Men being harassed in false dowry cases
Harassed husbands. This is being talked about in the press quite a lot these days and yesterday there was this rather stark headline: Harassed husbands take to the streets. Quoting from the article:
The tables have turned. Husbands harassed by their wives have finally realised the futility of taking things lying down…Beginning with Bangalore on Saturday, they are taking to the streets under the banner of Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF). The SIFF is about 7 years old and has 8000 members.
It is being alleged that men are increasingly being implicated in false cases under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, and anti-dowry law (of 498a). These Acts have been criticized because they are not gender neutral. The anti-dowry law is seen to be draconian as that section is “non-bailable, non-compoundable (complaint that can’t be quashed) and cognizable (arrests without investigation or warrants) on a report from a woman or close relative. This has been compared to the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act as it is cognizable. POTA was scrapped.
Much ado about nothing?
However, there are those who believe that much ado is being made about nothing and that these false cases are very few in number…but if this was the case a few years ago, I think the situation has changed now. First let’s take a look at both statistics – those on dowry cases and those on false cases. Please note that these are government statistics and got from reputable websites. However I cannot say with a hundred percent confidence that they are comparable…
Statistics say women at the receiving end where dowry is concerned
It is believed that on an average one Indian woman commits suicide every four hours over a dowry dispute. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics say:
2006: 2,276 female suicides due to dowry disputes, six a day on an average. 7,618 cases were registered under Dowry Death.
2005: 2,305 female suicides in 2005.6,787 cases under Dowry Death.
2004: 2,585 dowry cases were registered across the country and 7,026 were registered under Dowry Death.
One case is registered almost every hour under Dowry Death, which includes suicides as well as murders.
False Cases filed by women against husbands (Official figures):
Under Dowry Deaths:
Under the Dowry Prohibition Act.
The percentages (of false cases as compared to genuine ones) are very low, well below 5 percent.
But there are those who feel that these false cases are the tip of the iceberg. The Save Indian Family Foundation, quotes government data which shows that “134,757 people were arrested under the anti-dowry law but only 5,739 people were convicted.” Well, I don’t think that a lack of conviction in a dowry case necessarily means that the accused is innocent. If it is proved that it is a false case, then it’s a different matter.
Why Indian men kill themselves
The Save Indian Family Foundation has also argued that, as compared with women, nearly twice as many married men in India (up to 52,483) take their own lives – being “unable to withstand verbal, emotional, economic and physical abuse”. Well, while it is true that more men commit suicide than women, the reasons as to why people commit suicide have been well researched which I have written about here.
In India, fewer men kill themselves as compared to those in other countries. For example, in countries like Australia, Canada and the US - about 3-4 men kill themselves as compared to 1 woman! And in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, France, S. Korea and Japan - about 2-3 men kill themselves as compared to one woman. Why more men kill themselves as compared to women is something that psychologists and sociologists have not been able to answer fully, although economic pressure is considered an important factor, assuming that there is no mental illness. The burden of providing for a family and that of success falls on men, and their self-esteem is invariably tied up with worldly success. Women on the other hand tend kill themselves more often because of abuse. Overall, people kill themselves for very complex societal and psychological reasons, again assuming the absence of mental illness.
Interestingly, there is research which indicates that more women attempt suicide as compared to men.
Why women (possibly) make false cases against innocent husbands
It could be a way to get the best deal during divorce or simply arm-twist their man to toe the line. A false case is usually registered when the couple is unhappy and the wife uses the dowry law to get back against her husband and in-laws if she believes that they have ill-treated her. I personally know one case like this, that of a relative of a friend, and this is perhaps why I believe that such cases (falsely implicating husbands) are becoming common. This woman was in a bad marriage where her in-laws would interfere with everything she did, and her husband was supporting them, not her. She wanted a divorce but her husband refused. She, an educated professional, threatened her husband, telling him that he better let her go or she would file a dowry case against him. She got her way…so yes, the dowry act is being used as a blackmail tool by some women.
We cannot deny the fact that women have less power in Indian society, and unfortunately, the dowry act has become a weapon…
Those who trump up cases need to be penalised
De-criminalizing the taking of dowry cannot be the solution (a demand from mens groups), not when over 95 percent of dowry cases are genuine and murder is involved. Womens organisations are against diluting the law and Brinda Karat, AIDWA president has said:
It’s taken decades for women to pluck up the courage to use these laws and now they want to dilute them…there may well be a few cases of abuse. But dowry-related violence is so horrific that these laws are life-savers for women and it would be disastrous to dilute them. Dowry-hungry men will think they can get away with murder, literally…
However, stringent punishment for those filing a false case is required. As of now, there is no penalty for filing a false case. False cases bring disrepute to the law itself.
Men are fighting back
Womens groups are reluctant to compromise, but mens groups aren’t taking it lying down. They are trying to pressurise the government to change the dowry laws and the demonstration on the streets is just an example. Today there are about 60 websites dedicated to “promoting the well-being of men in India.
But at any given time we need to remember that women who suffer from dowry -related harassment are often not empowered. Less than half of the women in India can read or write, compared with 75% of men. In the past 20 years more than 10 million female foetuses have been aborted…we need to keep this in mind before the anti-dowry law is changed.