Hyderabad: When a male child is born into a traditional Indian family, he is not born alone. He is born with the responsibility of upholding his entire family in the future. Men are taught to be strong from a young age and this often involves dismissal of their emotions/struggles. Crimes against men are often unheard of, not because they do not happen but because men are taught to ‘man up’ and deal with it. When men do come forward and complain, their struggles are given a backseat or are dismissed.
Indian laws such as section 498A have certainly turned around women’s lives in the country, but this law has also given an opportunity for a few to misuse it against men. The law was initially bought to bring justice to women who had been subjected to cruelty by their husband/ husband’s family. However, there have been reports that some of the FIRs filed under section 498A are false and this speculation is further supported by the low conviction rate under the act. The Supreme Court has modified the terms of the act by introducing section 41, a 9- point check list for the police to follow before they arrest the accused. This was to fairly accommodate the men who have been falsely accused and yet, there is little relief.
Sunil (name changed) is a 31-year old Hyderabadi, who has been falsely accused under section 498A. Speaking to The Hans India, he elaborates on how his wife of one year has falsely accused him of harassment. He said, “My mother-in-law ran a chit fund business. I had initially taken a chit but because I was still paying debts for my marriage, I needed the money and wanted to withdraw it” This however didn’t sit well with his wife and her family, he claims. “The next day, she leaves the house with my money, gold and books a complaint under harassment with the police. She went ahead and filed a divorce petition too but since I refused to settle, she charged me with section 498A.” According to Sunil, the police and judiciary system are biased towards men and blatant discrimination can be seen in the treatment of men. “Everywhere I went, they asked me to settle. I refused and I’ve been showing up in court for every hearing, yet my wife hasn’t shown up since the first hearing,” he says asking why the system is not taking any action.
“Because I’m a man, they automatically assume I’m in the wrong” he continues, “My life is already ruined since 498A is a criminal offence.”
The need for the 498A Act stemmed from very serious issues like the death of married women due to dowry harassment or husbands driving their wives to suicide. But in recent years, the Act has been misused and unsatisfied wives use it to demand money or to harass the husband’s family. Vineeth (name changed), a 33-year old Hyderabadi, is another such example and his family is bearing the brunt of the false accusations too.
“Our marriage had barely lasted 19 days before our problems began” he begins, “I was severely reprimanded by my own family and they initially supported her. But the situation escalated and she soon demanded for a mutual divorce. Her family asked 30 lakhs initially and I refused. I filed a petition under section 9 in hopes of saving our marriage.” The section 9 (Hindu marriage act) of the Indian Penal Code is filed for conjugal rights when a spouse has unreasonably separated from the other.
“In response to that, she charged me with section 498A and marital rape” he laments, “My wife even charged my parents with domestic violence. Since she was falsely accusing us, I wasn’t prepared to settle. What’s more, my family received threatening calls every day and they were coercing us to settle.” Vineeth then details on how his wife sent a copy of his FIR to his work place and got him fired from his job. “This is basically harassment yet the judiciary system is still favorable to women in these cases. How is this fair?” he concludes.
On social media, all the men who were unfairly accused under these cases have come together and created organizations like ‘MyNation’ where they help out fellow men who are suffering the same fate as them. The misuse of section 498A is quickly becoming a bigger issue. One can only hope that society acknowledges that men suffer pain at the hands of their partners too and justice isn’t misdelivered based on gender identity.