It’s hard to reckon that the men in our society, could also be potential victims of assaults, tortures, defamations, false accusations, and wrongful convictions. Why? Because India is still a majorly patriarchal society where men hold the baton, unfortunately. It is, therefore, unsettling to agree that these men could be vulnerable too. The thoughts of these men being oppressed rather than being the oppressor don’t ring a bell in our society.
The Reverse Theory – The 498a and Dowry Prohibition Act
The 498a clause that dealt with ‘matrimonial cruelty’ was added to the IPC in 1983. Over and above the Dowry Prohibition Act, that already existed. Victims of dowry harassment and assault, therefore, had a strong legal option to knock off their suppressors. Women, who decide to fight back, could access strong legal tools to literally squash their suppressors.
Here’s the Twist – The Tales of Role Reversal
As per http://www.498a.org/faq.htm
“Any Indian wife and her relative can file 498a on her husband, his parents, sisters, brothers, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, wives of brothers, and other relatives. 498a (dowry harassment case) leads to arrest without any verification or investigation.”
That is a dangerous piece of law. Men and their families could be dragged to jail, without a shred of investigation or verification.
This law handed over an unchecked power to women with malicious intent. Women who threatened men with 498a, stripped them of their honor, made them submit to long lists of demands, forced them to cut off ties with families, often left them bankrupt, and seldom drove them to cowardly suicides. Hence, in a role reversal, these women were now the suppressor. The men in their lives were suppressed.
Laws needed to be “Gender Neutral”, but it wasn’t. However, conventional society and conventional laws were fundamentally aligned to provide cover for women. Most “women rights commissions” unanimously branded all men as culprits. As per the National Crime Records Bureau, 54% of the cases filed under 498a were proven to be wrongful accusations in the year 2015. Take a note.
Where Are the Real Victims?
The millions of real dowry victims especially spread across the rural areas, never had the courage or knowledge to seek justice. Tucked away far from the shades of modernity, they lacked any awareness around 498a. With limited access to social, print, and News media, these women are often too jittery in reaching out to the greater world seeking legal avenues. Burdened under the mountains of patriarchy, social pressure, khap and panchayat raj, these women keep tolerating the harassment and abuse.
An Example Case Study
I have personally known a friend who traveled between Indian and New Zealand six times in four months just because his newlywed wife “didn’t like it in New Zealand”. The whimsical trait of his wife kept growing to a point that the couple was facing severe financial turmoil and differences of opinion. Which is when the friend filed for a divorce. His wife tactfully cried foul on every social media, sought help from Women Rights councils, local political leaders, and drowned the husband in a pile of far-fetched acquisitions. Of course, I am unaware of the wife’s version of grievances. But I have known the friend for 20 long years. The couple wasn’t staying with the in-laws. So that angle is off the table. The friend was staying in New Zealand for the last few years. Faced with mounting social pressure and astronomical alimony claims, he opted for a one-time settlement that literally left him bankrupt, after having earned in NZ Dollars for 5+ years.
Legal Empowerment Should be Gender Neutral
Laws that empower the suppressed should be gender-neutral. While the world seems very compassionate towards women in distress, the men in similar situations are conveniently branded as “coward” and “weak”. Why? Because every media and social channels portray men as herculean meat-balls, symbolising power, force, and vigor. Men, therefore need no legal protection. Our obsession with dare-devil male Heroes and beautiful yet vulnerable Heroines never seem to end.
The truth is, the weak and suppressed should be protected irrespective of gender. Laws such as 498a should be tailored to protect the suppressed – without the possible discrimination of male or female.