Renuka Chowdhury, 54 MoS (Independent Charge) for Women & child Development

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New Delhi: Renuka Chowdhury, 54 MoS (Independent Charge) for Women & child Development

Result: -1/10

She was given independent charge of the Women and Child Development Ministry in 2006 after WCD, earlier under the Human Resource Development Ministry, was made a separate ministry. After three years, there is no marked difference in the condition of women and children in the country.

Her brief

In its manifesto in 2004, the Congress said that a nutritious mid-day cooked meal scheme will be introduced in primary and secondary schools across the country and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) will be universalised to provide for a functional anganwadi in every settlement and full coverage for children below the age of six. Chowdhury was also expected to reduce incidences of maternal and child mortality and malnutrition.

Reforms derailed

In 1997, judicial guidelines were set on protection against sexual harassment at the workplace, but the “high priority bill” is still shuttling between the National Commission for Women (NCW) and WCD.

Child labour has not been abolished, apart from a few baby steps taken by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), under the WCD Ministry.

The demand for additional guaranteed financial support from the expenditure finance committee for the ambitious and controversial proposal to give fortified pre-packaged food—instead of hot cooked meals—to poor children as part of the revamp of the ICDS was trashed by the Planning Commission.

OPPORTUNITIES BLOWN

The UPA government dropped attempts to strengthen the anti-Sati law, more than 20 years after it was first enacted. The proposed law was expected to increase prison terms for those committing as well as glorifying the practice.

After the Nithari incident, Chowdhury stressed on the need for a database of missing children. Till date, the NCPCR is still juggling to get the figures.

Proposed to the Home Ministry that it grant amnesty to women prisoners. A year after, the issue remains untouched.

Once talked of taking up the issue of dumped NRI wives but there has hardly been any step forward in the direction.

State child commissions were supposed to be set up. A Bill was passed in Parliament in 2006, but other than in Delhi and Kerala, the commissions haven’t been set up.

What was she thinking?

After the Mangalore pub attack by the Sri Ram Sene, where young women were attacked in an alleged incident of moral policing, she championed the cause of progressive city youth by calling for a “Pub Bharo” campaign and claimed that Mangalore had been “talibanised”.

High point

The enforcement of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005) in October 2006.

Low point

When she said “women must not trust their men” and guard themselves against HIV/AIDS, her statement drew flak from all quarters.

VIEW FROM THE SHADOW

“Except some debates and wordy duels, nothing substantive happened. WCD is a very important department.” —Murli Manohar Joshi, former HRD minister in the NDA government

Did she get your vote?

She lost in Khammam, Andhra Pradesh, by a margin of 1.24 lakh votes.

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Marry shades of grey!

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Harassed husbands? The SC’s recent observation calling for a review of dowry laws (on the grounds that they are often misused) might have women’s organisations up in arms but more and more ‘harassed’ husbands have been raising their voices after being falsely implicated. Sriranjitha Jeurkar investigates why many dowry cases no longer remain plain black and white today

My name is Kumar. I am 28 years old. I wanted to marry a poor girl, so that I could help a poor family. When I told my father about this, he suggested that I marry the daughter of one of his distant relatives, from a town in Andhra Pradesh. I believed that when he had chosen nothing but the best for me until now, he could not go wrong in this decision either. I agreed. I didn’t know much about the family, except that the girl’s father was a bus conductor. We demanded no dowry and even agreed to foot the wedding expenses.

It was a perfect wedding. My wife and I lived together for a month and she went back to her home for some rituals. That’s when I realised I had contracted a sexually transmitted disease from her. I was too embarrassed to tell my parents. When I asked my wife about it, she confessed that she had had an affair with someone else and had married me due to pressure from her family. “You didn’t ask for dowry, so we thought you had something to hide too,” she said.

I was shocked. But I wanted to save my marriage, so I asked her to come with me for treatment. She wasn’t interested. She told me that she would give me a divorce by mutual consent if I gave her Rs 5 lakh. And she didn’t want to discuss the matter with her parents because she was afraid they’d take away the money from her.

Still, I was glad she had told me the truth. I told my parents. Then my company sent me abroad for a project. We applied for divorce by mutual consent, and before I left, both of us went to the family court on six occasions. After I returned to India, she went back home saying that her mother was ill, and didn’t return — not even to attend the hearings. All of a sudden, she started saying that she didn’t want a divorce, and demanded that I pay her Rs 25,000 a month as maintenance. She claimed that I was earning far more than I really was, that my family had a lot of property (which is untrue) and said we had thrown her out of the house because she refused to bring Rs 2 lakh from her parents. She claimed that her family had spent a sum of Rs 10 lakh to conduct the wedding. She even went to the extent of saying that we had forged her signature on the divorce petition!

