India has been a patriarchal society for decades. The traces of patriarchy or rather the male dominance is still existent. Though we have moved a long way from the conditions that were prevailing back then, equality still seems to be a far-fetching dream. Here, the point that needs to be noted is, on the face of it women are coming forward, they are given equal opportunities in every field (maybe more at some places), they are educated and becoming self-dependent.
But there exists strata of society that still tries to keep women/girls inside the four walls of the house. Other than this, the roots of patriarchy are so deep that it is visible somewhere or the other. In this article, we will discuss the laws made specifically for women and their usage.
Women Centric Laws
Domestic Violence Act, 2005
Indian married women have been abused by their in-laws for a very long time. Women are subjected to physical cruelty and mental torture. The Domestic Violence Act was enacted to save women from such atrocities.
The law conveniently ignores males subjected to domestic violence. The cases may be rare but still they exist. Agreed, that women are prone to this violence, but an act, so much specific to a subject cannot possibly exclude half of the population of this country.
Section 498A of IPC
This section specifically talks about cruelty to women by her husband and in-laws. It existed before the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act. The maximum punishment that can be given under this section is three years. Also, the offense is non-bailable, cognizable, and non-compoundable.
This section came into force after the failure of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. The alarming increase in dowry deaths and up-surging women’s rights movement led to an amendment that makes marital cruelty a punishable offense.
There are several claims that the section is grossly misused by women to satisfy their grudge. But there are statistics that prove them wrong. For example, according to NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau), 30% of women in 2015-16 faced domestic violence at home but not even 1% of these cases were reported. Also among the accused around 70% have paid for the anticipatory bails and only 24% were arrested under the said charges.
The statistics show that though there could be thousands of misleading and false complaints under this section, it is still necessary for those who are really suffering.
Section 376 of IPC
The section specifically talks about rape on women. It completely ignores the possibility of rape on men.
It is a non-bailable offense and if the accused is below 18 years of age POCSO (Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act) would also apply. The sections under POCSO Act are completely non-bailable.
Section 294, 354, and 509 of IPC
These sections deal with the sexual harassment of a woman by a man. All the sections explain the condition where a man could possibly harass a female by various gestures and acts. Section 354 is a non-bailable offense while sections 294 and 509 are bailable offenses.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
This act was enacted after the famous judgment in Vishakha vs. the State of Rajasthan and Ors. It specifically talks about the sexual harassment taking place with women at the workplace.
Is there a need for women-centric laws?
Yes, we are still living in a society where patriarchy is deeply rooted. The laws mentioned above are necessary and that’s why they were enacted in the first place. While the inclusiveness and stringent nature of these laws have been questioned from time to time. But this does not mean that they can be withdrawn altogether (as in the sections as whole). The courts and legislation could come up with a powerful mechanism that would make sure that genuine cases are taken forward.
It is true that the laws have been misused to a greater extent, but this doesn’t mean that the laws are not needed. Shining women today must have been struggling girls then. And those girls do not deserve to suffer in any way. These laws are necessary for those girls.
Gender equality can be seen superficially but deep down in the families, girls are still not given equal rights as a boy gets. They are still made to shut their mouths when something wrong happens to them. The situation may be better in the urban areas, but rural India still lives in the orthodox society. So, taking away the laws meant for their safety and betterment is not at all the option available.
Most of the laws are made exclusively for women. The laws should be inclusive to some extent. When we preach for gender equality, the same should be visible by our acts. It is acceptable that most of the crimes are committed against women in such cases but completely ignoring the other half is not acceptable.
Also, the execution of laws needs to be checked to prevent fake trials and unnecessary convictions. A proper framework should be laid down to prevent maximum fake trials. And lastly, false accusations should be seriously looked upon and punishment should be laid down for the ones committing it.