By Praveen Dalal
08 March, 2005
our society, whether they belong to the majority or the minority group,
what is apparent is that there exists a great disparity in the matter
of economic resourcefulness between a man and a woman. Our society is
male dominated both economically and socially and women are assigned,
invariably, a dependant role, irrespective of the class of society to
which she belongs. A woman on her marriage very often, though highly
educated, gives up her all other avocations and entirely devotes herself
to the welfare of the family, in particular she shares with her husband,
her emotions, sentiments, mind and body, and her investment in the marriage
is her entire life a sacramental sacrifice of her individual self and
is far too enormous to be measured in terms of money. This sacrifice
is mischievously embodied and engraved into the mindset of the society
as the natural destiny of women by misinterpreting the benign mandates
of various religions.
The history of mankind
is witness to the fact that the religion has been used as a façade
to perpetuate violence against women from time perpetual. The solution
to this problem should not be pursued under the banner of religion.
The solutions to such societal problems of universal magnitude pertaining
to horizons of basic human rights, culture, dignity and decency of life
and dictates of necessity in the pursuit of social justice should be
invariably left to be decided on considerations other than religion
or religious faith or beliefs or national, sectarian, racial or communal
constraints (1). It must be appreciated that a nation that does not
respect its women cannot be described as a civilised nation at all.
Such a nation cannot grow and develop and will ultimately perish due
to its own rudimentary and tyrannical dogma (2). Thus, the national
consensus should concentrate on betterment of women by suitably empowering
II. The menace of violence
The menace of violence
has its genesis in the history of mankind. It is time immemorial and
not the product of a single century. Women inherited this maltreatment
from generation to generation, sometimes voluntarily and at other times
with protest. The end result, however, remained the same. The patriarchal
nature of society always allowed legitimizing the most heinous acts
and omissions on the part of men. So much so that now the problem of
violence against women is permeating almost all the spheres of life.
The forms and manner of violence are numerous and for the sake of convenience
they have been grouped under the following categories:
(1) Violence to body,
(2) Violence to mind,
(3) Violence to property, and
(4) Violence to reputation.
(1) Violence to
body: The violence to the body of women is the most ancient and most
commonly practised evil. It may take the following forms:
(a) Sati system:
This is the most ancient mode of committing violence against women in
which the unfortunate woman has to face the rigours of double jeopardy.
Firstly, she has to bear the grief of her husband's death and to aggravate
it she is forced to give her life away. If we reverse the equation than
there is no obligation on the part of husband to do the same. In fact,
neither a man nor a woman should be forced to take his/her life. The
same appears to be not only inhuman but also equally barbaric.
(b) Dowry deaths:
The concept of dowry was initially followed as a practise of giving
voluntarily some share in the property of the father to the daughter
at the time of her marriage. The main purpose of that practise was to
give some share to the daughter who was not entitled to property unlike
her brothers. This practise has, however, taken a precarious shape and
the same results in many unfortunate dowry deaths.
(c) Rape: The forcible
ravishing of the body of a woman is also a form of violence against
body of a woman.
(d) Outraging modesty:
An act or attempt to bring disrespect to women by outraging their modesty
is another form of violence against body.
(e) Criminal intimidation
and annoyance: The sick mentality of few creates a nuisance for many
women in the form of criminal intimidation and annoyance.
(f) Forced prostitution
by blackmailing and other coercive means: Sometimes women are exploited
by blackmailing methods and forced into prostitution.
(g) Sexual harassment
at workplace: The unsafe working environment and sexual harassment at
workplace is another form of violence against women.
(h) Female feticide:
The preference of a male issue results in the commission of the most
barbaric and inhuman violence against women in the form of female feticide.
(2) Violence to mind: The violence to mind may take the following forms:
(a) Dowry demands:
The demand of dowry results in extreme emotional trauma and stress to
(b) Mental torture
and cruelty: Sometimes women are also mentally tortured on trifle issues
that can be avoided at all counts.
matters: The violence to mind can also result out of matrimonial relationships.
For instance a husband entering into a second marriage during a validly
subsisting first marriage causes immense mental pain to the wife.
(3) Violence to property: This may take the following forms:
succession matters: Traditionally women were not entitled to shares
in property of the joint family, except a maintenance right. The position
has now changed though it is far from satisfaction. The enactment of
a "Uniform Civil Code" can solve many proprietary and matrimonial
of property: The women are deprived of their property by satisfying
the unjustified dowry demands.
(4) Violence to
reputation: This may take the following forms:
(a) Practicing untouchability:
By practicing untouchability the reputation of women is maligned.
(b) Naked parade
of Dalits: This is a practice that we see even after half a century
of independence. This is the most humiliating and severe blow on the
reputation of women.
of illicit and adulterous relationships: The allegations of illicit
and adulterous relationships also create immense harm to the reputation
(d) Allegation of
illegitimate child: A more severe variation of the abovementioned allegation
of adultery is the allegation of bearing of illegitimate child.
(e) Illegal manipulations
resulting in pornography: The use of latest technology for facilitating
manipulative pornography is also a form of violence against reputation
III. Need of the
This situation of
gender discrimination requires an immediate attention of the society
at large since the problem is societal in nature. The mindset of the
society has to be changed by both voluntary and involuntary measures.
The positive and voluntary measures consist of public awareness, public
education, public motivation, etc. The involuntary measure relies primarily
upon the support of the law for its existence. The law regulates the
social interests, arbitrates conflicting claims and demands security
of persons and property of the people and is an essential function of
the state. It could be achieved through instrumentality of criminal
law. Undoubtedly, there is a cross cultural conflict where living law
must find answer to the new challenges and the courts are required to
mould the sentencing system to meet the challenges. The contagion of
lawlessness would undermine social order and lay it in ruins. Protection
of society and stamping out criminal proclivity must be the object of
the law, which must be achieved by imposing appropriate sentence. Therefore,
law as a corner stone of the edifice of "order" should meet
the challenges confronting the society. The social impact of the crime,
e.g. where it relates to offences against women, dacoity, kidnapping
and other offences involving moral turpitude or moral delinquency which
have great impact on social order and public interest, cannot be lost
sight of and per se require exemplary treatment (3). This fact should
be kept in mind by not only the judiciary but also by the government.
Thus, the government should refuse to extend the benefit of the remission
to the convicts who have committed crime against women even while extending
it to other convicts. It would not be violative of Article 14 of the
Constitution of India (4). Further, safety of women victims must also
be provided so that they can effectively bring before the law the offenders,
especially in criminal cases. Thus, in holding trial of child sex abuse
or rape a screen or some arrangements may be made where the victim or
witness do not see the body or face of the accused. Recording of evidence
by way of video conferencing vis-à-vis Section 273 Cr.P.C is
permissible under the law (5). These measures must be supplemented with
suitable "empowerment measures" like reservations in jobs
and educational institutions, financial assistances, etc.
The plight of the
women, however, cannot be improved till they are duly represented in
the "power structure" of the nation. In a democratic country
the voice of women can be heard only to the extent they are sharing
the power structure in the supreme governance of the country.
Praveen Dalal is Consultant and Advocate, Delhi High Court
He can be reached at email@example.comfirstname.lastname@example.org
(1) Danial Latifi
v U.O.I, (2001) 7 SCC 740.
(2) Praveen Dalal, "Revitalising personal laws by judicial codification",
(3) State of M.P v G.Singh, AIR 2003 SC 3191.
(4) Sanabona v Govt of A.P, AIR 2003 SC 3074.
(5) Sakshi v U.O.I, (2004) 5 SCC 519.
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