Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Assert your rights, but remember give and take helps
Dec 13, 2010
Having struggled hard to obtain legal means to break free from male dominance and depravity, are we women today at the point of endangering those very means?
The Committee on Petitions of the Rajya Sabha, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Bhagat Singh Koshyari, is considering a petition praying for amendments to Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The petitioner has pointed out the extensive abuse and misuse of this provision.
Section 498A deals with the husband or a relative of the husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.
Up in arms
Recently, sections of men who have been up in arms, demanding that the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, be made gender independent. The reason once again is that it has been misused by women causing unwarranted harassment to men, husbands in particular.
Nothing may really come out of the petition or the agitations immediately. Yet, they should serve to send alarm bells ringing in the mind of every self-respecting woman. I myself am a strong believer in the equality of men and women and the right of every woman to lead a life of respect and self-dignity. Yet, we cannot forget that we live in what is even today a male-dominated society. Women have had to struggle and fight male egoism at every step to get even a few benefits like the above legal provisions on our statute. The bill seeking 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies was passed in the Rajya Sabha this year, after almost 14 years of its introduction, and it is anybody's guess when it will be implemented.
The modern Indian woman with her new-found economic, social and political independence is no doubt kicking to break free from the fetters of subjugation and subordination which have haunted her since time immemorial. In this uphill task, she has to learn to use the law as a shield to protect herself and not as a weapon to attack. A handful of women are forgetting that any relationship, whether marital or otherwise, is not about who has the upper hand but about who complements the other and how.
Unfortunately today, aggressiveness has somehow become synonymous with “assertiveness” so much so that there are women who do not hesitate to file an FIR with the police or knock on the doors of the courts at the drop of a hat. A heated discussion or disagreement, a refusal by the husband to allow his wife to wear western clothes or go out with friends, some chiding by the in-laws could all easily be labelled as cruelty by some women and, with enough stoking by unscrupulous advocates, this snowballs into a legal battle which leaves nothing but a bitter taste and an empty purse.
Still a minority
No doubt, such women still form a minority, yet no one can overlook the harm they may inadvertently be causing to a large number of Indian women, who genuinely need the law to help them find a way out of their miserable and pathetic situations; also, many a time it is an escape route from what has become to them a living hell.
With more and more cases of abuse of women-centric legal provisions, the day may not be far off when the same men who conceded our reasonable demands start re-thinking.
With the joint family concept having become a thing of the past and with family ties getting weaker by the day, the need is for the establishment of several more counselling centres in colleges, offices, hospitals and even in courts. These must be manned by trained professionals who have in-depth knowledge of human psychology and behavioural patterns. People, especially youngsters, must be encouraged to seek the help of such centres.
In fact, all family disputes should be taken up only after it has been certified by a counsellor that the case is beyond counselling. Parents, family members and close friends can mediate and help the couple identify their actual problems and assist them in solving their issues amicably. Advocates also have a major role, for they can make women see the futility of their case and advise them accordingly, instead of stoking the embers into inferno.
Lastly, women themselves have the power to make or break their future. The modern Indian woman should not forget that every form of relationship calls for some give and take. Small compromises or adjustments need not be misunderstood as signs of suppression.
No woman should ever suffer cruelty or harassment of any form silently. Yet, before rushing to court, let her ponder over and see if it is indeed her rights that have been trampled upon or it is just her ego that has taken a beating.
For, let us not for a minute forget that we women still walk across a minefield and if we do not tread carefully, there is every chance of the mines blowing up not just our lives but also the future of women.
No woman should ever suffer cruelty or harassment silently. Yet, before rushing to court, let her ponder over and see if it is indeed her rights that have been trampled upon or it is just her ego that has taken a beating.