Debunking the “Misuse of Dowry Act” misogynist bandwagon

There is this group of men and women on the internet who seem to have a deep and abiding contempt for the Section 498A of the IPC – the Dowry Act. This section of people seem to see the Dowry Act as a weapon evil women use against men. They find nothing illogical in the fact that a woman who has no property to her name and will essentially be rendered stigmatized and alone in the world will do this out of the blue – for no reason at all. Worse, it seems that a majority of women are like that and the Dowry Act should be repealed. New terms are being created domestic violence against men. It seems our phenomenally misogynist police force targets these men for being bad to women.

They pull out statistics out of unmentionable parts of their anatomies, and a general population addicted to never thinking for themselves nod their heads gravely. After all, isn’t it better to agree with the one more likely to be more difficult to disagree with? These are also coincidentally people who haven’t raised their voices against any other victimization of women either. They are also coincidentally people who believe any laws protecting women are misused by women – women in India have nothing better to do than make false claims of domestic violence, rape, molestation, and so on.

This is nothing out of the usual. Our culture is deeply misogynistic. It is the norm to believe the woman to be wrong anywhere she conflicts with a man. The smallest things start looking like proofs. There are actually men who have claimed wives “forcing them to watch” soap operas as domestic abuse. No, they don’t mean they are tied in a chair, eyelids propped open with matchsticks and a gun at their heads. They simply mean that their wives watch soap operas when they are in the room, and they will, of course not do something else. They will watch and whine. They are men. They have penises. They are being abused.

Anyway, coming to some of the ridiculous claims floating around, but dangerous, because they encourage a contempt for women at large as abusive creatures and resistance to any women’s rights. This is dangerous in a country losing women like it had a leak. Incidentally, some “bold” women too share this contemptuous hatred. Misogyny is not limited to the male of the species.

One popular article quoted by these people is called Tortured hubbies, victims of 498 (A) in IBNLive. It describes two men who allegedly were falsely accused and comes to some data that is going near viral.

Statistics suggest that Gokul and Sohail are just the tip of the iceberg.

*In 2004, 58,319 dowry cases were registered

*1,34,757 men were arrested

*47,828 cases have reached the chargesheet stage

*10,491dowry cases were not chargesheeted as they were based on frivolous ground.

*However, 5,739 men have been convicted but more than four times that number have been acquitted (24,127)

The first three statistics are simply factual numbers. The second two seem to be the key ones driving people to seeing 498 (A) as the greatest evil since sliced television.

Out of 58,319 dowry cases, 47,828 or 82% were chargesheeted – which means the cops found enough to make a case – they have to write something in that chargesheet, you know?

Then, you have 10,491 or 12% cases that were not chargesheeted as they were based on “frivolous ground”. Considering how it is unlikely that the “frivolous ground” comes from data, I can only assume it is a quality assigned by the reporter. A case not being chargesheeted can have many reasons. A common one is the victim being bullied into silence. Another common one being that cops DO NOT WANT to do it. Two examples from this blog:

  • I am a victim of domestic violence. Police have made three visits to my home after receiving calls from me when my husband got dangerously aggressive. In EACH TIME, they wanted me to “understand”. Understand what? That my husband has the natural right to terrify the daylights out of my child at 3am? My case is comparatively minor. There is no physical violence involved, though there is constant mental harassment.
  • Try Naina Singh’s story. She died under inexplicable circumstances a few hours after being fine and speaking with her mother. There were abundant reasons and signs to suspect murder. Her mother claims there were dowry demands. The police were initially helpful, and then not. They ruled her death natural. A couple of weeks back, after a long struggle, the court ORDERED the cops to file a case.

This is how willing the police are, to file cases. Sometimes it may be a simple matter of not having enough evidence to convince them, even though they are not required to have evidence. In a country where women are openly paraded naked or asked by the village leader and entire village to commit suicide because they had the misfortune to be gang raped, a charge sheet not being filed can’t exactly be proof of “frivolous”. Even if it was, 82% cases getting chargesheets filed and 18% being “frivolous” is nowhere near “misuse of 498(A)”

Now for the “damning fact”:

However, 5,739 men have been convicted but more than four times that number have been acquitted (24,127)

So, we consider the total men getting judgment as 5,739 + 24,127 = 29,866. A conviction is about having evidence and  proving the case convincingly in court. Geelani is acquitted. Strangely, it is this same bunch of idiots also saying that he shouldn’t have been. Why one standard for those acquitted in a dowry case, and another for a terrorism case, when the laws for both are “flawed”? Anyway, logic has little to do with these claims. Moving on.

This 5,739 men convicted means a 9.8% conviction rate. This is being interpreted as misuse of dowry act, so let us see what else is being used in the country to hassle innocents, right?

According to Times of India:

Of the 1.37 lakh IPC cases pending before various magisterial and civil and sessions court in Mumbai in 2006, just about 2,512, or 1.83%, ended in convictions , while a bulk-6 ,366 cases-resulted in acquittal orders. More than 92% of the cases remained pending.

Should we scrap the entire Indian Penal Code, while we are at it? No? Think again:

The trend worsened in 2010, when of the total 1.68 lakh criminal cases awaiting justice, the prosecution could secure conviction orders in just 1,948 cases, plunging the conviction rate to an all-time low of 1.15%.

