, it feels that the woman has been grievously wronged. As third parties, it is very difficult to ascertain what goes on behind closed doors. Who else can attest to the fact that the woman threatened her husband with a false case? Surely the husband has been cruel to the wife. This thinking comes out of sympathy. Owing to the fact that women are indeed suppressed in our nation, we will give the wife the benefit of doubt.
This blog post deals with the conundrum of Men’s Rights v. Women’s Rights.
On one hand, the legislature had scores of illiterate, unemployed women abused at the hands of their husbands. These women are mistreated and forced to submit themselves to the regressive traditions of society. You’d be surprised to know that such mistreatment extends to those educated women who live in urban areas as well. Their voice for help had been suffocated in a dark vacuum out of which there seemed to be no light.
On the other hand, the legislature has those women who take the slightest inconvenience and turn it into a potential harassment case. In these cases, it is the husband and his family who lives in constant fear. ‘Either meet my demands or I will see you in court’, seems to be the motto of such women. They abuse their husbands not only financially but also emotionally, with physical abuse being close to nil. In a commoner’s mind, such behavior would amount to abuse. In the eyes of the law, not so much.
If the legislative material (law) is not amended, men are left in the clutches of women who take advantage of a law meant for their protection. If the legislative material is amended, then the abused woman who actually needs its protection, loses out.
The lawmakers were thus faced with a dilemma and choose to err on the side of giving women the benefit of the doubt.
So came the legislative measures. Legislations protecting women and uplifting their status in society are hailed as knights in shining armor. These welfare legislations were made with only one intention, bring women up to the same status as men. These measures have provided a form of support to the abused woman. Presently, with the help of NGO’s many women are learning what it means to actually live a life of dignity. Their perpetrators are behind bars and they have successfully conquered their fear.
However, we can see a worrying trend where women have been misusing the laws made for their benefit. Especially in marital relationships, the Supreme and High Courts have found that baseless accusations are made time and again. Even the National Crime Records Bureau shows statistics which attest to this. On completion of investigation by the police of all the cases filed under Section 498A, 8,144 cases in the year 2014 were reported to be false. The acquittal rate also seems to be high, which implies that the cases filed are not backed by substantial evidence.
Lawyer Jayanta Chatterjee opined that most of the complaints are filed by women living in urban areas to teach their husbands and in-laws a lesson. He added, "Thousands of women in rural interiors, who face genuine abuse, neither know about the law nor have access to police and lawyers… We need Section 498A for women who are abused and tortured. But we also need to make sure that it's not misused."
The judiciary is the protector of the people and their rights. To deal with the issue of arbitrary action against the men, the judiciary has taken steps to protect them against frivolous complaints. The following are some of the cases in which the judiciary decided on the issue of protection of men’s rights:
A. Divorce on grounds of ‘cruelty’:
In Narendra v. K Meena, the Supreme Court passed a decree in favour of the husband under the grounds of cruelty. This judgement was passed on the basis of :
i. Forcing separation from parents
The courts felt that the wife, backed by monetary motive, wanted to separate herself and her husband away from his parents. It was held that in normal course of Indian culture, the woman goes to the house of the man. Since there was no valid justification for wanting a separate house, the repeated pressure from the wife amounts to ‘mental cruelty’ and a man can file for divorce under the grounds of ‘cruelty’.
In such a case, the husband must be able to prove the above with solid evidence. Even if he buys a separate property as a means of compromise, it will highly lower his chances of getting a divorce on such grounds.
ii. Threats and attempts to commit suicide.
The court observed that repeated threats to commit suicide on the part of the wife puts a husband under tremendous stress with regard to facing legal consequences. This, according to the court, amounted to cruelty.
iii. Unfounded allegations of an extramarital affair
Allegations related to one’s character can be quite torturous, be it for the husband or the wife. As per the court’s judgement, this too, is identified as cruelty.
B. Guidelines for arrest in Section 498A and dowry harassment cases:
In Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar & Anr, the Supreme Court had to deal with arbitrary arrests made by the police in exercise of their power to arrest. It said that just because the offence (Section 498A) is non-bailable and cognizable does not mean that the accused be arrested arbitrarily. ‘The existence of the power to arrest is one thing, the justification for the exercise of it is quite another.’ The court put forth 8 guidelines which are reproduced below for understanding:
“(1) All the State Governments are to instruct its police officers not to automatically arrest when a case under Section 498 A of the IPC is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity for arrest under the parameters laid down above flowing from Section 41, Cr.P.C.;
(2) All police officers be provided with a checklist containing specified sub-clauses under Section 41(1)(b)(ii);
(3) The police officer shall forward the checklist duly filed and furnish the reasons and materials which necessitated the arrest, while forwarding/producing the accused before the Magistrate for Further detention;
(4) The Magistrate while authorising detention of the accused shall peruse the report furnished by the police officer in terms aforesaid and only after recording its satisfaction, the Magistrate will authorise detention;
(5) The decision not to arrest an accused, be forwarded to the Magistrate within two weeks from the date of the institution of the case with a copy to the Magistrate which may be extended by the Superintendent of Police of the District for the reasons to be recorded in writing;
(6) Notice of appearance in terms of Section 41A of Cr.P.C. be served on the accused within two weeks from the date of institution of the case, which may be extended by the Superintendent of Police of the District for the reasons to be recorded in writing;
(7) Failure to comply with the directions aforesaid shall apart from rendering the police officers concerned liable for departmental action, they shall also be liable to be punished for contempt of court to be instituted before High Court having territorial jurisdiction;
(8) Authorising detention without recording reasons as aforesaid by the Judicial Magistrate concerned shall be liable for departmental action by the appropriate High Court.”
For now, let us end on the note that the law is a machinery made by the state to protect us. Misuse of law is highly frowned upon by the courts of the land irrespective of the gender of the petitioner. The wife, when filing a case, must make sure that the allegations are not baseless and are founded on good faith. The husband must treat the wife like an equal human being instead of a slave meant only for his benefit. We must remember that feminism stands for equality and not for favouritism or bias.
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