India - Stop Failing Your Women!

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When Neha became pregnant, her in-laws pressurised her to abort the child, which she refused. Subsequently they forced her to do physically arduous house work throughout her pregnancy, resulting in her delivering a still-born child.

But that was not enough! She was repeatedly beaten by her in-laws for not being of the same social status.

One night, 23-year-old Neha was beaten so badly that she lost consciousness and when she regained sense she discovered that she was on fire.

She struggled in a hospital with 40% burn injuries for more than a month before succumbing to her injuries.

Neha is not alone, there are lakhs of women across the country who are beaten, tortured and set on fire by their in-laws.

I studied domestic violence cases for one year. I spoke to women who had been abused. I read about women who were tortured, killed or killed themselves, alive only in the dusty legal case files.

Every day 21 women die in our country due to domestic violence. Killed by their in-laws or driven to commit suicide.

Section 498(A) has been a critical tool that protected women from domestic violence. But it has now been diluted.

In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court has said that immediate arrests can be made only if there are visible signs of injury on the woman or in case of her death.

It has also recommended that all complaints be first investigated by a Family Welfare Committee. This means that women will not get immediate police assistance or protection after a complaint is filed. Instead of being judged by a court, they will be judged by a non-judicial body.

Will a woman be taken seriously only if she is visibly bruised, or her bones broken, or she is on the verge of dying? Are mental and sexual torture, and non-visible physical violence not going to be counted as domestic abuse capable of causing lasting, continuing damage, endangering the life of the woman?

These dilutions mean that women who have been abused, women who have no family support, now won’t have the security of knowing they can go back without fear to the marital home.

These women will continue to suffer in silence while society continues to ignore domestic violence.

That is why I am asking the Government to intervene and ensure that Section 498(A) continues in its current form and protects women.

Many men’s rights activists and some political parties have pushed for the law to be diluted. They claim loudly that this law has been misused to harass innocent men.

This is false. In fact, the 2012 Law Commission Report, an Oxfam report and several scholars have demonstrated that there is no evidence to support these claims.

The truth is that India is still a highly patriarchal society. Dowry demands and domestic violence are a stark reality for millions of Indian women. The only protection these women have is the law and the judiciary. By diluting this law, the Supreme Court has heard only a small and vocal minority, they have ignored the silent majority that continues to suffer.

Please sign my Petition and urge the Women and Child development Ministry to intervene in this matter.



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