By Priyanka Ojha from Amity Law School, Noida
We have been talking about equality for decades now. The word actually flooded the entire print and electronic media. It seems that everyone is talking about equality, the importance of equality to a healthy society, and the various means and methods to achieve the same.
Gender inequality is one of the most significant manifestations of inequality in the world. The very strong feminist movement that began in the middle of the 20th century exposed the serious inequalities and atrocities suffered by women in their daily work. Therefore, it is necessary to modify the law so that women can keep pace with men.
India has a long history and heritage to boast about a large part of which is about the status of women. However, this situation is often shaken. In ancient India, women enjoyed the same status as that of a man in all fields of life but in the medieval period the position of women went down considerably and females were considered to be inferior to their male counterparts. The patriarchal mindset of people of medieval period could be understood through the couplet of the famous poet Tulsi Das who narrates, “dhor, ganwar, shudra aur nari,ye sab taadan ke adhikari” which means animals, illiterates, untouchables and women deserve to be punished.
Although, 62 years down the road, the tables have been turned. The status of women in India has improved to heights through legal initiatives and enactment of laws and legislations to protect the females like; the dowry Prohibition Act 1961, the Indecent Representation of Women (prohibition) Act 1986, The Criminal Law (amendment) Act 2013, and many more.
As of 2020 many women have served in various senior official positions including that of the President of India, the Prime Minister of India and the Lok Sabha Speaker.
The legislation we started was quite fair at the time, and may even be completely legal, but over time, men are in such a vulnerable position that they are harmed by legislation that empowers women. There are very few statements about how we became a prison state as it approves almost all possible severe laws to curb crimes against women, condone arbitrary arrests of ordinary citizens and imprison them under deplorable conditions.
We talk about equality of all genders but unfortunately with the time it has been witnessed that females have been misusing the laws made for their protection so as to get unfair benefits. Some of the provisions have been unfair towards men. For example: under section 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code only a male can be convicted of committing the offense of rape and only a female can be the victim, similarly the laws relating to Voyeurism, Stalking and Sexual Harassment tends to be gender specific i.e. only the females can be the victim and the men are to be the offenders compulsorily.
Yes, it is true that India gets regularly hauled for its shaded treatment towards women, but questions like: “Are men not vulnerable? Can they not be the victims? Do they never face injustice?” are reasonable enough to put light on the biased nature of laws in India.
Thus there has been an acknowledgment of the need of a “Gender Neutral Society”. The oxford dictionary describes “Gender Neutrality” as an adjective that is suitable for, applicable to, or common to both male and female genders. And hence, we envisage a society where equality is accepted in its true sense and not on with the cost of a particular gender.
Gender Specific Laws in India
Following are some laws of India that are biased against men:
- Unjust Penal code: section 304b (dowry death) and section 498a (cruelty against women). These two sections are cognizable, non-compounding and identifiable crimes in India. The clear intention behind these parts is to make the husband or the in-laws feel guilty, despite the fact that they may not have caused death or injury. It has become a habit to claim that all women are forced to commit suicide due to dowry harassment. Under these terms, even if the accusation is false, a trial will be held and the husband will be treated as guilty until proven innocent. The Supreme Court of India referred to this abuse of law as legal terrorism.
Justice Saldana’s view is verification of the way these laws are being misused for damaging the innocent citizens. In cases like these, as many as 44% of the prosecutions are completely unreasonable. The consequences of these allegations are extremely serious, because the defendant’s husband and family members were always arrested. According to statistics from the National Criminal Records Bureau, in 2012, nearly 200,000 people were arrested on charges of pending dowry offences, including 47,951 women but surprisingly, only 15% of the defendants were convicted. Every year, the suicide rate of married men is twice that of women, and they die from verbal, emotional, financial and physical abuse by their wives and in-laws.
- Section 375- Rape: According to section 375 of the IPC, you must be a man to be formally rape and a woman to be formally raped! This section does not recognize men as victims of rape. Article 377 of India’s Anti-Sodomy Law is the sole appeal of male victims of sexual crimes. However, the law is full of challenges. Even when the male victim is beaten by the male assailant, it is not actually rape. The law does not outline any difference between voluntary and involuntary male adults. In addition, if the woman is the perpetrator, then the victim has no right to seek justice.
