Men caught in the Act?
28 May, 2007 l 0011 hrs ISTlSmita Khanna/TIMES NEWS NETWORK
The first prosecution under the Domestic Violence Act may have come through, but what’s worrying legal experts is not the need for more laws to protect women.
Salman Khan wasn’t crooning Shaadi kar ke phas gaye yaar, for nothing, you know. Those ludicrous tales of the misses running after the hapless hubby with the belan aren’t as unrealistic as they sound. While there have been some lone voices beginning to take up the battle for the victimised pati post the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, Section 498 (a) seems to have become a rapier some women love to brandish. even as legal experts collectively frown at how the law is often misused to implicate innocent men and their families, the frown just got deeper post the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act, (DVA) 2005. While the first prosecution under the Act just came through, men’s organisations and lawyers alike are wondering if the belan just became a baton.
For the likes of Sachit Dalal, project manager with a software firm in Delhi at least, the hits just keep on coming. Admittedly, a victim of “legal terrorism”, for Dalal these laws spell bad news. “Feminists and women’s organisations keep throwing these laws at men’s faces, but what about those thousands of cases where men are abused? Why are there no laws supporting men?” he questions.
While Dalal also cites a WHO report which talks about financial abuse of in-laws by the bahu to fortify his cause, Swarup Sarkar, founder member and coordinator, Save Indian Family, thinks that this isn’t a fight between men and women, but between families. “Statistics reveal that only two per cent of the cases of harassment filed by women are genuine and there are several reasons for this,” says Sarkar even as he elaborates: “Extra-marital affairs, the husband’s inability to provide enough money etc lead women to exploit these laws to get their way around.”
Agrees Pratima Gupta, an advocate practicing in the Delhi High Court, “There is no doubt that only two or three per cent of the cases of harassment coming to court are genuine. These laws are being used as tools of mal-adjustment. If you want to keep a marriage going, small things don’t matter, but they get blown out of proportion if one wants to break free. Unfortunately, when you are unable to split gracefully, you use Section 498!”
Perhaps it is things like these that have led Sarkar to demand that the DVA be made “gender neutral” and be termed as the Domestic Harmony Act.
Not that women’s rights activist Shalini Mathur, founder of Suraksha, would agree. According to Mathur, “These laws cannot be gender neutral, because our society is not gender neutral. Has a man ever been hanged for killing his wife?”
“The ordinary man is not a criminal,” retorts RP Chuge, lawyer, practicing in the Supreme Court and a member of Protect Indian Family. While Chuge reveals that he has been abused by his wife and is himself a “victim”, it doesn’t deter him from saying, “Women should be protected, but that doesn’t mean that they will use these laws to threaten men.”
Time the legal eagles sorted things out, don’t you think?