Gender Neutrality in India and Criminal Offences


In May 2020 when almost the whole of the world was either under lockdown or was living with a lot of restrictions, work from home and online classes were newly adopted normal, one student of Masters of Law at the GNLU approached us through our website with the following message:


“Greetings,

At the outset, I would like to congratulate your team for working for such a noble cause. I am a student of Masters of Law at the Gujarat National Law University. In this last semester of my course, I am expected to prepare a research project and submit it the next month. For the same, my topic is "Gender Neutral Laws in India with special reference to Criminal Offences".

Sir, for the same I need some hands-on experience and your responses will help immensely. Thank you.”


On the affirmative response from our side, the conversation went further, and we were shared a Questionnaire to with probing questions, which I replied.


Sharing here the questions asked and the reply we gave! Our whole reply document is reproduced below.

Important


  • This questionnaire is being responded only as Daaman! Daaman is a part of Save Indian Family (SIF), a movement advocating Men’s Rights and Welfare in India. For men in distress due to the gender bias they face in society and laws, the Save Indian Family Movement runs counselling sessions through its free weekly meetings organised by brother NGOs working under the SIF umbrella nationwide and also a Counselor on Call Service via its National Helpline 8882-498-498.


  • The mode to approach us is through

  • Helpline Number

  • Direct call to any of the counsellors

  • Our weekly meetings


  • The answers are concerning gender-based criminal laws only.


INTERVIEW QUESTIONNAIRE:


What is the approximate number of people (Men or their relatives) who visit your organization with their grievances every month?


Below is the slight breakup of calls on our National Helpline Number

Average monthly calls nationwide (i.e all extensions), before Coronavirus lockdown started: 3090*

Average monthly calls on the extension that covers the area where Daaman operates: 597*


*Number of calls have reduced by 40% during the lockdown.


Average of around 600 new men approach us per month through our Helpline. Not all those who call are from a city where we organize Daaman’s weekly meetings, those who are, attend and join our weekly meetings. Men who do have access to our meetings are helped with whatever means available, eg. Email and WhatsApp groups.


In our (Daaman's) weekly meetings every Saturday, average around 35-40 people join us. These members comprise of few regular/old members and new members from the same city or nearby areas.



What kinds of problems do they generally encounter in their domestic or professional life? List a few.


Lawmakers have created a legal ecosystem where men are forced to carry on their traditional role of being the protector and provider for wife, children and family, but call women’s traditional role an ‘abuse’ to them. New dynamics created thus has led the society to a situation where women use the term ‘abuse’ for everything that isn’t actually 'abuse'. Thereby, the most common issue that men face in domestic life is with wives.

With the experience we've gained counselling men on domestic issues, we can safely say that the biggest reason for deteriorating married life is that the wives prefer separate nuclear family. Undue interference/influence from wife's mother's house in routine married life works as fuel in this. The second biggest reason is an extra-marital affair.


And with the current state of gender-biased laws in our country, actual reasons of the domestic tussle are left behind and everything boils down to FIR u/s 498A IPC, PWDVA and 125 CrPC cases being filed against the husband and his family. This is the stage when most of the victims of false cases approach us seeking help and guidance.


With the practice of taking the children away, wives have deprived not only children of their rightful love of all but have also deprived fathers and grandparents even for a glimpse of their beloved children. This itself is a cause of many miseries for fathers.


Apart from all these domestic issues men's face, after the Hon'ble Supreme Court's judgment passed in 'Arnesh Kumar Vs State of Bihar' and Union Home Ministry's notification in July 2014 seeking strict compliance of 41A of CrPC, there has been a steep rise in 498A FIRs wherein either husband is charged with 377 IPC or some other boy/man in the family is charged with 354 or 376 IPC. This new development has magnified the worsening situation men face.


In domestic or personal life, the number of male sexual harassment/rape is also increasing.


As far as professional life is concerned, the most common issue nowadays that men face is fear of getting falsely implicated in sexual harassment of women at workplace case.



What percentage of those problems amount to an offence/criminal in nature?


Almost 80% of problems mentioned amount to offence criminal in nature, but the unfortunate part is that men's problems are not heard.


Ideally, matrimonial issues should have civil treatment regardless of who initiated it. But in our country, it's criminal, that too only when the applicant is a wife. No remedy for men.



About how many people come to you saying that an offence has been committed against them? What type of offence do they generally mention? Please List a few.


A large majority of men who approach us are victims of false cases. With that, they also mention the abuse, physical and mental torture, sexual harassment, thrashing, deceiving they've been through. At times all this magnify their suicidal impulses as well.



Are they hesitant to talk about the same or report their problems to the police? If yes, what are the major reasons for this hesitance?


They are not only hesitant but fearful too to talk about their problems!


For the reason of hesitation, we need to understand the ground of a very historic general perception based on which we claim to know what it means to be a man!


While growing up, our society makes boys believe that masculinity is about strength. Boys are taught that being a man is about not crying, rather it's about protecting women and children along with providing for the family. This upbringing brings up hesitation within men, even when they are to deal with their emotions and traumas in life.

