Author: Priti Poddar
In India, many laws have been enacted to safeguard women. Women have been discovered to be the victims of abuse in the past and present. As a result, our legislators were compelled to include, among other things, gender-specific rules that would protect women. With time, these statutes have undergone numerous changes. Every change has strengthened them even more, making those ready to file it even more powerful. Although the intention was unquestionably noble, the tightening of gender-related regulations has failed to achieve the goal for which they were designed in the first place.
If the complainant is a woman and the alleged attacker is a man, claims of abuse are enough to get someone arrested in India. In our society, the structural and consistent application of gender-oriented regulations was essential. However, there is widespread abuse of these laws. Sexism is a worldwide phenomenon, and India is no exception. However, it is disingenuous to imply that sexism just affects women. Men can also be victims of sexism as a result of laws that are used against them.
Since the dawn of time, the world has witnessed a sequence of crimes that might be classified as “gender-oriented.” Because the victims of these crimes were almost always women, there was a widespread notion in society that crimes and offenses are disproportionately committed against women and are motivated by a desire to suppress and isolate them. While this isn’t wholly incorrect because statistics support the occurrence of such incidents, it can’t be used to negate and neuter crimes committed against people of different genders. The law has a huge impact on how events occur. Making laws that safeguard women was critical. Recently, there have been multiple instances of these rules being misused for a variety of purposes.
Women’s rights and protection are guaranteed by particular laws in the legislation of the land. These include, but are not limited to, offenses such as Sexual Harassment, Dowry, and Indecent Representation, as well as advantages like Maternity Benefits and Equal Remuneration, as well as Acts like the well-known National Commission for Women Act. The Parliament of India passed these Acts and Laws in response to a perceived need to strive toward enhancing the status of women in our society, in addition to offering encouragement. While these measures have undoubtedly improved the standing of women in our society, they have also allowed some of them to abuse them for their gain!
While law-breaking is regrettably all too widespread in our society, this initiative will focus solely on the abuse of gender laws in India, particularly by women. This is one of those topics that has only recently begun to acquire traction among the general public, but which has yet to obtain adequate legal and societal recognition.
Misuse of gender laws
The issue of sexual harassment has undoubtedly witnessed an increasing trend and spread like wildfire for a variety of reasons. Lack of awareness, sex education, knowledge, and other factors are among them. The only legal option of punishing the perpetrators and preventing future incidents is to put them on trial under the law of the land. In India, the laws against sexual harassment are strict, ensuring that the necessary action is taken. These strict restrictions, on the other hand, are not without flaws. The abuse of these loopholes is just as crucial as the crime itself. While there are sufficient procedures for a female victim to report sexual harassment, the law does not provide sufficient provisions to verify the claims made by the female victim against the harasser, who is a male.
Nevertheless, our laws are built on the assumption that any woman who complains of sexual assault, whether directly or indirectly, is telling the truth. As a result, in our society, the male member is presumed guilty even before evidence are presented to show his guilt. The male member is essentially chastised by the entire culture that surrounds him.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) encouraged not publishing or suppressing the identity of someone accused of rape or sexual assault until they are proven guilty on October 27, 2020. This was one of the recommendations of research titled “Interrogating violence against women from the other side: An exploratory study into the world of perpetrators” which was undertaken jointly by the NHRC and the Centre for Women’s Development Studies. According to this document, revealing names might have major consequences if the accused is later determined to be innocent. Experts from a variety of sectors were included in this study, including, but not limited to, law, media, police, child and gender rights, and psychiatry.
The bulk of the criminals claimed to have had a consensual romantic relationship with the girls, which their families discovered and had them arrested for sexual assault. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) surveyed 43 juvenile boys who had been charged with sexual assault and were being held at Sewa Kutir in Delhi. About 40% of them rejected the allegations, claiming that they had had consensual contact with the girl, but that the girl became enraged as a result, or that the girl’s family disapproved of their relationship.
The study also considered the accounts of 20 adult accused men detained at Tihar Jail. “The majority of the interviews at Tihar Jail rejected the charges. The majority of them blamed the criminal justice system, which they believed was skewed in favor of the victim. Others stated that the charges were brought against them because of family feuds or drinking. Others refuted the allegations, claiming they were co-accused in a gang-rape in which they played little to no role,” according to the study.
While it is true that these people’s versions are not entirely trustworthy, they must be given the benefit of the doubt. Our legal system should be founded on the concept that even if 99 criminals are acquitted of their charges, a single innocent person should not be punished. However, there is a significant gap between what society should be and what occurs. In India, we’re seeing an increase in the number of fraudulent sexual harassment and rape accusations being submitted. The trend is now being recognized by the courts as well.
The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 regulates numerous areas of dowry law in India.
In India, dowry is a major issue. According to statistics by “She The People”, an average of 20 women die in India every day as a result of dowry abuse. These ladies are either murdered or compelled to commit suicide. And these 20 deaths are among documented ones. In India, there is a significant under-reporting of actual instances. Even though the dowry has been illegal since 1961, it remains an important aspect of Indian marriages.
The IPC amended in 1983, includes Article 498A which deals with dowry and related crimes.
This dowry system makes it obligatory for the bride’s family to give something to the groom’s family, which might be in cash or kind. Even after the wedding, the groom’s family frequently makes fresh demands and failing to comply with them often results in the bride paying a high price.
Everyday news reads just weeks after marriage, when the dowry demand of the groom’s family is unfilled, they indulge in domestic violence of burning or severely injuring the newly wedded bride.
