Recognition of women’s rights on Women’s Rights Equality Day August 26, 2008

On the occasion of Women’s Rights Equality Day on 25th August, we would like you to note the harassment and arrests of 1,15,645 women in India in last 4 years under dowry laws (section 498a) without trial or any investigation. This is the worst kind of shameful atrocities committed on women by a nation whose president herself is a woman. Thousands of women are dragged to police stations, harassed, threatened, blackmailed and finally arrested every month. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must intervene immediately to stop these atrocities on women as the other concerned ministers have failed to address this serious issue.

It is ironic that women are the worst victims of the misuse of dowry laws and all these women are considered “guilty till proven innocent”, which is against the cardinal principles of natural justice. Arrested women include elderly women as old as 92 years to pregnant women to minor girl child going to schools. Is this women’s empowerment?

Hearing our vociferous outrage through protests all over India, Renuka Choudhary, Minister for Women and Children of India invited our representations for discussions on June 25th 2008. We hoped that some common sense will prevail and the arrests will end. All the discussions between our representatives and Renuka Choudhary failed as the minister refused to give any commitments towards stopping these atrocities on innocent women.

It is a national shame that so many women are arrested by laws which are meant to protect women. It is like the fence eating the crop. It’s a pity to note that this destruction of families is happening under the patronage of the Indian Legal System in the barb and paradoxical veil of “Women Empowerment and Protection”.

Although drafted with the sanest of intentions; to provide women with security in a marriage, of late, due to the large number of false cases making their way to courts, the protector’s shield has become the assassin’s weapon. The women NGOs also, who are supposed to be working as watchdogs, have turned into bloodhounds by discriminating between women related to husbands and wives and failing to recognize, empathize and redress the grievances of those fateful mothers and sisters who have been through the ordeal of seeing their son and brother suffering at the hands of an unjust and almost defunct legal system.

Save Indian Family Foundation, an international network of individuals and NGOs, is working for promotion of Gender Equality and Family Harmony, makes a pleading before your Excellency/good office on behalf of the bereaved and beleaguered mothers and sisters, victimized under false allegations of dowry harassment by their daughters –in – law and their advisors/parents, to kindly look into this matter. One complaint from the daughter –in – law lands the whole family including ailing senior citizens, minor children, as well as pregnant women behind bars and ruins their life in a whiff of a moment. All this happens without investigation and in most of the cases, hefty ransoms are demanded to settle the case.

As per National Crime Records Bureau, in the last 4 years, (2004 – 2007), 1, 15, 645 innocent women have been arrested without investigation / trial under 498A cases.

1) Is this women empowerment- that on an unverified complaint of one woman, three women are imprisoned (on an average) and deemed “Guilty until proven innocent”?

2) Umpteen numbers of cases have been found where the girls’ side, filing such complaints were found to be hiding vital facts about the girl and they in fact file these cases when the hidden facts(affairs, diseases, unnatural tendencies and preferences, etc.) are exposed. Has 498A been designed to seek revenge from and harass husband’s family legally?

3) Is the pain of a mother / sister less when she loses a son / brother than when she loses a daughter / sister?

4) As per suicide statistics provided by National Crime Records Bureau, for the years 2005 and 2006, close to 52, 483 and 55, 452 married men, respectively, have committed suicide as opposed to 28, 188 and 29, 869 married women. But yet there is no law to protect our brothers and sons. Why?

5) According to a report by Center for Social Research, there is only 2 % conviction in 498a cases, which means the law is misused to the tune of 98 % and yet it has not been scrapped. This clearly shows the inaction of the government and the apathy meted out to men and their family members, be it a man or a woman in India.

Today on Women’s Rights Equality Day we demand that,

1) Minister of Women and Child Development, Renuka Choudhary should resign having failed miserably in protecting the 1, 15, 645 women arrested without trial / investigation in cases under Section 498A IPC and Jayaprada be made the minister for Women and Child Development.

2) Mothers and sisters of men too are given equal status and their grievances as women are also heard and redressed by State Women Commissions as well as National Commission for Women and the Women and Child Development Ministry.

3) We demand that all cases registered under 498A be properly investigated by a police officer of the level of DCP before making any arrests or registering any complaint the police has written permission from the DCP- in compliance with 1994 Supreme Court Judgment 1994 AIR 1349 SCC (4) 260 Joginder Kumar vs. UOI. It is to be understood that 498a is a serious criminal offense and registering a criminal offense against any person without investigation can lead to serious degradation of the person’s social reputation and irreparable damage to life and career, apart from unfathomable human rights violation and wastage of governmental resources and hence public’s money.

4) Such acts need strong condemnation and the perpetrators of false cases need to be severely punished as they are maligning the system and blocking the path of justice for genuine victims. The State should initiate prosecution suo motu against those found to be misusing laws affecting families and filing false cases under Dowry Harassment laws and Domestic Violence just to realize their personal vendetta.

5) The words man / woman be replaced by person and the words Husband / wife be replaced by spouse to make the laws gender neutral.

6) Our brothers and sons should also get a chance to redress their woes of Domestic Violence by allowing them to make complaints under Domestic Violence Act 2005 amending it to make it gender neutral.

Gender Equality cannot come by way of Gender Discrimination and stereotyped, anachronous and generalised assumptions, which can only help to undermine the spirit and definition of any law. Taking the statements of the girl’s side as “Gospel Truth” reflects sheer lack of jurisprudence and grave inefficiency in implementation of laws on the government’s part, which needs to be rectified with immediate effect so that innocent law abiding citizens do not become a victim of the system made to protect them.

Place: Bangalore Thanking You

Date: 25 August 2008

(Save Indian Family Foundation)


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