By Supriya Ganesh:
I usually have rebuttals ready for most Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) at the tip of my tongue. Hence, my speechlessness genuinely surprised me when I came across an official statistic that claimed 53.2% of recent rape cases filed in India (2013-2014) were false. This, along with the public statements issued by two Supreme Court Judges who expressed exasperation at the increasing numbers of wives who used anti-dowry laws as “weapons” to harass their husbands.
It’s not that I hadn’t heard these of accusations against feminism before, as they are the most prominent assertions MRAs present to justify their convictions. I simply hadn’t yet seen anything substantial to back up their declarations. I couldn’t fathom that a movement aimed at taking rights away from a systemically oppressed group of people somehow had a viable, if any, foundation.
After copious research I was able to confirm the obvious – there wasn’t. I write this piece addressing Indian MRAs to reconsider the footing on which they rest their allegations, and to grasp the consequences of obtaining what they ask for.
Before I begin, I must state the obvious (to counter inevitable comments I no doubt will receive) – I am not condoning anyone who files false rape cases or misuses laws to their advantage. I’m only trying to highlight the socio-cultural reality of India where such laws are a much-needed safeguard for women. That being said, (although I’m rather exasperated that it had to be) let’s move on.
Around 30% of rape cases decided in Delhi in the year 2013 involved charges against heterosexual couples that engaged in consensual sex, and were made by the daughter’s parents. They alleged the husband or the boyfriend had assaulted their daughter while their ward would attribute her actions to love. A large number of these allegations involved inter-caste and inter-religious marriages.
These were cases filed against consensual sex – evidently they were false. But this doesn’t constitute an attack on men – rather, it represents firstly, the patriarchal notion where parents feel they have ownership over their daughter’s sexuality (no doubt enforced mostly by men, who would say their rights are “under attack” if asked to withdraw their so-called authority); and secondly, the taboo of inter-caste and inter-religious marriage.
Another trend among decided rape cases was of women filing cases against men who had acquired consent by promising marriage, and then breaching such promise. This doesn’t make such claims inherently false as malignant intentions constitutes rape. Consent that was attained by manipulative methods isn’t consent at all.
Two-fifths of these rape cases weren’t fully argued as the plaintiff – “either could not be found; stopped attending the trial; turned fully hostile; insisted they had never alleged rape or admitted [to filing a false complaint].” These numbers, especially of disappearances and hostility, cannot be entirely chalked up to false cases as undergoing rape trials are extremely humiliating and draining for the victim.
It’s also impossible to know how many cases were declared false by the plaintiff due to familial or other external pressures – some women admitted facing pressure to withdraw cases or had settled the matter outside the courts. Social stigma dictates that women who have been sexually assaulted are unlikely to be married off, and would “degrade” their families’ social reputations.
It’s further important to note the conviction rate for rape is a mere 23%, leading one to ask why a woman would undergo a draining and humiliating hearing knowing there is such little probability of succeeding in her “aim” to put “innocent men” behind bars.
First, a little background: in several socio-cultural contexts, husbands and their families torture new brides for more dowry from their family; their actions often consummate in murder or suicide. While there were laws in place preventing the exchange of dowry, IPC 498a specifically inhibits mistreatment of brides by their new family. However, it doesn’t seem to have been enforced effectively, as cases of violence against Indian brides have risen from 2005 to 2009 by 53.5%, indicating its necessity.
Not only are you willfully ignorant and completely apathetic to these problems facing the women in our country, but your opposition to 498a is thoroughly rooted in sexism: 498a is misused at rates lower than those of other regulations, such as kidnapping and abduction or criminal breach of trust laws. However, there’s no debate about whether other laws should be dissolved. The fact is you single out 498a because it (rightly) attacks sexism by protecting women. It also is extremely indicative of your nonchalant and vastly misconstrued attitude towards domestic abuse as recent studies have shown that 65% of Indian men think women ‘deserve’ to be beaten! Is it this belief of “acceptability” that is driving the MRA movement against section 498a – the right to abuse your wife?
Some “false cases” were simply never fully argued in court, as cases filed under dowry deaths tend to be notably long drawn. Over-zealous police officials also tend to jump to conclusions during investigations without analyzing the situation, which results in the filing of false claims. Amendments have been made to the law to ensure that the police first conduct thorough checks.
Statistics also indicate that section 498a is barely used – despite two in every five women admitting to being domestically abused, less than one percent of those women file charges. Of the women who do, only 1% of them are still alive to see their abusers convicted. The conviction rate is also extremely low for crimes filed under this section, which again counters the widespread impression that men are being put in jail in droves due to such legal provisions.
So to the Men’s Rights activists who claim they are “systemically oppressed” due to laws that are now “tipping the scales in favor of women,” and push for the dissolution of these laws– cry me a fucking river.
You are asking to strip billions of women in India of their ability to file a complaint against their rapist, and to escape circumstances that may consummate in murder or drive them to suicide, despite provisions in said laws that criminalize their misuse. Not only are your arguments based on a gross misunderstanding of reality for several women in India, but your demonized caricature of the villainous Indian woman, out to subjugate her husband and her family, is just plain wrong. If you take a moment to even begin to comprehend how fundamentally flawed your movement is, maybe you will realize that the real monster is the man ready to expose women to the vulnerability of sexual assault or dowry death, by depriving her of a legal system that stands in place protect them.
I’m Getting Really Tired of Your Bullshit