The National Crime Bureau released its 2017 report yesterday, and for the first time in months, our outrage did not seem directionless. There is a need to dissect this data on every level. So that we can understand, in what direction we as a nation and society are going. However, one statistic from this data has divided the opinion of men and women.
Men have pointed out to the low conviction rate in cases of dowry under Section 498A.
They are screaming misandry at the top of their lungs. Saying that a paltry 12% conviction rate in all dowry cases filed in India, indicates that women are misusing Section 498A to drag innocent men into courts.
They are using the hashtag #SheUsedMe to raise awareness among tweeples, that women are using this section to settle personal scores and to force their husbands into shelling out bigger divorce settlements. The other point raised is that such false cases are costing courts and policemen valuable time. Also, the increasing backlog of these cases is delaying justice for many people who need it acutely.
These are all valid points. But asking government and Supreme Court to scrap off the Section 498A entirely is not a good idea. Because in the same report there is data that suggests that women are still suffering.
There is a dowry death in India every 69 minutes. Which means that in the year 2016 alone, 7628 women were killed for dowry. Also, every five minutes, a woman faces cruelty at the hands of her in-laws for dowry. 7628 is not a small number. Especially for a gender which is already struggling with foeticides, rapes and other forms of violence.
The fact that many women are using this section as a tool to settle personal grudges and to tarnish the image of many innocent men and their families is appalling. Strict action should be taken against such women. They should be put behind bars, for trivialising the plight of many victims of dowry. Same goes for women who make false accusations of molestation or rape, for personal gains. Such women hinder the cause of feminism, and trivialize our stand on the issue of equality.
However, men also need to understand, that getting rid of section 498A would mean giving a free hand to dowry mongers.
It will encourage many in the society to torture helpless women to their deaths in the name of ancient customs and rituals. Until we have a concrete way of sifting out false allegations, we need this law to provide justice to the dowry victims. Men and women have to take a combined stand to understand this issue. The first step in this would be to accept the accountability each sex has in encouragement of dowry, and misuse of the law which is helping to curb it.
Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.