This article is written by Sneha Singh, from Dr Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University. This article tells about the various women-centric laws in our country and what impact such laws have on males.
Women-centric laws are made to benefit women who are considered as an oppressed section of the society. But there is a need to see these laws from a different perspective. These laws are affecting the rights of the males who are being harassed by a false charge against them. The role of the judiciary is to provide justice to every individual and there can be no discrimination between men and women when it comes to justice. Even if one innocent is tried or loses his life, it is a big stigma on the women-centric laws.
A few years ago one news was particularly being talked about by people where a young man committed suicide. This incident happened a week after he was proved innocent in charge of domestic violence. When he was arrested there were not enough proofs but to get a women justice and to establish that the women-centric laws are for the protection of the females and to prove that men are the ones who are perpetrators in such crimes, he was arrested. Later on, he was proved innocent. But after returning to his normal routine, things were not the same for him. He lost his job, people around him were still treating him like a criminal and making sarcastic remarks against him. He was unable to bear this and gave up on his life. The simple question is whether the laws made to protect women possess the right to kill an innocent person if not implemented properly?
Some laws favouring women
The laws are made to protect every individual. But from the past, women were exposed to atrocities committed by men. They were considered as a weak and oppressed section of the society so various laws were made from time to time to protect them. But as we see it today, many laws which were made to benefit the females are many times used by them to their advantage in a wrong way by interfering with the right of the males.
There are various laws framed after independence to protect the women like Hindu Marriage Act 1955, Hindu Marriage and Adoption Act 1956, Special Marriage Act 1954, Dowry Protection Act 1961, Domestic Violence Act 2005, Prevention of Child Marriage Act 2006, and certain other provisions of IPC relating to domestic violence.
The laws which are mostly misused are Section 498-A and Section 376 of Indian Penal Code. Section 498-A of IPC deals with the subjugation of women to cruelty by her husband or her in-laws. The first point that the IPC nowhere mentions about, is the cruelty towards men which is also a possibility. It is not necessary that only women can be subjected to cruelty but some of them are capable of subjecting men to cruelty too. IPC mentions cruelty by men and not by a person which can cover within its ambit both men and women. When the woman or her relative’s file complaint in the police station, an action is taken against the husband immediately. The husband, along with his family members, can be put behind the bars for 3 years and fine.
It is a non-bailable, cognizable (the police officer can arrest without warrant) and non-compoundable (a complaint cannot be compounded just by withdrawing the case but has to be quashed by the High Court) offence. Also, the public view in such cases is that the husband is the one who is guilty and mostly the decisions in such cases are in favour of the women.
The tears of females are visible to everyone but no one sees the tears of men. There are so many false cases of domestic violence being lodged and innocent people are being put behind the bars. The family of the husband too is arrested in most of the cases and has to face humiliation in the society and also ill-treatment of the authorities.
Section 304-B of IPC is a provision made to protect the women from cruelty by her husband and in-laws for dowry. It is presumed that if a woman dies within seven years of her marriage and her husband or in-laws were demanding dowry, then they were responsible for her sudden death. This provision protects women but what about men. There is no such rule that if a husband dies within seven years of marriage the wife can be held liable. The law should be such that which protects the rights of each and everyone in the society and not only the females. Also, a proper enquiry should be there about the reason for the death of the women and not directly putting the blame on the husband and the in-laws as the assailant.
Forced sexual intercourse
Whenever there is discussion regarding forced sexual assault the first thing which comes to mind is women as the victim and men as the assailant and this is where the basic problem lies. Section 375 of IPC which was enacted to help the women to get justice if they are forced into sexual intercourse is also misused by women many times. A man is not given any protection against such forced sexual intercourse. Though the ratio of women is far more than men to suffer such offence, even if one person is being affected, justice should be done to him by punishing the perpetrator.
The US’s Center for Disease Control in Atlanta has estimated that around 18.3% of women and 1.4% of men had suffered rape at some point in their life. The percentages can be an underestimation due to the stigma in reporting against rape cases. The US Department of Justice suggested that of those convicted for rape, 99% are males and 1% are females. But for India we can’t get the data as here rape against men cannot be committed by legal definition.
According to a survey conducted by the Indian Government in 2007, the reported cases of sexual abuse against children, including rape or sodomy varied as- for boys, it was 57.3% and for girls, it was about 42.7%. The Delhi based Centre for Civil Society reported that around 18% of Indian adult men reported that they had been forced for sex. Among those cases, the female perpetrators were 16% and male perpetrators were 2%.
Maintenance of wife by the husband
Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 mentions that a person is supposed to maintain his wife, children and his parents who are unable to maintain themselves. Even if the wife earns, that income is not enough to support her and the husband has to provide for her needs.
Section 37 of the Special Marriage Act provides that the husband has to maintain his wife from his property after divorce until there is a change in her circumstances like she is remarried or has turned immoral.
