In this blog post, Pravesh Naveriya from RDVV, Jabalpur, talks about the steps you can take if you suffer harassment by in-laws.
The worst part of being harassed by in-laws is that the victim himself or herself feels that it is something that should not be discussed with anyone. This makes the situation even worse. One more wrong perception which ruins the situation is that it is only women who are being harassed but it is something which is not true. Even a man may be harassed by his in-laws.
Harassment of a Woman by Her In-laws
There are a number of means and ways through which a woman can be harassed by her in-laws. The harassment may be either by her husband or her mother-in-law or by any other in-laws. A woman can be harassed by:
- Any conduct of the in-laws which forces a woman to commit suicide
- Any conduct that would cause grave injury to a woman which includes domestic violence
- Any conduct or demand of her in-laws either to her or to her parents or relatives regarding any property which is under the possession of her family (dowry demands)
- Any conduct or demand of her in-laws regarding any amount of money as dowry either from her or from her parents or any relative
- Any act which would amount to cruelty under the Indian Laws
What Would Amount to Cruelty
Cruelty may be either physical or mental. It is not necessary that to get justice against the in-laws a physical cruelty has to happen but a mental cruelty too would serve as a proper evidence to take a legal action against her in-laws. The acts which would amount to cruelty against a woman are:
- Physical violence of any degree. It is not necessary to prove that the act was to kill or to cause grievous hurt. It is a sufficient evidence that any such violence is enough to initiate a legal action against her in-laws or her husband.
- Any taunt, words or language used against the woman with the intention of causing mental torture.
- Denying a woman from meeting or talking to her family.
- Denying a woman to access her children.
- Denial of food for a long interval of time intentionally.
- Insisting her to have sexual intercourse when she does not want to.
- Denying entry to a woman in her matrimonial house.
- Denying her to interact socially and asking her to be at home all the time.
- Threatening her to give divorce if she doesn’t follow the illegal or immoral orders given to her.
- Abusing her children in front of her with the intention to cause mental torture.
- Denying the paternity of her children in order to torture her mentally.
Suggested Reading: Why Mediation is Important in Divorce Cases
What Can be Done in Case of Harassment by In-laws
Most of the women in the country are unaware of these circumstances which would amount to cruelty and gives them a right to use a legal weapon against her in-laws. The provisions of law dealing with the harassment of a woman by her in-laws are Sections 498- A, 509, 304-B, 306, of the Indian Penal(IPC), the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
Section 498-A, Indian Penal Code
This section covers the cruelty committed either by the husband or by any relative of the husband against a woman. The cruelty may be physical or mental. This is a provision of law which was created for the very purpose to protect a woman from any harassment which she becomes a victim of in her matrimonial home. This is commonly known as the dowry harassment act.
- Imprisonment up to 3 years
The worst thing about this Section is that it has a loophole which has given the cunning people of the society to use this as a tool to threaten a person and try to extort money from him and his family.
Section 509, Indian Penal Code
If any persons intend to insult the modesty of a woman through any phrases, words, act, or gesture shall be punished under this section. If the in-laws use any words or phrases or make any gesture against her or do any act either in her presence or to her shall be punishable under this section.
- Simple imprisonment up to 3 years
Section 304-B, Indian Penal Code
If a woman has died within 7 years from her marriage by some bodily injury or burns and there are evidence that supports that she was subjected to either physical or mental cruelty for any property or money for dowry either by her husband or by any of her in-laws, then the death shall be considered to be a “dowry death” and it is a punishable offence under this section.
- Imprisonment of more than 7 years which may extend to life imprisonment.
Section 306, Indian Penal Code
If a woman after becoming frustrated from the torture of her in-laws commits suicide then her in-laws shall be punished under this section. This section deals with the provisions for abetment of suicide, that is, if any person forces or helps another person to commit suicide then he shall be punishable under this section.
- Imprisonment for 10 years
Domestic Violence Act, 2005
The Domestic Violence Act is an Act which deals with the protection of women against domestic violence. The Act was passed with the motto to provide assistance to a woman when she is subjected to any kind of domestic violence. This Act also makes the government responsible to make sure that legal assistance is provided to the victim.
● Section 17, Domestic Violence Act, 2005
If a woman is being subjected to domestic violence and she has filed a case against her in-laws regarding this, and for this very reason they are not willing to her with them in their house then she can an application under this section and after examining the application the court may give directions to her in-laws that she shall not be excluded from her matrimonial house.
● Section 18, Domestic Violence Act, 2005
If a woman has been subjected to domestic violence and the court is satisfied after hearing both the parties, that such an act has happened or is likely to happen then the court may give directions to the respondents to prohibit to do certain acts under this section. The court may give directions to the respondents in favour of the aggrieved person and prohibit them from:
- Further committing any act of domestic violence.
- Helping or abetting or funding any act of domestic violence.
- Disturbing or even entering the place where she works or any other place where she frequently visits..
- Communicating the aggrieved person in any form or by any means
- Alienating any asset which either is under the joint ownership of the aggrieved person and the respondent or under the private ownership of the respondent until the court don’t allow him to.
- Causing harm to any person or relative of the aggrieved person who helped or supported during domestic violence.
- Any other act as the court thinks fit or is requested by the aggrieved person.
Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 was passed with the motive to bring the immoral practice to end. The practice of dowry has been there in the country from ages, hence it is not easy to change the mindset of people, and this could have been done only by legislating a strict law against this practice. This act prohibits the accepting or demanding of dowry either from the wife or from her family.
Harassment of a Man by His In-laws
There is a misconception in the country that a man cannot be harassed by his in-laws. It is believed that it is always a man who is the accused in matters of domestic violence and harassment but it is not true. The Indian society is still not able to accept that a man can become a victim of harassment by his in-laws. Even a man can be harassed by his in-laws either in the form of domestic violence or harassing him mentally or physically. There are hardly any laws which deal with the harassment of a man.
However, ingenuity of lawyers can create some solutions in some specific situations.
Here are some of them:
- Filing a defamation case
- Filing a theft case
- Filing a criminal complaint for harassment
- Filing a criminal complaint for simple hurt or grievous hurt in case of physical violence
There are a number of other crimes for which both men or women can complain. Consult a lawyer and discuss your specific situation. Feel free to submit your case in ClikLawyer.com to get some advice and get on a consultation call with a lawyer.
The harassment of a man or a woman by his or her in-laws is a topic which needs a lot of attention both by the legislative as well as by the common people. The legislative has made certain acts which deals with the matter but due to the fact that the common people are not able to accept that this is such an important issue to deal with.
The condition is even worse in the case of a man being harassed as there are hardly any laws which gives protection to a man against harassment. For this, there is a strict need to amend some of the acts and to bring man under the definition of a victim.
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