Martyrs Of Marriage
Excess of anything is always hazardous, whether done by a man or a woman. The biggest challenge today is to remain neutral, unbiased, and open to an issue. For a few years now, Gender equality, more so the many laws that protect the interests of women have been the centre of debates. It is pivotal that these laws exist, but it is also important to ensure that these laws are not taken advantage of. Because justice cannot be inclined towards any gender and any such inclination, if found, must be condemned. One woman is fighting against the injustices for men.
Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj is a Journalist and Campaigner who has been fighting against the misuse of 498A since 2011 to protect the rights of men wronged by this law. She has personally gone through the entire procedure in her family, and this is what sparked her to work towards the injustice being faced by men. 2,18,000 people were arrested under 498A in 2014, and in 2015 1,80,000 people were arrested.
Speaking with The Logical Indian Deepika mentioned a recent case where the woman filed a case under 498A because her husband didn’t spend a lot of time with her owing to on-site work placement for work. When the issue was taken to the police, she also said there was unnatural sex, and another section of 377 was added to the complaint. The husband has been behind bars for the past 1.5 months, and his wife refuses to take any medical test to investigate the authenticity of unnatural sex claim. Section 498A with 377 together is a big warrant to escape.
A marriage which doesn’t work out due to incompatibility or other personal reasons is turned into a criminal offence, and it is only the boy’s family which is tried by the law. Then starts the never ending visits to the court.
According to Deepika, justice should be done to whoever suffers and not just women, and since she is on the men’s’ side in this fight, she has faced the wrath of the women of our society. She has been asked to die, called a rapist apologist, a pimp on social media. She still stands strong despite such online abuse. She supports a judgement which punishes the wrong by deeds and not gender. The court should not side with the notion of a patriarchal society. Many women try to paint men wrong if they disagree with them.
In another effort to bring the issue to more number of people, she recently made a documentary called ‘Martyrs Of Marriage’ which is being screened across India through independently organised screenings. The film has also been screened for police officers and magistrates at Tamil Nadu State State Judicial Academy. The 90-minute long documentary features stories of men who have been affected by the misuse of Section 498A at the hands of law and their absolute helplessness when they are dragged to police stations and courts constantly for a crime they did not commit. It also includes voices of lawyers, detectives, marriage counsellors, and everyone who is part of this dispute. It brings the stories of people of who committed suicide for being charged wrongly under 498A. It features the lawmakers who made this particular law with good intentions which now gets the innocent roughed up.
Deepika says that even the judges accept the widespread misuse but are not in position to speak openly about it. On being asked about ensuring of justice equally to men and women, she believes that law has to be transparent to cater to both the genders. And people need to be strong and not be afraid of police as they now.
Judicial reforms on the existing laws are the need of the hour. She suggests that a committee should be set up by the Parliament to ensure the effectiveness of laws and to measure the quantum of misuse. Further legislations are needed to curb any abuse. A critical and yet different view which Deepika presents is about the monetary compensation from the husband in 498A cases. The clause was introduced to bring relief for the women who have undergone trauma in genuine cases. If the case is about money, then it should be handled as a civil matter and not as a criminal case.
Justice and Women’s Justice are two very different concepts and the laws in any country must not discriminate against any gender or section. The bias of law towards a particular gender will only weaken the laws and reduce faith in the judicial system and process, also leading to further misuse of laws.
Equality for women is important but not at the cost of Inequality for men. It is not a pro-women environment we crave for but a lawful and just one. Women also must understand the sole purpose of a law and not use it for their personal benefits. In most cases, arrests are made immediately, regardless of whether the allegations are true. Women in our society have been suppressed, but revenge is not the right solution. Due to false cases, the real victims do not get justice, and the guilty find an escape route.
Amid the talks of Women Safety and Equality, issues concerning men must not be ignored.
Shouldn’t the laws be equal for both genders of society and ensure justice equally? Is it fair to punish an individual who is not at fault? Is justice pro-(any gender)?