Renuka’s loss, our Gain

Ex-Union minister Renuka Chaudhary’s election defeat is being celebrated by a group of men who have been demanding the abolition of the controversial Domestic Violence Act. They are happy that with Chaudhury’s ouster as the women and child development minister, the act may be done away with

Former Union minister Renuka Chaudhary lost the Lok Sabha elections from Khammam constituency in Andhra Pradesh.
 
The winner, Nama Nageshwara Rao of the Telugu Desam Party, is celebrating. But Swarup Sarkar of Delhi is celebrating more.

The law will stay: Renuka Chaudhary

The reason: Sarkar is the Delhi coordinator of Save Family Foundation (SFF), a group that has been demanding the abolition of the controversial Domestic Violence Act (DV Act) that they allege is pro-women and is often abused in cases of marital discord. 

The group holds Chaudhary responsible for introducing and supporting the DV Act and Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

“Renuka is among the people who introduced the draconian Section 498-A of IPC and the Domestic Violence Act. These laws have become a tool to harass married men by giving unlimited benefits to wives,” said Sarkar.

The SFF is celebrating the former woman and child development minister’s defeat with crackers, sweets and congratulatory messages. “I received almost 50-60 messages on the day of counting. 

People from all over the country were celebrating Renuka Chaudhary’s loss. Later on, we forwarded the congratulatory emails to the official mail address of the Women and Child Development Ministry,” said Sarkar.

Sarkar and SFF have been running a campaign against the DV Act and Section 498-A, demanding the creation of a Men Welfare Ministry on the lines of the one for women. 

“Every year, lakhs of men throughout the country lose their reputation, job and almost everything because their wives lodge complaints against them under these laws.
 
Not just the men but their mothers, sisters and other family members are harassed under false complaints of dowry and ill treatment by in-laws,” said Sarkar.
 
SFF and Sarkar had met Chaudhary before the elections regarding their demands but after being denied any help, the group started a campaign against the former minister through emails, SMSes and blogs. 

The campaign also targeted Congress leader Margaret Alva, who the SFF claims, was the brain behind Section 498-A when it was introduced in 1983. 

MiD DAY tried contacting both Chaudhary and Alva for their reactions. While Alva was not available on her landline phone numbers, Renuka in an irritated tone accepted that she knew about SFF. 

“I know about their celebrations. It’s a democratic country and let him celebrate. But I don’t think it is worth celebrating,” Chaudhary said.

When asked about the SFF’s demand to abolish the DV Act and amend Section 498-A, she came up with a big no. 

“The law cannot be changed. It is there to save women who are harassed by their in-laws. I don’t think there is any strength in their demand,” Chaudhary said.

What the laws say

Section 498-A, IPC, provides wives with the right to move court against any act of cruelty for dowry. 

The DV Act covers not only wives and live-in-partners, but also sisters, mothers, mothers-in-law or any other female relative living with a violent man, who can be jailed for a year for beating, threatening and even shouting at them. 

While the DV Act provides yet another provision for a woman with ulterior motives to initiate criminal proceedings against the husband, a major loophole in the Act is its Section 14(5). 

The section reads that the respondents shall not be allowed to plead any counter justification for the alleged act of domestic violence, a clear flouting of Human Rights. 

 
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