She filed a dowry case, and I was named as an accused — along with my mother, dad, cousin and aunt. I was taken into custody and stayed there for seven days, despite my family producing documents, which refuted her claims. She told me that if I paid her Rs 10 lakh in cash, she would withdraw the case. But she also had another demand —that I give it to her in writing that I am impotent.

My aged parents had to wait for three months to get bail. We were stripped, and our fingerprints taken, as if we were petty criminals.

Until then, we knew very little about the law, and even less about Section 498A. My parents, at one point were on the verge of committing suicide. Due to all the stress, my performance at work suffered. I was terminated. Three years later, the case is still on — and I am still looking for a job. I received three job offers — all of which were withdrawn once they conducted a background check and found out that I had a case pending against me. My future looks uncertain, but there’s one thing I’m sure about: I have lost faith in the institution of marriage. I will never marry again.

Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (Dowry Prohibition and Prevention of Marital Cruelty) is aimed at protecting the woman from harassment — from either her husband or her in-laws. But the loopholes in the law have led to misuse by women across the country. The common perception, that a helpless woman is abused for dowry by her husband’s family and the law is her only saviour — is being turned on its head.

Bangalore-based advocate Shankarappa, who has been practicing law for the last 18 years, handling many high-profile cases, says that he has seen at least 120 cases of dowry harassment in his career, “But unfortunately about 100 of the complainants had falsely implicated their husbands and husbands’ families.”

Advocate M T Nanaiah says that approximately 80 per cent of the 600 dowry-related cases he has handled over 32 years have turned out to be false implications. “Most of the remaining 20 per cent cases are mostly small disagreements that arise in every household. They get converted into dowry harassment cases.”

No warrant, no investigation

What is it about the anti-dowry law that makes such blatant misuse possible? First, the entire case hinges on the statement or allegations made by the wife.  A single oral complaint can land the husband’s family in jail. No investigation or warrant is needed before police arrest the husband or his family, or begin proceedings. It is non-bailable; the accused must appeal before the court to seek bail. It is not compoundable: the complaint cannot be withdrawn. Worst of all, there is no punishment against the petitioner if the complaint is proved false. Besides, legal experts argue, since the police do not require any proof before arrest, it takes away a basic human right.

“Once a woman lodges a complaint, the husband and his relatives are implicated. Even the police register complaints without investigation. They drag the husband, aged in-laws and even young children to the station. The charges may be proved false later, but a criminal record is a criminal record, after all,” says Shankarappa.

Lawyers say that most women who file false dowry complaints do so for a few common reasons: to get out of a marriage; to get money, or a favourable divorce settlement; if they had a premarital affair, and were married off by force; for child custody; if they want an attitude change in the behaviour of the husband or the family; to take revenge on their husbands, or in most cases, to get out of a joint family setup.

And ironically, the law that aims at helping women, ends up harassing women too. The Save Indian Family Foundation contends that on an average, 30,000 women are jailed every year in connection with dowry cases. “Once the woman files a complaint, the mother-in-law, sister-in-law are also arrested. Why restrict the law to protecting only the wife? What kind of protection do these women have?” asks Philip, whose family was falsely implicated in a case. Virag Dhulia, a member of the Bangalore Chapter of the Save Indian Family Foundation — an organisation that provides support to harassed husbands — narrates his horror story. “A few months after our wedding, my wife went back to her parents’ home and didn’t return. She said she wouldn’t return unless I agreed to live away from my parents. Then her family filed a dowry harassment case against us,” he says.

Dhulia recalls how his parents, who are in their sixties, suffered for months — the fear of being arrested, anxiety about the regular court visits, and the outcome of the case, the shame and humiliation, all adding to their health problems.

In what is probably the first such instance in the State, Dhulia has filed a complaint against his wife for giving dowry. “My wife has, in her complaint, stated that she and her parents gave me dowry in the presence of their relatives. According to the Dowry Prohibition Act, taking, giving and abetting the giving of dowry is a crime — the giver and taker are equally culpable. I have not accepted dowry; but if as per her claim, she says she has given dowry, then she is guilty too.”

