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THE DEMAND FOR A NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR MEN: VIEWING IT IN THE CONTEXT OF MISUSE OF GENDER LAWS BY WOMEN

INTRODUCTION

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, on July 3, 2023, dismissed a plea that sought the creation of a ‘National Commission for Men’ on the pretext of increasing suicide rates among married men.[1] However, the apex court suggested that India should carry out extensive research as to why there is a need for the creation of such a body, the increasing rate of suicides among married men and the kind of violence they’re being subjected to by their wives after the marriage such that the nation must be ready with the accurate and appropriate research data to bolster its demand for such a body. It can’t be denied that there must be a grievance redressal mechanism to hear the voices of the aggrieved men who are being subjected to utter violence, disrespect, inhumane treatment and disregard after their marriages. The demand for such a body is not something that’s made on the pretext of the fact that India has a statutory body namely ‘The National Commission for Women’ for the socio-economic development of women in the country rather it’s made on the claim that there has been the blatant misuse of the gender laws by some women in the country in order to harass their husbands and their relatives and to further their means to extort money out of their marriages that were once considered ‘holy’ by them.

THE CLAIM OF MISUSE OF GENDER LAWS BY WOMEN AND SUPPORTING DATA

Martin Luther King Jr., an American minister who was one of the most prominent and foremost leaders in the civil rights movement in the USA during the 1950s, had said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to the justice system everywhere. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Many men in abusive marriages have been the target of ‘false and fake allegations’ under the gender laws by their wives. False charges of domestic violence, dowry demands, mental and physical cruelty and rape are prevalent among abusive wives, and using them to elicit legal violence is known as “proxy violence.” Our culture’s panic, hysteria, and erroneous assumptions about males being violent make it simple for abusive wives to falsely accuse their husbands, thus, destroying their lives, families, careers, and reputation. It should be highlighted that it is done simply by filing an FIR against them or by calling the police, who arrest and harass the husband and his family without doing any preliminary inquiry. A study was conducted and it was found that 75% of the rape claims made by women are actually false. It can’t be ignored that every one in four men faces false and fake allegations by their wives. The apex court, in the year 2017, found out that there are several false cases of domestic violence pending against men. That was a fundamental victory of men’s rights activists in the country. The Supreme Court has labelled the misuse of gender laws by women as ‘legal terrorism’ that the nation must do away with at the earliest.[2]

DELVING INTO GENDER LAWS BEING MISUSED:

False reports of domestic violence and harassment against spouses and their families are one of the most frequent ways that gender laws are violated. Also, Women have a history of misrepresenting the father’s capacity or desire to provide for his family in order to take advantage of child custody and maintenance rules. Section 498A[3] of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC, 1860)[4] is one of the most misused sections of the penal code by the women of the country. It reads as, “Whoever, being the husband of the woman or the relative of the husband of the woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.”[5] Thus, the section talks about ‘cruelty’ being subjected to women and it forms a valid ground for divorce in matrimonial cases. Section 304B[6] of the Indian Penal Code[7] that makes ‘dowry’ a punishable offence is blatantly misused against the spouse and his family to extort money, property and other belongings that belong to them. Likewise, the provisions of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961[8] have been misapplied and put to wrong use. The Domestic Violence Act, 2005[9], whose ultimate purpose is to protect women at the hands of their husbands who are being the perpetrators of the offence of conducting domestic violence on their wives, is embezzled to an extent that results in dire consequences such as losing the job, family, home reputation, chronic depression, separation from children, and suicides among men. A study states that the rate of suicides among men is six times the rate of suicides among women.

SUPPORTING JUDGEMENTS

The courts in our country have taken notice of the blatant misuse of gender laws by women in several instances and therefore, there are various supporting judgements for the claim made. In the case ofRaj Talreja vs Kavita Talreja[10], the Hon’ble Supreme Court found out that the claims made by the wife against her husband were false and fake and she herself inflicted injuries upon her body in order to get a divorce from her husband under section 498A[11] of IPC, 1860[12]. In another landmark judgement of ‘Sejalben Tejasbhai Chovatiya vs State of Gujarat[13] the court took notice of the misuse of gender laws by women whereby it was held that false information is being provided by the wives against their husbands to make the cases ambiguous. The Jharkhand High Court in the landmark ruling of ‘Umesh Kumar & Ors. Vs State and Anr.[14] observed, “Section 498A of Indian Penal Code was inserted in the statute with the laudable object of punishing cruelty at the hands of a husband or his relatives, however, nowadays, the said section is being misused which has been observed by several High Courts and the hon’ble Supreme Court.” In another significant ruling of ‘Joydeep Majumdar vs Bharti Jaiswal Majumdar[15], the Hon’ble Apex Court ruled that it amounted to ‘mental cruelty’ when the wife made defamatory complaints to the husband’s superior officers and it was determined that the complaint had impeded the husband’s career advancement. This was because the husband had experienced negative effects in his life and career as a result of the allegations made by the wife. The Family Court approved the husband’s divorce on the basis of cruelty. The Hon’ble court in another judgement of ‘Kans raj vs State of Punjab[16] held that, “Unless their accusations are established beyond a reasonable doubt, the husband’s relatives may not be engaged in a case. The relatives cannot be named as defendants in the action because of the husband’s carelessness if the allegations are not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.” Madras High Court also recommended an amendment in the gender-specific laws to prevent their misuse and the abuse of innocent manhood.

CONCLUSION

It is the need of the hour that the lawmakers of our nation should consider punishments for the misuse of gender-specific laws or make the law gender-neutral to prevent its misappropriation by any gender specifically. If legislation is required to assist female victims, decision-makers need to remember that no innocent male lives should be sacrificed. To close any gaps in the law, the current women-centric legislation needs to be carefully examined. There is enough evidence for the formulation of a statutory body such as ‘The National Commission for Men’ if the gender-specific laws are not being used appropriately by women of the nation.

Author(s) Name: Pareesha (Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala)

References:

[1] ‘Supreme Court Rejects Plea Seeking Creation of National Commission for Men’ (TimesNow, 3 July 2023) <https://www.timesnownews.com/india/supreme-court-rejects-plea-seeking-creation-of-national-commission-for-men-article-101459817> accessed 20 July 2023

[2] ‘Misuse of 498A is like Legal Terrorism – SC’ (Save Indian Family Foundation, 18 July 2005) <https://www.saveindianfamily.org/misuse-of-498a-is-like-legal-terrorism-sc/> accessed 21 July 2023

[3] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 498A

[4] Indian Penal Code 1860

[5] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 498A

[6] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 304B

[7] Indian Penal Code 1860

[8] Dowry Prohibition Act 1961

[9] Domestic Violence Act 2005

[10] Raj Talreja s Kavita Talreja Civil App No 10719/2013

[11] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 498A

[12] Indian Penal Code 1860

[13] Sejalben Tejasbhai Chovatiya v State of Gujarat MANU14J/ 3099/ 2016

[14] Umesh Kumar & Ors. V State and Anr.AIR 2014 SC 1106

[15] Joydeep Majumdar v Bharti Jaiswal Majumdar AIR 2021 SC 117

[16] Appeal (Crl) 688-90/1993