In a recent study, it was found that of every 222 Indian men surveyed, 16.1% were forced to have sex. Although the research on male rape is not as extensive as that of female rape, there are some statistics that show that men have been raped and the prevalence of male rape is greater than what generally is estimated.
All these facts show that it is absolutely necessary to admit and accept that men have been raped. They have also become victims of physical abuse and violence. They should receive the same level of protection as women from such serious crimes. Broadly speaking, don’t all crimes affect different types of victims in different ways? However, with a few exceptions, we prosecute on the basis of the sameness of crime, not the sameness of effectiveness. The latter basically means that certain victims receive more protection than others, and they face equality before the law.
- Legislation relative to modesty of women: Section 354 and 509 deals with the intention to insult women’s humility to treat attacks or crimes. However, there is no such law to protect the modesty of men. In some cases, women bully men and are not prosecuted because the country’s laws do not protect men from such crimes. This situation has become so bad that if a man accidentally bumps into a woman on a crowded bus, and the woman even protests very little, then the man will inevitably arouse public outrage from other passengers, even without a chance Speak for himself.
- Other laws, including a series of family laws, a bill to protect women in the workplace, alimony law, child support law, etc., are also examples of other written laws that are harmful to men. It is obvious that women commit the offenses because of the same reasons as the men do thus crime does not have any gender and neither should the laws. The water has literally reached the ceiling, and we urgently need a gender-neutral IPC to correct the victims in society and protect them from further harm. Section 2 of the Code stipulates that everyone shall be punished in accordance with the Code, and not any act or omission that is guilty in India for violating the provisions of the Code. According to the provisions of this section, the law does not distinguish between offenders. According to the law, every offender should be punished. However, all violence is an assumed way of thinking produced by men, which not only creates a gender gap in society, but also provides shelter for crimes committed by women.
Need of the Hour: Gender Neutrality
As mentioned above, the laws we have are used as weapons against men and their families. They are used to resolve scores and revenge. We should all accept the fact that gender neutrality is the most important step to achieve this goal, thus establishing the true meaning of Article 14 of the Constitution. What we need is to spread legal awareness and awareness of women’s rights among the poor and illiterate in the village, and to help the real victims, not to create an unbalanced society.
How to achieve Gender Neutrality?
- The fact that we basically want to accept here is that there may be crimes against men, men also suffer, and women may also become criminals. We really need to change our concept. The socialization process in Indian society is so sexist that we cannot accept men in a certain way and may be violated! Our education for children should be based on equality, not on difference.
- There are campaigns and sports for men’s careers around the world. Since 2007, November 19th is International Men’s Day every year in response to International Women’s Day (March 8th every year). We need to establish a special department to safeguard the rights and welfare of men, or establish a men’s committee similar to women.
- As a society, we really need to inculcate gender sensitivity in ourselves, develop a sense of respect and warmth towards the opposite sex, and understand this to promote a class; we don’t have to oppress each other. For us, declaring equality is a basic right, and then denying men the same rights through this harmful law, isn’t it hypocritical? The concept of “Abala Nari” is deeply ingrained in the current situation and has no meaning, because women have taken an extraordinary journey forward, and they are indeed not lagging behind in the current situation.
- Legally speaking, we need to ensure that gender-neutral language is used in the law and that both sexes are equally treated and protected. The law should not be based on the assumption that only one sex is the offender and the other is the unfortunate victim always. Strong laws should be enacted to cause immeasurable suffering to innocent victims to false complainants.
- If we really want to build a gender-just society, we also need to recognize LGBT rights, because this will ensure legal justice and social inclusion in all communities. Finally, we need to realize that crime has no gender, and everyone should be prevented from committing crime. This has caused countless suffering to the victim and he deserves justice.
A Step towards Change
A bench of five judges in the case of Joseph shine vs. Union of India held the section 497 of IPC i.e. Adultery as unconstitutional. This section was held arbitrary in nature by the supreme court of India as it violates article 14 and 15 of the constitution of India and it created discrimination between men and women.
The court also held:
“Husband is not the master of his wife. Women should be treated with equality along with men, and ancient notions of man being perpetrator and woman being victim no lnger hold good”.
We need to understand that humanity should be surpassing rather than a particular gender and that is how we can achieve a “50:50 Planet” that we envision for the future.
- The Indian Penal Code, 1860
- The Constitution of India