Now, should we scrap the IPC? Its not working in Thane either:

The conviction rate in cases filed by the Thane police commissionerate has never touched the 1% mark in the last five years. From 0.31% in 2006, the conviction rate slipped to 0.26% in 2010. Out of the 69,481 cases pending in various courts in Thane in 2006, only 218 cases ended in conviction orders, while 2,472 resulted in acquittals,

What do you say? If something with a conviction rate of 9.8% is misuse, then this is absolute total misuse, right? When are you trying to get rid of the entire penal code? Go read that article. All the numbers in it are worse than this one. Another article, again TOI.

Maharashtra saw the second-highest number of FIRs filed for sexual harassment in 2010.

Earlier in the same article:

An abysmal 5% of sexual harassment cases decided in Maharashtra last year resulted in the accused being convicted, way below the all-India average of 52 %.

Hmm… maybe we should scrap the sexual harassment laws in Maharashtra alone. Conviction rate as a measure of the utility of the law is plain old ignorance of the legal system. I refuse to take responsibility for your stupidity.

Anyway, you get the idea. Get a calculator, open up a google search and figure this one out for yourself if you still don’t get it.

Moving on, there is a minor claim to dispose.

99.8% dowry cases r false as per law ministry report

Don’t go hassling this guy, because this is a very popular claim. No one knows where it originated. No one has provided me a link to such a law ministry report. This one is beyond stupid, because the number of dead bodies and hospitalizations alone crosses 0.2% of all dowry cases. This time, do the googling yourself, because even if you counted individual reports, you’d get enough hits to debunk this one. [Hint: If you use total number from above example, 58,319 then 0.2% of it is 116.6 cases. In the entire year, were there those many dowry deaths and hopitalizations? Now add the cases that don’t make it to the media and the cases that don’t involve death or hospitalization, because the complaint was filed on time.]

Then there is this bizarre cult AIMWA that has come up that claims

Out of 100000 men surveyed during that one year, 98% of men faced severe domestic violence at the hands of their wives.

I say cult, because there are dozens of sites with almost the exact same content and claims.

The only problem with this statistic is that the people they surveyed may sound like a random sample of Indians, but in fact were the complaints their helpline got. No shit Sherlock! What did they expect? A men’s abuse helpline would get calls about tailoring classes?

This is like saying 100% of the population of India is under the age of 10 years, because you surveyed a primary school. This is like saying 40% of the population of India gets killed everyday, because the police helpline receives 40% their calls about deaths everyday. This statistic is more a reflection o9f lack of education than the reality of men.

To the best information I tried to find out, there was ZERO investigation attached. You can call them now and tell them your wife beats you, and you’re in their statistics. Hmm… no wonder they think the Dowry Act is being misused baselessly? After all, don’t we see ourselves in the world?

If these statistics were true, it is impossible that an account like mine that staunchly condemns abuse against women would have about 50% followers male and supporting me!!!

And it goes on and on. People WANT to believe women as evil creatures, and will quickly grab whatever authoritative sounding bullshit they come across without examining it too much, because they are in a hurry to use it. Media too, ever hungry for sensation likes these “popular” alternatives to the depressing thought of women victims. I have yet to see any media outlet debunk this bullshit of men being “equally” abused in India “by women”.

Does this mean that there is no domestic violence against men? Of course not. There is. And there needs to be more done to recognize it and support victims. At the same time, it is nowhere near “equal prevalence” as these sites like to claim. The great damage these people do with their rubbish claims is that they drown out genuine problems men face in piles of bull shit.

Does this mean that the Dowry Act is perfect? Of course not. It is a desperate measure to protect. It bends rules. At the same time, that bending is seen as a necessity because of the prevalence. Are there improvements possible? Of course, and several have been suggested, including a notable one to record all gifts at the wedding and sign off by both parties. Another one might be to keep copies of receipts all expensive “dowry” items provided as proof and make it more evidence based, but that will take time. Steps should be initiated to minimize the harm to men accused wrongly. At the same time, seeing as how there are far more women than men harmed, it is not a useful idea to remove the act completely and offer criminals impunity simply because their crimes happen in the privacy of homes and without neutral witnesses. The number of innocents harmed would be far higher, but they would be women, which is why many misogynists don’t care and would prefer to save the few men wrongly accused instead.

As for men claiming that they were falsely framed, show me the man who admitted that he harmed his wife for dowry! There was one person on Twitter who claimed that he had three cousins married and all three got falsely accused under the dowry act. Let me get this right. Three separate women from three separate houses enter your family and have the same police case against their husbands? Is it possible that they spoke the truth? Or are we supposed to take your word for the ultimate truth and condemn them for liars? You would, of course immediately report if your cousin actually asked for dowry? Bull shit. Worth considering, since I hardly know anyone at all with a dowry case filed against them – true or false – and this person has three cousins from the same family being accused of the same thing.

The other problem with these people is that their purpose with these strident accusations is to deny women the attention they need rather than make a cause for the needs of men. Their intent is to sabotage claims of women’s rights supporters and prevent any statements that show women as victims of men from remaining. This is less about the victimization of men, as it is the denial that women do suffer more discrimination than men – a fact well established in so many statistics, surveys, papers and more that it is like claiming the earth is flat.

Unfortunately, this attitude of aggressive fact writing leaves no room for the vulnerability of men. When I invited several to debate actions that could be taken to help men survivors of sexual abuse in conflict, exactly ZERO of them showed any interest. One actually went back to recommending that far more “common problems” like wives forcing husbands to watch soap operas be taken up first. This is the bullshit bandwagon.

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About the Author

Vidyut
Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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