Gaps between laws and execution: domestic violence in a rising nation
India is a nation which is growing by leaps and bounds in most spheres. The skeleton for a completely modern India is already in place, and flesh is growing fast. The economy is growing, Indians are making quite an impression in various fields, and India’s tendency to bounce back from a crisis is being appreciated world-over. However, a country cannot become a truly developed nation on the basis of its bank balance alone. Neither can it be judged on the basis of a few individuals making their mark throughout the world. The nation needs to grow in terms of its ideologies, its social norms and practices, its ability to adapt and become more broad-minded, and its ability to recognize unfair traditional practices, which only stem from outdated, inappropriate laws.
On paper, India is a wonderfully developed nation. Our constitution is a very secular one, which respects human dignity at a very basic, non-discriminating level. Our laws too, seek to provide justice for all kinds of people. For women as well, the Act called Protection of Women from Domestic Violence was passed in 2005, to provide women with the necessary legal weapon against a crime which is more often than not, directed at their gender. However, despite this, when statistics were reviewed in 2012, it was found out that in India, crimes against women are committed every three minutes throughout the country. This report was released by the National Crime Records Bureau very recently. Other statistics also contribute to the same basic fact which one can gather: crimes against women have not gone down, and the law has provided only marginal relief to the women. And this is because of the wide gap between the laws, and their execution.
The foremost executors of law are the police, and one should take a moment to ponder about what exactly the nature of the police is, when it pertains to crimes against women. Especially when the crimes in question are sexual in nature, it is usually the woman who has to suffer through a detailed character criticism, and because a large percentage of the country’s population still believes that it is a man’s inherent right to do whatever he pleases with his wife, the police too, do not take these matters very seriously. The laws are there, and the cases have to be filed as per the laws assigned.
According to Indian Penal Code 498A, when a woman complains about ill treatment by her husband or her in-laws, they are to be arrested immediately, and they can suffer as many as three years in jail, with the law having a non-bailable clause. Despite that, how many times do we see this law put in practice? How many women suffering domestic violence are being able to use this law? More often than not, the police try to talk them out of it.
But blaming the police is an escapist route which most of us take, because we are unwilling to shoulder the responsibility which lies on society, and therefore, on each individual. The members of the police force are also members of society and therefore, are ultimately products as well as reflections of a particular school of thought.
And the dominant school of thought in India still looks upon women as secondary beings, at the mercy of men, and subject to the whims and fancies of the masculine gender. The bridge between laws and the execution of laws can only be mended when this school of thought gets erased, one mind at a time.