He says that at first, the police refused to file an FIR. “Then I went to the ACMM Court. The magistrate there took cognizance of this complaint and asked the jurisdictional police to investigate into the matter and file a report,” he explains.

Even four months after the court’s order, no action has been taken, Dhulia alleges. “I have now filed an RTI application to get information about the progress of the investigation, but have still not received any info.”

Help is at hand

The social stigma was what prompted Arun Murthy, yet another ‘498A victim’ to set up Sangyabalya — a helpline for ‘husbands and families victimised by the anti-dowry laws.’

The helpline was set up in 2003, after Murthy’s sister-in-law filed a dowry harassment complaint against his younger brother. “She was from an orphanage, and she said we had demanded dowry. It was ridiculous,” Murthy says. After his entire family — including his mother and sister were implicated — Murthy’s brother, a hardware engineer, lost his job and became a mental wreck. “I saw how the system works — people are arrested on Friday evening, so they cannot get bail. They have to stay in jail till Monday. And consider this — if you are a government employee, and you are in jail for more than 24 hours, even if under false accusations, then your job is in jeopardy.”

Murthy then wrote to a newspaper, and received many calls from other victims. That’s when he set up a helpline for these harassed husbands. A few months later, Sangyabalya was registered as an NGO.  “A lot of people are on the verge of suicide after being arrested. We give them moral support.  Sometimes, the lawyers take them for a ride, so we extend legal aid too. But most importantly, it is a collective voice for proper representation of our problems,” he says.

The Save Indian Family Foundation, another organisation that aid people implicated under Section 498A, was first set up as an online community, but later evolved into an NGO. The Foundation now has set up helplines for men in distress. The members of the Bangalore chapter meet at Cubbon Park every Saturday. New members who approach the Foundation are given moral support, and legal advice. “Usually when someone is implicated like this, he tends to feel that he is the only one facing such a problem. When they come here and see that they are not alone, then they feel that they have some support.”

Members of the foundation, who come from various backgrounds — from software to government service — study the law and help each other with inputs on how to fight their cases.

There are several other organisations working for these ‘harassed husbands’, but most of them have common demands. “The problem arises from extravagant marriages. The giving and taking of dowry should be tackled. No one makes it a point to stop this at the source. After all, prevention is better than cure,” says Dhulia.

Murthy agrees, “There should be a mandatory registration of marriages with a record of all gifts exchanged. These gifts are referred to as dowry when things go wrong. And such disputes are family matters. There should be proper counselling available, before the woman goes to the police.”

He adds, “The law in itself is not bad. What we need is thorough checks and balances to ensure that it is not misused. We assume that women are all white and men, all black. We must acknowledge that there are shades of grey everywhere.”

But most important, these organisations say, is to make provision for action against those who file false complaints, and to ensure that no arrests are made without proper evidence. “Once the complainant sends her husband and his family to jail, chances of reconciliation are few. She thinks its a victory. But that’s the only victory, things go downhill from there,” Murthy says.

That probably underlines the need for a thorough review of the law as it exists now. The loopholes have to be plugged, activists say, and soon. For the welfare of the women, so that genuine victims of dowry harassment do not suffer because of those who have misused the law. That is the only hope, for the welfare of hundreds of women across the country.

(Some names have been changed to protect identities.)

Review necessary?

Justice J D Kapoor of the Delhi High Court had recommended a review of the dowry laws. He suggested that Sections 406 (misappropriation of dowry articles) and 498A (harassment for dowry) be made bailable and if necessary, compoundable, in cases where no grave physical injury has been inflicted.

He had observed, “There is a growing tendency to come out with inflated and exaggerated allegations roping in each and every relation of the husband and if one happens to be of higher status or of vulnerable standing, then he or she becomes an easy prey for blackmailing and bargaining.” Some suggestions of the judge are:

Such cases should be investigated by civil authorities, and cognisance taken only after findings. Only police officer above the rank of ACP should investigate harassment and misappropriation of items. A DCP should investigate dowry death cases.

When minor, schoolchildren are named, they should not be arrested or sent to court.

मैं आज की नारी: एक आत्मकथा

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नमस्कार

मैं आज की सक्षम नारी हूँ
राष्ट्रीय महिला आयोग की आभारी हूँ

मैं उस विलुप्त मूर्ती की एक अन्तिम अवशेष हूँ
जिसे कभी माता शब्द से पहचाना जाता था

मैं मेरे माता पिता की लाडली हूँ
मैं मुक्त हूँ, मैं मनचली हूँ
घरेलू काम से वंचित, मुझसे कोई भी काम नही करवाया है
सोचती हूँ की इस मुक्ती से, क्या मैंने पाया है?

