Updated: Dec 4, 2020
The Government of Australia has initiated the process of framing some law to address the issue of dowry abuse, allegedly prevalent in certain South East Asian Communities, especially the people of the Indian Sub-continent. When we learned about it through our members there, we made our representation opposing the government's step.
We are writing to you with reference to ongoing discussions in regards to the law-making process against alleged Women Harassment arising out of issues like dowry abuse in your country.
We introduce ourselves as Daaman Welfare Society, a registered not-for-profit in India, working in the area the prevailing unilateral gender bias against men and their families. We address this bias at various levels in the society, the laws which also gets reflected in the working of the state and all its organs. Our affiliates in Australia tell us about this initiative of the Government being in the process of framing some law to address the issue of dowry abuse, allegedly prevalent in certain South East Asian Communities, especially the people of the Indian Sub-continent.
As Australia prepares to frame a law in this regard, it is imperative to learn beforehand from the experiences of such laws in the home countries of the targeted beneficiary communities. In this regard, we are aptly suited and well versed with the Indian experiences arising out of similar laws. We make our humble submission as below:
In 1961, the Government of India passed The Dowry Prohibition Act, which criminalizes any act of demand and acceptance of Dowry in marriages.
In 1981, The Indian Government amended Indian Penal Code by adding Section 498A which gave the state unbridled powers to arrest and prosecute the entire family and even extended relatives of the husband on mere verbal allegations by the wife.
While making the above amendments the Indian state believed that there were high incidences of dowry abuse prevalent in Indian marriages and there was a need to check this social evil.
The experience of working and implementation of these laws in India over a period of around forty years presents an entirely different picture, in contrast to the touted benefits of such laws.
The above laws allow married Indian women or anybody on her behalf to merely make verbal allegations on the Husband & his family members and also his extended relatives to initiate a claim of Dowry abuse. The state machinery is set in motion on such mere verbal allegations leading to police action of unbridled arrests & prosecution by the state. In most such claims there is hardly any evidence (other than verbal allegations) to substantiate such claims and crime.
Such a situation of state action upon unsubstantiated verbal allegations has given rise to these laws being used as a tool by women for settling personal scores & vendetta against the husband’s side. On many occasions, the Indian Courts, including the Supreme Court of India have commented & passed strictures on the rampant misuse of such laws in more than one ways. The Courts in India in their orders even directed/expected the Indian Parliament to amend these laws and ensure that their misuse is stopped.
On various occasions, it was discovered during police investigations or judicial proceedings that these laws were rampantly misused by women due to multitude of reasons & ulterior motives. Some of them being an extramarital affair of women, property disputes, desire to live separately from the joint family of the Husband, unrealistic expectations of women from married life, the inability of the husband in spending quality personal & leisure time and also personal adjustment issues with the family members of the husband.
The law is framed with a biased intent that the husband’s side is guilty of misconduct. The underlying thought being a perception of guilt which remains unsubstantiated in state investigations & also not proved beyond doubt in most judicial proceedings. The Indian state & the judiciary starts with a presumption of guilt against the husband which violates the basic tenet of criminal jurisprudence that entitles any individual to be presumed innocent till proven guilty.
Due to the skewed behaviour of Indian state & judiciary against the husband’s side, there remain prolonged litigations till Supreme Court, running as long as twenty years. In the intermediary time-period, many litigants choose to settle out of court thus leaving the truth behind. Adding to the woes of the litigants the system keeps extracting money from them. Those who are not able to come to terms with the associated injury and insult take the extreme step of committing suicide.
Even if the cases are found to false the courts are never willing to take counteraction against the complainant leaving the husband’s side hay and dry. The social stigma on the husband’s side remains forever even after acquittal from courts. Faulty implementation of such laws is damaging the social fabric and slowly demolishing the institution of marriage.
Due to the discovery of rampant misuse of such laws the Indian society has been making constant demand for change in these laws. Save Indian Family (SIF) is one such group of interested individuals and organizations. Active for more than a decade, we represent the unheard voice of men in India. Daman Welfare Society is an affiliate of SIF.
On the basis of above facts arising out of Indian experiences as narrated above, we,
We strongly oppose the proposed idea of dowry abuse legislation in your country as it would open a wide scope of abuse as evidenced in the Indian experience.
We believe that the existing laws in your country are sufficient to handle any reported & genuine crime of such nature thereby negating the need for any special legislation in this regard.
The Australian Family Violence Act, 1975 amply covers similar issues of abuse/coercion.
There is no need to redefine, amend or duplicate the legislation with overlapping jurisdictions for a migrant community especially when the social, legal and psychological outcomes of similar laws have been grim in their very own home country.
We believe that the above submissions are self-explanatory in presenting the Indian experience of dowry laws covering a period of around 40 years. Any similar exercise for the same community in your country would most likely to meet a similar fate. Indian exp has clearly amplified that such an exercise creates more negative social, legal and psychological values. Any positive value is merely a false perception.