They are hesitant, because of their deep-rooted tendency to anyhow accommodate and adjust for their obsession “with what others think of me”. This keeps them silently go through it. And often, such are the people who end up adding to the ever-increasing number of suicides of males.


They are hesitant and fearful because there’s no proper platform or forum for men to register their grievance. Apart from that, what scares them most if the fact that even a single application from their side would be sufficient trigger for the opposite party to wreak havoc on him and his family.


They are fearful because the law in our country does not acknowledge that men can be a victim of domestic violence or he can be raped!


Because of all these reasons, any activity from men regarding their disputes is almost always reactionary.



Which age group is the most affected?


Men of almost all ages are affected, but who approach us are generally 24 to 48-50 years of age.



Who are generally the offenders or the perpetrators of the crime? (Females or others?)


It's women and men close to her! Nature of offence by women on men is not necessarily direct. Generally, it's through another man.


Men close to the woman, once triggered enough with the stereotypical role of protectors, react disproportionately to situations and bring misery and mayhem for other men as well as themselves, while the women go scot-free.



Are they even victims of false complaints?


Yes. Almost all of them! Either case is filed or is likely shortly.



Do the victims encounter offences that are generally worded as Women-Centric in our Law books? (To mention a few: Sexual Offences, Trafficking, kidnapping for various purposes including Prostitution, Domestic Violence etc.)


Yes, men are implicated in biased laws generally worded as women-centric in law books.



What are the ill-effects, whether physical/mental/emotional/social/financial, of the offences committed against them?


Once implicated in cases, the biggest issue men face is a scenario that they are treated guilty unless proven innocent, the mental trauma caused forces them to depression. Which adversely affect their livelihood.


The sense of inability to do anything to safeguard the parents and siblings even magnify suicidal impulses in men.


Socially and financially they are devastated, especially because even after acquittal they are forced to live with a tag of being a rapist, pervert or dowry seeker.



Do you feel that the laws in our country are insufficient and less favorable to deal with the plight of the male community? As far as criminal offences are concerned, do you feel that they are favourable towards one gender (Gender-centric) that too just the women? (How far are the criminal laws biased?)


'Insufficient' and 'less' is a comparing word. It accepts the existence, but signify that it's measure is less in comparison to others. But this stands false when we say “insufficient and less favorable to deal with the plight of the male community"! As there doesn't exist any due to the ever-increasing ongoing gender-politics.

For example, with regard to 'sexual violence', government talk of only violence by men/husband, ignoring its own facts and figures! As per the report of the only available survey data from Government of India (Study of Child Sexual Abuse) was done in 2007, out of 100 children sexually abused in India, 53% are boys (i.e. less than 18 years of age); the same report also shows that out of 100 young adults (18-24 years) being sexually abused in India, 68+% are males. Meaning thereby, if the boy is even a day short of 18 years of age, his sexual harassment can be counted under POCSO, but the moment he completes 18 years of age, his sexual harassment cannot be counted as per Indian laws, as there is no law. It's baffling that a country which has a higher percentage of male rape, rape law is biased against them.


As per the only available Workplace Harassment Survey (ET-Synovate), out of the people experiencing Sexual harassment at Workplace, around 68% are men and 32% are women. But when the Workplace Harassment Act (for women only and not men who are a huge majority of the workforce) was being made, the lawmakers had asked NCW (since there is no such body for men) to do a survey on male harassment within 1 year so that the law can be made gender-neutral. It's been many years and now it's 2020, and no report has been submitted back to the government yet.


498A IPC, DV or other matrimonial laws, all are biased against men and various High Courts and Supreme Court have been raising the issue of blatant misuse since long. There is no provision or any remedy for a man in a similar situation.



Do you think that laws (especially criminal laws) should be made Gender-neutral without focusing on just one gender so that all people are benefitted?


Yes, gender-neutral laws are a need of the hour! If the treatment of a wrongdoer irrespective of gender is the same, then law justifies its actual meaning and is fair to all. But if the response is different for different gender then it isn’t a law or policy but a hypothesis trying to address only a selected gender while calling another gender criminal.



Please feel free to mention your observations or anything else that you come across in your day to day dealings with the male victims. Suggestions are also welcomed.


My observations:


Article 15(3) of the Constitution allowed exceptions to the extent that these exceptions themselves become the rule today! Therefore, governments conveniently ignore Article 14, Article 15(1) and 21 with regard to men and as a result, the pattern of allowing women’s violence towards men and just checking men’s violence towards women has become a norm while enacting discriminatory and biased laws against men.


The government must understand that men are an important and critical segment of society and have no representation in the law-making process of India. While gender-based laws are discussed or drafted, only women-centric NCW and WCD Ministry are asked for inputs while the concerns and issues faced by men go unheard. A constitutional body or forum is an immediate need of the hour to address the problems and concerns of men.

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Beware, anyone can be a victim of gender bias in society and laws! 

Don't wait: Schedule a conversation with a trusted, experienced Men's Rights Activist to find out how only awareness is the key to fight and remove prevailing gender bias against men in society.