नारी कभी सहनशीलता और संस्कृति की मूर्ती थी
नारी कभी सक्षम सुंदर और सम्पूर्ण परिवार की स्फूर्थी थी
आज मैं न सहनशील हूँ और नाही सक्षम हूँ
सम्पूर्णता में मेरे नारी पूर्वजों से कई गुना कम हूँ
न मैं गृहस्ती संभाल पाऊँ , और नही पति की सहचारी हूँ
मैं आज की अस्थिर, अपर्याप्त और असम्पूर्ण नारी हूँ
राष्ट्रीय महिला आयोग की आभारी हूँ

मदिरा सेवन के विरुद्ध कई हमने निदर्शन किए
इस प्रकार के कई समाज सेवक प्रदर्शन किए
आज मैं पूर्ण मुक्ती से मदिरा सेवन करती हूँ
धूम्रपान के कलुषित धूम्र में स्वास लेती हूँ
आज्ञापत्र पकडाई है मुझे देश के उन्नत नारी ने
पंख प्रदान किए है मुझे शाशन की अधिकारी ने

अनुशाशन हीन शाशन की अवैद कर्मचारी हूँ
कहने को मैं आजकी नारी हूँ
राष्ट्रीय महिला आयोग की आभारी हूँ

जानती थी मैं की नारी के प्रति सामाजिक सत्कार था
न्यायशास्त्र का दुरुपयोग मेरा जन्मसिद्ध अधिकार था
शोक ग्रस्त है एक परिवार , सदैव जहाँ पर प्यार था
पति बेच कर धन मै पाऊँ , ऐसा कुछ विचार था

न मेरे पास आज पति है, और नही मेरी परिवार है
न मेरी अभिमान मेरे पास है , और नाही किसीका प्यार है

माता पिता वृद्ध है आज, और भाई सुखी गृहस्त है
मुझे इस स्तिथी में लाने वाले आज सभी बहु व्यस्त हैं
किसीका साथ नही है आज, और धन से भी कुछ भोग नही
सुखी गृहस्ती जीवन का , इस जीवन में मुझे योग नही
क्या मैं बन पाऊंगी आज, पुन: किसीकी प्रिया?
क्या मैं जोड़ पाऊंगी रिश्ते , जिसको मैंने तोड़ दिया?
दुष्ट आयोग की प्रेरणा से, हर कोई सुख मैं हारी हूँ
आज मैं सचमुच एक अबला दुखित नारी हूँ
राष्ट्रीय महिला आयोग की आभारी हूँ

She’s a 11 Timer: Professional Legal Terrorist Arrested

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Twenty-six-year-old Kausar Begum aka Umme Kausar married eleven times, on each occasion conning her man and absconding with his money. The Mumbai police finally caught up with her in the city

Don’t go by the innocent face!

It’s talaq in reverse, and it’s been highly profitable for this profligate woman. Twenty six-year-old Kausar Begum alias Umme Kausar alias Kausar Salma, a resident of HBR Layout, II Block, married 11 men from various Indian cities and abroad. Each time she claimed that it was her first marriage, only to dump the latest victim and, worse, fleece him subsequently using dowry harassment allegations. Finally, the law has caught up with her.

Sub Inspector V S Shelar from Sion police station in Mumbai took Salma into custody and then took her to Mumbai after producing her before the 10th Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in the city. The Mumbai police action followed a complaint by Syed Hasham Ahmed, a businessman and her former husband, with the Sion police. Mumbai police have arrested Kausar on charges of IPC 406, 420, 504, 506 R/W34, which include breach of trust, intimidation and intentional insult.

With her parents

“Marriage was just a medium for Kausar and her sister Nazia Begum. Kausar has married 11 men and deserted them within a short period of time. Her family purchased a Rs 2 crore worth bungalow in HBR Layout. Where did the money come from? She even got married to a nawab of Hyderabad and he had to eke out Rs 50 lakh when she threatened to lodge a complaint against his family members,” Hasham told Bangalore Mirror.

