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HE OR SHE: GENDER DISCRIMINATION IN PENAL LAWS

The Constitution of India provides for equality among all. The notion of legal equality also, implies that every citizen should be subjected to the same law and must be penalized equally. We live in a society where men are considered to be politically, socially, and economically powerful and the fact that women suffer more physically and psychologically is undeniable. But, it is also an undeniable fact that men are also harassed and are a victim of violence of their female counterparts. We have entered the 21st century years back and still live with certain stereotypes that women are harassed in all walks of life- domestic or workplace. It is always presumed that only women are subjected to gender-based violence.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
India today has become a land of feminists where everyone claims to be a feminist supporting the concept laid down in the early 19th and 20th century which now has distorted completely. Today with the increase in activities of assault and harassment of men it has become pertinent to point out that supporting feminism is not wrong whereas supporting eastern feminism is wrong. This has also become a very prominent feature of the Penal laws in India. In India, it is always presumed that every crime is done by males and males are born criminals. In the penal laws of India, the eastern idea of eastern feminism is seen.
There are several sections in Indian Penal Law that are gender discriminatory. In the opinion of the penal laws a man or a male cannot be raped ever, he cannot be harassed ever and there can be no cruelty against men. It advertises that men are born criminals and women are born victims.
Indian Penal Code 1860 is a general framework of Criminal Law in India which keeps a check on all the criminal activities in the India S.2 of I.P.C states “Every person shall be liable to punishment under this Code and not otherwise for every act or omission contrary to the provisions thereof, of which he shall be guilty within India.” Whereas on the contrary we live with the stereotype that the only men are the perpetrators of crime. This rationale does not only create gender inequality but also provides an umbrella to the crimes planned and committed by females. The reason behind a crime committed by men is the same as committed by women.  The criminal mind does not discriminate on the basis of gender and neither should our law. There are several laws in the Indian Penal Code which not only support women but are completely antithetical to males. There is a series of laws that can be pointed out to antithetical such as Section 498,326, 254,376,509, etc.
 Keeping up with the assumption of the Indian Penal Code and analyzing from the viewpoint of the domestic front, the agony of most of the males starts at home who become a prey to their spouse selfishness and then begins the story of violence and harassment. Section 498 IPC and Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act are the two tools provided for the benefit and protection of the women but unfortunately, are misused many times.Section498A IPC outlines that if cruelty and harassment are shown to be inflicted upon a married woman by her husband, or by any relative of her husband, such husband, or such relatives of the husband, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine. This section was inserted after a massive number of deaths of married women were recorded as a result of the demand for dowry or violence. This pro-women law today has transformed into a tool to distort men physically, economically, and shaking the foundation of the family. It is a sorry state affair that today if a marriage goes wrong the husband and his family are directly alleged of demanding dowry without going through the actual reasons of it. The abuse of the pro-women has resulted in a rapid increase of false complaints against men. Former justice of Delhi High Court Shiv Narayan Dhingra has admitted that “this law is being used by women to harass their husbands and in-laws. He has termed misuse of these laws, legal terrorism. Almost a quarter of people arrested under the misuse of Section 498A are women, mostly mothers, and sisters of the accused husband.”
In a report produced by the National Crime Record Bureau in 2012, it was highlighted that over 2,00,000 people are arrested under this section and only 15% are held liable in courts and rest are fake allegations. This has also resulted in the death rate of men. It is ironic that if a woman commits suicide his husband is sent behind bars without much investigation and if a husband ends his life the wife is not questioned upon his death.
 The agony of the men is not only restricted to the four walls of his house he has also become a soft target to be maltreated in his workplace as well. Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code substantiates sexual harassment, assault with intent to disrobe, voyeurism, stalking etc. The  section states Sexual harassment and its punishment. From the analysis of this section, it can be concluded that only a man can sexually harass women and only a male can be held liable under this section because the commencing line of the section is “A man committing any of the following acts”. Further, Section 354B defines assault with intent to disrobe section 354C talks about voyeurism and again criteria to be call a offender for this offense it that you should be a man. We have often the word heard the word stalking which undoubtedly a crime under section 354D of  I.P.C and here lies the strong point but only a man can be charged under the section to have committed this crime.
Applying the Golden Rule of Interpretation it can be deduced that man can be held liable for these offenses and a woman is always a victim. In Indian society, men are looked upon as the ones who is physically and mentally strong and no one ever feels the need to see the tears rolling down their eyes, address the mental trauma that they face, and often their complaints are also ignored. This brings us to a situation where understanding the true definition of gender discrimination is of utmost importance.
 “Can men ever be raped”? I certainly doubt that if in a free country like India a man can also be raped. As per section 375 of the IPC which is not certainly gender neutral recognizes rape as a criminal offence and the commencing line of S.375 specifically states that “A man is said to commit “rape” if he”. According to this section and penal laws of India a man can never be a rape victim, there is no section in penal law where a man can report for sexual abuse, a man cannot file a case even for sexual harassment. This issue was raised earlier and there were amendments in Criminal Law. Amendment ordinance 2013 where the word rape was removed and replaced by “Sexual Assault” and the law was made gender-neutral, but this amended ordinance was opposed by free citizens and this act ended up to be a gender-specific act, where a man is always a wrongdoer and females are powerless victims.  In 1982 Sarrel and Masters conducted a case study on 11 men who were sexually assaulted by women. The men went through humiliation, anxiety, fear, anger, and terror and yet responded sexually. The authors concluded that anxiety increases sexual arousal. Male rapes are not widely searched such as female rapes but there are several stats to show that this exists in society. A 16 y/o boy claimed in 2015 that he has been sexually abused by his best friend’s mother for 3 months. Furthermore, the concept of consent does not apply to man. If a boy and a girl have consensual sex, the boy may be charged with rape!
The aforesaid discussion of the agony the man at home, as well as the workplace, vividly points out the loopholes in the Indian laws. The laws are being misused by the women to hold out to their ulterior motives or sometimes to take revenge on the atrocities inflicted on them in past years. Hence keeping in mind the perspective of males and to control this chaotic legal situation it is necessary to come up with gender-neutral laws.
Suggestions
  • The word ‘man’ in sections pertaining to rape and sexual assault should be replaced by the word ‘persons’.
  • Strict punishment and penalties should be imposed on women who misuse the law.
  • The forum looking after the sexual harassment and domestic violence cases should not only have a women chairperson but should include both men and women.
  • Provision to safeguard man from harassment at the workplace should be introduced in the Sexual Harassment Bill in the Workplace.

 References

  1. https://lawtimesjournal.in/jurisdiction-2/
  2. https://www.quora.com/Why-is-stalking-in-the-Indian-Penal-Code-only-applicable-against-men-Is-there-some-other-law-that-protects-men-from-the-same
  3. http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/2011/Gender-neutral-Indian-Penal-Code.html

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

Ishita Pandey is a 1st-year student at the Lloyd Law College.

 

 

 

 

 

Antariksh Singh Jamwal is a 1st-year student at the Lloyd Law College.

 

 

 

 

In Content Picture Credit: the Statesman

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