"A weapon for women to tackle dowry harassment is now becoming tool for them to bend things their way" — this is how a news analysis headlined `Women harass their husbands’ in one section of this website’s newspaper recently opened.
It brought out the startling fact that, in the year 2005, out of the 260 complaints filed with the Anti-Dowry Cell of City police in Chennai, 200 — yes, about 77 per cent — were found to be fake! In the year 2006, the number of fake complaints seemed not to stop or get reduced but rise, and till October, out of the 285 complaints, 220 — that is over 77 per cent — were found to be fake!
The purpose of these complaints was clear: to drive away the parents of the husband from homes. Genuine complaints were just five out of 60. In many cases, the analysis said, the police succeeded in making the couple to see reason and live together. The husbands are the victims, according to the report. This is one side.
On the same day (Nov 14, 2006) in the women’s section of this paper, Woman’s Life, the other side of the issue — heartrending stories of women subjected to inhuman treatment by their husbands – were brought out in the analysis titled `Time for the victims to act’. Here the victims were the wives. The analysis went on to explain how the new law, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Against Women Act, could provide relief to the victims, the ill-treated wives, but the article warned: Provided they act. The article raised the question: But, will they come out of their shell and act, that is, make use of the law? If they do not, the law will remain only on paper.
The two analyses, both having been authored by women fortunately, are a contrast. Read together the two analyses bring out the existing and emerging facts, namely, that traditional men do harass women but equally modern women do the other way round — harass men. Most modern women seem to have outgrown their inward-looking traditions that make them weak. Yet, the assumption in public discourse is that all women are still traditional, meek and that men only harass women.
This discourse is often led by modern women most of whom are not burdened by the traditions that seem to hinder women! The fake complaints reveal that the modern women empowered by new laws are harassed by their husbands; they are harassed by the idea of having to live with the parents of the husbands. So it is larger than the nuclear family that seems to be the point of rift in modern families. The issue is not man-woman relationship but the family.
The family in India is the fundamental socio-economic unit cemented by culture. It looks after the social security of its members, young and old. The new law is modeled after the laws in the West without reflecting the differences on the ground. In the West, where there is no family in the Indian sense, the State looks after social security of the old, infirm and the unemployed.
In India it is the family, with its community linkages, which constitutes the social capital and is the real social security net. Prof R Vaidhyanathan, a professor from IIM Bangalore, says in an article (which appeared recently), "With limited social security and a large unorganised workforce, social capital — the family and community linkages — is the best safety net for the elderly in India. Only nurturing this capital can save the country from a societal crisis".
One-sided laws like the anti-dowry provision in Sec 498A, which the Supreme Court itself has found is being increasingly misused, and the new Prevention of domestic violence law are calculated to dynamite the family. These laws are an invitation to a daughter-in-law who does not want to contriute to the social security of parents of her husband to break the family.
It breaks the social safety net. In that case, the government will have to manage an unbelievably huge social security burden. A government that cannot manage the simple businesses it owns should not be allowed to interfere in the affairs of a family. But to understand this it needs an Indian perspective to both sociology and economy, a task that is too much for our sociologists and economists who readily look to the West to understand India
By: gurumurthy AT epmltd.com