Police sources said that Kausar did it with the full complicity of her parents and that she was quite an expert in conning men in this fashion. What makes the case as much sinister as it is scandalous, is that Kausar reportedly is backed by a city DCP who took voluntary retirement and also a network of agents across the country and abroad. Kausar once got married to a man in Dubai whom she then ditched. She and her sister have ditched four men each in Bangalore alone, including the son of a mullah, police sources added.

With Abdul Rafeeq alias Kutty

MODUS OPERANDI

Hasham revealed how the trap was sprung. He was first approached by Rahmat Ulla Belt. “He is an agent and he painted a good picture of Kausar’s family, saying that what they lacked in wealth they more than compensated for with pedigree.

I convinced my parents and got married to her in June 2006. She started harassing me in a month’s time and one fine day she absconded with valuables. Later, her family members called me and started abusing me. Then, they got me attacked in Mumbai and I lost my little finger,” he said.

That was not the end of story. Hasham had to shell out Rs 20 lakh for a final settlement, and then despite that Kausar went ahead and filed a dowry case! “It was at this point that I hired private investigators and gathered information about them.

Kausar and her sister have lodged dowry cases on two former husbands and are claiming maintenance from them,” Hasham said. “Insallah, she has been arrested. It is a relief not only for me but for many young men who suffered at her hands,” he added.

Press Release Announcing V Day Dharna in Bangalore

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Sub: Peaceful protest against rampant misuse of dowry laws and domestic violence laws.

Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF), an NGO dedicated to promote the cause of Gender Equality and Family Harmony, is organizing a peaceful protest against the deteriorating Indian family culture due to rampant misuse of Section 498A IPC, Domestic Violence Act and the dowry laws. The protest will be held on the 14th February 2009 on M.G.Road in front of Mahatma Gandhi Statue from 10: 00 AM to 1 PM. Nearly 150 people from all walks of life like, Engineers, Doctors, Businessmen, Service class, Government Employees, Software Professionals, NRIs, Chartered Accountants, Finance Consultants to name a few will be joining us in our endeavor to raise voice against this spreading “Legal Terrorism”.

In the last few years, marriage has become a crime for Indian men. Multiple cases, containing false and baseless allegations, under Section 498A and the Domestic Violence Act are being filed against Husbands and their parents and relatives. These false cases are filed with a pervert motive of, either treating the Husband as FREE ATM MACHINE, separate him from his immediate family, to grab his property, to hide the wife’s illicit relationships and extra marital affairs, to deny access of his children to the father, or for any reasons other than actual Dowry Harassment and Domestic Violence.

There is no investigation done on the complaints received, nor any evidences are verified before registering a case and arbitrarily arresting people. Because of such malpractices, more and more number of married men are losing their jobs and committing suicides as well. Some shocking statistics, regarding the misuse as per data available from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB),

  1. 1,23,000 women (mothers, sisters and other female relatives of husbands), have been arrested in the last four years (2004-2007) merely on the basis of complaints by wives under Section 498A, without trial or investigation, whereas even the barbaric British Government arrested only 20,000 women in 40 years.
  2. 57,000 married men have committed suicide in 2007, of which 16,000 are directly due to domestic abuse. In the last 11 years (1996-2007) 1,56,000 married men have committed suicide directly due to domestic violence. Equivalent figures for women are 83,787 which means in the last 11 years the number of married men’s suicides has been 1.86 times that of married women’s suicides.
  3. Family disputes and Domestic Violence is the number one killer for married men as 26% of suicides are directly attributed to the above cases.

In addition to the above, a study done by the Center for Social Research, a Govt. body has found that there is only 2% conviction in dowry cases. Keeping in mind the fact that in dowry cases, it is the accused that have to prove their innocence rather than prosecution proving them guilty, as the accused is innocent until proven guilty. If the complaints had been true there should have been 100% conviction. But an abysmally low rate of conviction only shows that the complaints are entirely false, uninvestigated and totally unprosecutable.

But the criminal justice system has broken to such an extent that it has become a handy tool in the hands of unscrupulous people to utilize it as a tool to settle personal scores. Some of the problems that people face who are falsely accused in such cases, are:-

  1. Their productive years are wasted in the precincts of a litigating corridor fighting an unnecessary battle that ultimately declares them innocent after a long and arduous legal battle.
  2. Their social prestige and reputation are brutally murdered and perhaps never restored.
  3. Many people lose their jobs and commit suicide being unable to bear the pressure.
  4. Multiple cases in various cities, as per the wish of the wife, are filed for the same false stories and husbands are forced to pay maintenance even before the matter is decided, in the name of interim maintenance and in many cases it has been found that the wife is either earning or well capable to earn but does not do so merely to extort maintenance money from husband. Sometimes they even earn but lie in the courts and get away with it.
  5. The process itself is more barbaric than the punishment.