This behavior is a symptom of the patriarchy that exists in our culture. Furthermore, the system is so thoroughly embedded in society that many people do not consider it a “crime” at all.
This is, however, one of the most misunderstood regulations in the country. In many cases, extortionists falsely accuse men and their families who are truly innocent.
Although there have been other instances where dowry harassment laws have been abused, the infamous Nisha Sharma Dowry Case in 2003. The bride Nisha Sharma and her family on the day of the wedding accused the groom’s mother of asking a dowry worth 12 lakhs INR. As per the bride’s family when they were unable to fulfill the demand of the groom’s family attacked them. However, the groom’s side of the story was that there was no one from the bride’s side to greet their procession on the wedding day. As a result, the groom’s family dispatched a member to investigate the situation. When the relative returned, he was approached by a man who introduced himself as Navneet Rai and claimed to be Nisha Sharma’s first spouse. The bride’s father then arrived on the scene and began messing with the groom’s mother, hurling a sandal at her aggressively.
The groom and some of his family members were arrested immediately. The case went on for 9 years and in February 2012 the groom and his family were acquitted due to lack of evidence. During the entire course of the case, the bride’s family attended the hearing only 10 times while the groom’s family attended about 320 times.
Nevertheless, in these 9 years, she was being addressed as a feminist icon in national as well as international media. In 2003 itself she married Ashwini. However, it was later revealed that because she didn’t want to marry the groom so accused him as to could call off the wedding without facing the anger of her parents.
This case is a classic example of dowry harassment and media trials in India. Nisha Sharma was portrayed in the media at the time as a role model for all women. As a result of this case, she gained notoriety. She, on the other hand, devastated the life of her groom and his family, who were demonized as dowry demanders and therefore became national hate symbols.
Despite its notoriety, this is not the only case of bogus dowry harassment in India. There have been thousands of similar cases, and because of the law’s only woman-centered approach, it is now more widespread than ever. While it is true that the threat of dowry exists in our culture and that it must be eradicated as soon as feasible, this does not negate the reality that phony dowry cases are filed and that many lives are wrecked as a result of these cases.
One of our society’s harsh realities is Eve teasing. There are, however, rigorous rules in place to protect it. The sanctions for it are categorized as cognizable and non-compoundable in several sections of the Indian Penal Code. (Section 294, section 354, section 354A, section 354D and section 509 of IPC)
To put it another way, there are enough provisions in the law of the land to ensure that anybody caught eve-teasing would be punished. However, if the perpetrator is stronger, as is frequently the case, even strict regulations may not be beneficial to the true victim.
These eve-teasing regulations, however, are vulnerable to abuse, particularly by women, because they assume that the victim must be a woman.
On August 23, 2015, Jasleen Kaur, a 21-year-old St. Stephen’s College student, posted a photo of a man riding his bike and alleged that he had made vulgar comments to her. According to Jasleen Kaur’s story, a man named Sarvjeet Singh was attempting to beat the traffic signal, and she ordered him to obey the laws. Following this, the two got into a dispute, with the male resorting to profanity.
Sarvjeet Singh claimed he was attempting to turn left, which is legal even under a red-light signal, but Jasleen Kaur was convinced that he was breaking traffic laws. After receiving a response from the man, the woman took photos of him sitting on his bike, which she then shared on social media.
The case went on for three years, and once the woman moved to Canada, she didn’t show up for any hearings for three years, citing “academic commitments” as the reason for her absence. Sarvjeet Singh, on the other hand, was labeled a “pervert,” lost his job, and was forced to attend every court hearing that had to be postponed due to Jasleen Kaur’s absence. On the 24th of October 2019, four years after the occurrence, the Court handed down a decision acquitting Sarvjeet Singh of all accusations and declaring him innocent. The Court stated that “the complainant’s testimony is untrustworthy and raises considerable doubt on the prosecution’s case.”
As a result, it is possible to conclude that laws intended to protect women are frequently abused. Although generalizations are incorrect and the position of women in our society is not as good as it should be, this cannot be used to justify and defend the unacceptable deception that some of them employ these days. Sexual assaults, rapes, dowry harassment, and eve-teasing are all very real and serious problems. When even one individual abuse these rules for personal gain, she betrays a group of women who legitimately deserve justice and for whom these laws are desperately required.
In India, underreporting of crimes is a serious issue. A lady would not come out of the closet, especially when the offenses are as horrible as rapes and the offenders are her acquaintances. No one comes to her aid. She has been abandoned, and her bodily integrity has been compromised. On the same issue, the threat of dowry is well-known. Many women, particularly those from rural India, are tormented by their husbands and in-laws for failing to produce dowry. Several families are dissolved, and many women are reduced to nothing more than money-making machines. Eve teasing can have major ramifications for a girl’s thinking. She is afraid to leave her residence again for fear of being followed. The argument is that they are extremely serious offenses that deserve an immediate response from society as a whole.
When cases of this nature are falsely reported, however, people assume it is part of a pattern and cast considerable doubt on the legitimacy of the genuine ones. This is an injustice to individuals who are currently suffering or have previously suffered since casting doubt on the veracity of their cases is an additional atrocity on them, the true atrocities having already been done in the form of crimes.
As a result, we must be vigilant about who we support as a society. False reporting is on the rise across the board, regardless of geography, religion, or philosophy. This is an injustice to the family of the guy who is falsely accused, and it should not be the case in a just society based on the ideals of peaceful and lawful cooperation.