Section 18 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act states that a Hindu wife has a right to be maintained by her husband throughout her lifetime.
Section 3 of the Muslim Women( Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 states that a divorced Muslim woman is entitled to be maintained by her ex-husband during the period of iddat.
These all laws which are mentioned above provide for the maintenance of a wife by her husband but no provisions are there which talk about a husband being maintained by his wife. There may be a situation where the husband can also need maintenance but that criteria is not provided in the above-discussed provisions. In Family Law, a wife is supported when it comes to divorce and maintenance. Section 125 of CrPC provides that if the husband is unable to provide for the maintenance of his wife, a warrant may be issued against him for recovery. Even when it comes to the custody of a child, preferably it is the wife who receives it for at least the child who is below 5 years of age. In adoption cases too, a single male is not allowed to adopt a female child. These all laws have loopholes which affect the males drastically.
Right to Equality in the Constitution
The Constitution under Article 15(1) prohibits any discrimination based on sex and under the same, Article 15(3) provides that the state can make special provisions for women. Although this special provision was made to protect women as they are seen as being at a disadvantage against men but it is in some situations harming the rights of men. There is no wrong in making such laws except for the scenario where women are using these laws for their advantage in a negative manner and harassing their male counterparts.
How are males at a disadvantageous position
There are various laws which put males in a disadvantageous position. They are many times trapped in false cases. The various legislations made to protect the rights of the women are used by them to harass men and sometimes to satisfy their ego. For them, the authorities are very strict and have to face various atrocities at the hands of the police authorities. Also, most of the crimes against women are cognizable and non-bailable which becomes more difficult for innocent males.
There are various legislations which protect the rights of females but none which support the cause of men in the society. Most of the cases of divorce go under the Domestic Violence Act and cruelty under Section 498-A of IPC. Many times these cases are just filed to get money from their partners. And one such false allegation is capable of ruining his career and his reputation in the society. Cases of females marrying multiple times just to get the property and maintenance from their rich husbands have also been found.
There are laws made to protect women from sexual harassment at the workplace but there are no laws as such which could help males. What is considered is that only women are the victims of sexual harassment and eve-teasing and men can only be perpetrators but not victims which is not the reality though.
Women-centric laws and the way society perceives them
Women empowerment has always been favoured by most of the people in our society. In this modern era, women have an upper hand in women-centric laws. From the time when women were disregarded and considered weak to this time when the women are respected and all the women are not that weak, things have changed in society. But the perspective of the society is still the same that if some cases relating to women-centric laws are filed they themselves declare the men to be perpetrators instead of trying to understand the complete scenario.
If a girl is raped everyone is concerned about the girl, her future and gives her sympathy. There is no wrong in this. Of course, if people are living together at least they have to do this much. But what about a man who was charged with the offence of rape and is proven innocent. Does society treat him in the same way as they used to do before he was trapped in a false case? The answer is no. Even if they are proved innocent, they are looked down by the people in the society who had already by themselves declared them as the perpetrator who deserves not to live with his head held high. And this situation has worsened with the increase in the use of social media platforms which can easily be used to tarnish someone’s reputation. This is the way society perceives the women-centric laws that the women are always the victim and the men are always the perpetrator without understanding the true cause.
Dr N.G. Dastane v S Dastane
In this case, the Supreme Court held that although it is supposed that the one who is stronger commits physical cruelty towards the other i.e. a husband toward his wife. But women, as well as men both, are capable of causing mental cruelty towards their partners.
Rajesh Sharma & others v State of Bihar
In this case, the court laid down certain directions to prevent the misuse of Section 498-A of IPC. The court gave directions to set up a Family Welfare Committee in each district by District Legal Services Authority and to look into the cases of domestic violence reported under Section 498-A of IPC for a month before making any arrest. The Committee would comprise para legal volunteers, social workers, retired persons who should be given basic training for doing the task.
The legislations which are women-centric in nature and are inflexible should be examined properly to remove any loopholes if present in them.
There is a need to protect women so no harm is there in making women-centric laws but the point to be kept in mind is that if any legislation is made to help the women victims it should not destroy an innocent male’s life. The legislation should be made keeping the rights of both males and females in mind.
The dowry laws are strictly implemented against the groom’s family but still, there are cases related to the same. The reason for its existence is that only the people who take dowry are punished and not the bride’s family who is giving dowry which is also a crime under the Dowry Prohibition Act. Mostly, the people who give dowry are the ones who ask for dowry. So it is necessary that the laws are properly implemented.
Women-centric laws are made to protect women from abuses in society. It was the need when they were implemented and still the need exists. But along with it, it is also necessary to see that no one who is innocent is getting harmed by such laws in any war whatsoever. Also, a tedious job in the hand of the judges to see that the approach of the society that the women are the ones who are always the victims in women-centric laws should not affect them when they are delivering their judgment.
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