It is not merely a false case that is lodged. But on one complaint the entire state machinery of law and order is set in motion against the husband and his family who are humiliated, terrorized and traumatized by the process and even blackmailed and extorted in the name of ‘settlement and compromise’. The criminal justice system has lent itself to be used as a state sponsored tool in the process funded by tax payer’s money, 82% of which is paid by men. Even the Honorable Supreme Court in its various landmark judgments has coined the term “Legal Terrorism” to such rampant misuse of dowry laws and urged the Government to take immediate steps to put checks and balances in the system.

Very recently Honorable Chief Justice of India Shri. K.G.Balakrishnan has expressed serious concern over the growing misuse at a Seminar organized by the National Commission for Women. Added to that, Honorable Chief Justice of Karnataka Shri P.D.Dinakaran had also voiced the problems that men face when false cases under Domestic Violence Act are lodged against them at a workshop organized for Awareness of Domestic Violence Act. Even Honorable President of India Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil has agreed in a recent speech, that there is widespread misuse of the dowry laws by women in the country. Time and again various judges of the High Court and Supreme Court have repeatedly expressed displeasure on the misuse of dowry laws and Domestic Violence Act and have recommended several corrective measures which have fallen on deaf ears so far, sadly enough.

SIFF receives weekly 250 – 300 calls over its various helplines from husbands all over India and abroad about not only the misuse, but also how they are facing rampant domestic violence from their wives and in-laws which can be physical, emotional, mental, and economic in nature. And SIFF has been creating awareness about this issue through its various awareness campaigns wherein it has repeatedly urged the Government to take note of this issue. However, the current form of the Domestic Violence Act does not allow husbands to make a complaint of domestic violence and get relief. And there is no proposal from the Government to review it either despite SIFF and its partner NGOs making repeated requests to the Government.

SIFF is deeply concerned that the family system in India is in grave danger. When foreigners are looking up to Indian customs and marrying as per Indian traditions, our own people have gone blind in aping the western culture in the name of Westernization. Our cultural values and respect for tradition is getting lost as the youth, today is more concerned about its own liberalism and individuality rather than family values. Vested interests call the Indian family as oppressive and brainwash the young minds against the family system. The Government is urged to call upon a national debate to address the issue of the dying family system of India.

In this protest on 14th February 2009, SIFF places its demands before the Government and the society as follows:-

  1. Form a National Commission for Men and a Men’s Welfare Ministry to look into the issues that men are facing.
  2. Clear the huge backlog of pending matrimonial cases and appoint evening courts and more judges for the same.
  3. Allow the citizens, especially the youth to participate in policy decisions affecting their life.
  4. Eliminate all gender biased laws and replace them with Gender neutral laws by replacing the words “Husband” and “Wife” with “Spouse” and “Man” and “Woman” with “Person”.
  5. Eliminate all redundant legal provisions of applying for maintenance by the wife.
  6. Amend the Domestic Violence Act which currently does not cater to female to female violence, female to male violence and male to male violence.
  7. Police should be kept away from the family matters and there should be no ‘counseling’ whatsoever in police station.
  8. Child interviews should be totally banned in child custody cases as in most of the cases the custodian parent poisons the child against the non-custodian parent. Interviewing such a child is a torture on the child.
  9. Misusers of laws should be punished with severe punishment. In a criminal case either the complainant or the accused have to be punished depending on whether the complaint is false or true. No settlement should be allowed in criminal cases.
  10. Owing to skyrocketing suicides due to family distress and domestic disputes, a national debate needs to be called for. The debate needs to address the issues the current family system faces.
  11. There should be no discrimination of taxes at the same salary levels on the basis of gender.
  12. The police, the mediators and the courts need to be sensitized about the issues of men and should be trained adequately to understand the problems of a husband before terrorizing him into a forced settlement. Monetary compensation for a broken marriage should be the last resort and should be resorted to only in the rarest of rare cases and cannot be more than six months of the income of the earning spouse.

