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Call it bias against men

As an Indian citizen, I am extremely concerned by the Domestic Violence Act. The feminist organisations have been hailing this act and presenting it as empowerment of domestic abuse victims. However, there is no recourse for men who are victimised in their houses. The law lends itself to very easy misuse and is a gross violation of human rights of half the population. The fact is that due to this law, men will be emotionally, mentally and financially abused.

india Updated: Nov 11, 2006 17:44 IST

As an Indian citizen, I am extremely concerned by the Domestic Violence Act. The feminist organisations have been hailing this act and presenting it as empowerment of domestic abuse victims. However, there is no recourse for men who are victimised in their houses. The law lends itself to very easy misuse and is a gross violation of human rights of half the population. The fact is that due to this law, men will be emotionally, mentally and financially abused. As so delicately put by the concerned minister Renuka Chaudhary - "Its now men's turn to suffer".

It is clear by the actions Chaudhary, that her real agenda is to legally cripple and victimise men. She is vehemently opposed to make the law gender neutral. Her arguments have been the following - "If men are suffering, they should speak up" or "it is predominantly the woman who suffers". What confounds me is that if the law is made gender neutral, it does not take away any benefit from the real women victims of domestic abuse and it provides help to male victims as well. The irony is that the minister herself readily admits that the law will be misused. So, her solution? "What if this law is misused? Every law is misused". Bravo!

Isn't the government actually encouraging the misuse of the law here? Some more comments by Chaudhary - "If men behave, they have nothing to fear". But what if the men behave and the women misbehave? Today, in urban India, when a woman does not want to be in a marriage, she promptly files a dowry case along with the divorce and legally harrasses and extorts money from the innocent husband and his family after they have been in jail for no crime of theirs.

If a woman wants to walk out of a relationship, there is nothing to dissuade her from filing false cases and the lawyers actually encourage that.

There are three fundamental problems with the domestic violence law - a) it is overwhelmingly gender biased in favour of women, b) the potential for misuse is astounding and c) the definition of domestic violence is too expansive. There are degrees of domestic violence and not all conflicts in a relationship can be termed as domestic violence. This law trivialises the issue of domestic violence by including minor differences in its realm and by explicitly denying protection to half of the population.

The law in its current form is grossly inadequate to tackle the problem of domestic violence. It imposes a lot of responsibility on men, without giving them rights. On the other hand, it gives lots of rights to women without requiring them to be responsible. At the very minimum, it should be made gender neutral, offering protection to both men and women. Also, provisions for stringent punishments need to be incorporated into the law to prevent misuse. Moreover, the law needs to be made more practical by differentiating between various degrees of conflicts and by unambiguously defining what constitutes domestic violence.

The fact is domestic violence is a serious problem and a neutral and unprejudiced law is needed to protect the genuine victims of domestic violence, irrespective of gender. The perpetrators of domestic violence need to be appropriately punished and dealt with. At the same time, protection cannot be withheld from real victims for any reason whatsoever, least of all their gender. One can be certain that there is something sinister about a law, when it intimidates and instills fear in innocent people. When a person who has not committed any crime, begins to fear punishment under the provisions of a law, it is not a law anymore - it is state sponsored terrorism.