Monday, September 8, 2008
When a woman cries out foul, she isn’t always speaking up against the tyrannies of patriarchy. Sometimes, she is faSection 498A of the IPC, meant to protect a woman being harassed by her husband or his family, particularly for dowry, is increasingly being used to blackmail unsuspecting families. Priya Hingorani, former VP, Supreme Court Bar Association, while alarmed at the misuse, believes that the percentage of ‘con women’ is still miniscule: “There’s no point in making sweeping generalizations about a law that has protected a lot of distressed women.” She does, however, suggest that the offence be made bailable, in order that innocent families don’t unwittingly suffer. Like an unfortunate Rohit (name changed) did, when his wife converted a dowry harassment complaint into an FIR. “I went crazy running around for anticipatory bail,” he recalls. Rohit, a 31 year-old who got married in 2005, felt his wife’s greed surface during their honeymoon in Singapore, when she, eager to shop in the malls, taunted him with comments like: “Tum mujhe kya shopping karoege (One can hardly expect you to shop for me).” When the insults piled up and threatened to overcome the middle-class engineer completely, he called for a heart-to-heart with her parents. “It was pointless; she obviously wanted to marry a rich guy and her parents twisted everything I said to insinuate that I wanted dowry to keep her happy,” he says of the meeting. Rubbishing her claims that she was physically tortured by her in-laws, he vehemently asserts, “My parents are old and weak, one look at them and you’ll know they just don’t have the strength to beat up a young person.” king it — manipulating the law to cover up for her extortionist tactics. Neil (name changed), a 38-year-old post-graduate from IIT, also faces a similar predicament. When his wife started behaving erratically after the birth of their child in 2004, he attributed the cause to postpartum depression. But then she left for her parents’ home one year later and “kept withdrawing money from my accounts.” Despite that, he attempted to restore his marriage under the Restitution of Conjugal Rights provision. She however, threatened his entire family with dire consequences, unless he settled for Rs 50 lakhs.