E-zine supports ‘harassed’ men

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Himanshi Dhawan | TNN

New Delhi: A monthly newsletter — Indian Family Times — that has taken up a fight against the anti-dowry law on the internet, has invited contributors to post pictures and profiles of women who have “misused” the law to lodge false dowry cases against men.
The online newsletter, started this month, has also hailed Delhi Police commissioner Y S Dadwal as a “true patriot” while calling women and child development minister Renuka Choudhary a “pinhead”.
Terming IPC 498A or the anti-dowry law as “legal terrorism” — that was introduced with good intentions but has been plagued by bad execution — the newsletter claims that it will highlight the harrowing tales of victims who have fallen prey to the misuse.

This comes close on the heels of a consultation by the WCD ministry on the issue following criticism against the Dowry Prohibition Act and the Domestic Violence Act.
“The law is being used by unethical and immoral women and their families to harass the husband’s family, humiliate them to accept their improper and illegal demands, and extort money,” the newsletter said. The e-zine (
July-08-Issue) has a “hall of shame” that includes a woman’s name, address, educational qualifications and her family details warning prospective “grooms” to keep away. Its “success story” has details of a man who has been successful in escaping the “trap”.
The publication lauds Dadwal for issuing standing instructions that no arrests except for the husband’s be made in 498A cases without the permission of the DCP. Referring to WCD minister Renuka Choudhary, the newsletter says that “for her actions against the Indian family and her crazy comments, Ms Choudhary is a pinhead”.
Reacting sharply to the remarks, Choudhary said, “This is classic male behaviour. I really pity these men… this is no way to change the system.” Referring to the newsletter’s move to include women’s profiles and pictures, Choudhary added, “It is a democracy and they are free to do what they
want but it is an unfortunate thing that they want to put up women’s pictures like this. Do we have to upload pictures of dead wives and sisters to make our point?”

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“Unnatural Death” of a wife or “Unnatural Law” of the land?

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11th July 2008

To,
Ms. Renuka Chaudhary,

Minister, Government of India,
Ministry of Women and Child Development,
Shastri Bhavan `A’ Wing,
Dr. Rajendra Prasad Road,
New Delhi-110001

Sub: NCW’s recommendations to address “unnatural deaths” of married women are unreasonable

Dear Minister,

We, the members of All India Forgotten Women, are writing to express concern over the unending stream of unreasonable amendments to laws pertaining to women recommended by National Commission for Women (NCW).

Barely a week after NCW made ridiculous recommendations on awarding maintenance for live-in-partners and adulterous wives, it is now pushing for broadening of the Dowry Prohibition Act, so that unnatural death of a woman at ANY stage of her marriage qualifies as dowry death.

At present, unnatural death of a woman within seven years of her marriage is considered as dowry death, attracting punishment to the accused husband and relatives under Section 304(B). While the current seven year rule and the automatic presumption of “dowry death” is in itself absurd, NCW opines that there should not be any time limit on registering unnatural death of a married woman as dowry death i.e. death caused due to demands for dowry.

Unnatural death “is a category used by coroners and vital statistics specialists for classifying all human deaths not properly describable as death by natural causes. Hence it would include events such as accident, execution, homicide, misadventure (being attacked by insects, reptiles, fishes, lions, tigers, bears, stingrays, or other wild animals), adverse outcome of surgery, suicide, terrorism, war.”

Any person, male or female, married or unmarried, may die an unnatural death due to any of the above causes. Among these, homicide (murder) is the only cause which unambiguously qualifies as a crime that can be committed by one person on another, and is already covered under IPC Section 302. It is, therefore, obvious that providing a Criminal Section specifically to deal with dowry murder is redundant, and only reflects gender bias.

In addition to murder, abetment of suicide is also a crime and punishable under IPC Section 306 which addresses both male and female victims. Therefore, once again, it is unnecessary to have duplications and special provisions in law like Section 304(B) and Section 498(A) to address suicides of women.

Most cases recorded as “dowry death” involve women who died by accident or by committing suicide.

Data from the National Crime Records Bureau indicates that there is no difference between the rate of suicide of married women and never married women. However, radical organizations like NCW would have us believe that every death of a married woman is a dowry death, without providing any justification for such presumption.

Recent data from the National Crime Records Bureau indicate that nearly twice as many married men, compared to married women, commit suicide every year, unable to withstand verbal, emotional, economic and physical abuse and legal harassment by their wives. While every death of a young married woman is converted into a case of dowry death leading to immediate arrest of the husband and in-laws, followed by a prompt media trial, large-scale suicides of men do not cause any outrage.

Gender obsessed women’s activists also refuse to admit the fact that accidental deaths are also equally likely among men and women. Therefore, it has become routine for police to arrest the husband and his relatives and book them under several sections including, IPC 498(A), 304(B), and Dowry Prohibition Act, every time a deceased woman’s relatives claim that she had been killed or driven to death/suicide for dowry. This is the case even when there are suicide notes or dying declarations absolving everyone including the husband of any responsibility for the woman’s suicide or death. There have even been instances where fake dowry death cases were registered and the “deceased” wife was found to be alive after the accused husband and in-laws were refused bail and imprisoned.

While husbands and their relatives are under constant suspicion leading to frequent violation of their basic human rights, wives are rarely ever questioned leave alone prosecuted if a husband dies or ends his life under similar circumstances. Media finds no incentive in highlighting the truth about abused men. People in power find no financial or political mileage to be gained from taking measures to prevent unnatural deaths of men.

The recent demise of Pushkar Singh is one of the countable few cases that at least caught some media attention. Sadly, even though his suicide note bears evidence to the fact that he was financially and emotionally destroyed because of false criminal cases filed against him and his family by his wife, she was not even called in for questioning by the police until family rights activists like us mounted pressure on them. One can only imagine the fate of cases where men take their lives silently, leaving no note behind. Deaths of these men make for the brief stories in newspapers stating that a certain man “killed himself due to family issues or financial problems”.

NCW is trying to appear very generous by recommending that “arrests of the immediate family members not be made till they are proved guilty”. Why should any individual (man or woman) be arrested unless there is strong basis to believe that they committed the alleged crime? Why is it alright to arrest a husband based on a presumption of dowry death (i.e. murder or abetment of suicide) when the same rule is not applied to a wife upon the unnatural death of the husband? As per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every human being (irrespective of age, sex or any other criterion) charged of a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Through its recommendations, NCW is suggesting that husbands do not count as humans or that they are not entitled to the same basic human rights as others.

Spreading blatant lies and alarmism about increasing crime against women, while ignoring similar abuses and crime against men, may be a lucrative means for radical organizations like NCW to justify their existence and to attract funds from national and international organizations. However, NCW has still to answer some fundamental questions pertaining to women’s welfare.

Is the pain of a mother who lost a son to domestic abuse or legal terrorism any less than that of a mother who lost a daughter? Is the pain of a woman who lost a brother any less than that of a woman who lost a sister?
How many more mothers and sisters should lose their sons and brothers before measures are taken to alleviate their sufferings?
Aren’t mothers and sisters women? Don’t they deserve a life of dignity and respect?
Do sufferings of innocent mothers and sisters bring justice to genuinely abused women?
Is protection of women’s rights synonymous with gross violation of basic human rights?
Is legal terrorism the solution to all women’s problems?

NCW pretends to possess proprietary rights on deciding what is good or bad for women’s empowerment in India. Through its anti-male, anti-family recommendations, NCW is posing a serious threat to the well-being of our families, especially that of our fathers, brothers and sons. We strongly condemn NCW’s radical proposals.

In the interest of justice, fairness and equality to both genders, we, the members of All India Forgotten Women, make the following recommendations:

  • Section 304(B) should not be retained in the law; IPC Section 302 already covers murder and IPC Section 306 covers abetment of suicide, and therefore Section 304(B) is only a duplication of law, which is gender-biased.
  • All cases of murder, including murder for dowry should be dealt with under IPC Section 302.
  • All cases of abetment of suicide, including those allegedly done for dowry, should be dealt with under IPC Section 306.
  • If IPC Section 304(B) is not removed from Indian law, then it should be amended and made applicable to men and women equally. Specifically, the word “husband/wife” should be replaced by the word “spouse”.
  • Section 304(B) treats the accused as guilty until proven innocent, thus, violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which proclaims that “everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty”. The law needs to be amended so that no arrests of any of the accused (man, woman or child) are made without proper investigation and written approval of police officials of the rank of DCP or above.
  • Those who misuse Section 304(B) for settling personal scores should be heavily penalized because false allegations and prosecution can cause irreparable damage to the accused parties even if they are later declared not guilty.

We hope that you will take our recommendations into serious consideration and promote justice irrespective of gender.

Thanking you.

Sincerely,

Uma Challa
President
All India Forgotten Women

Please click here for the pdf version

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