Misuse of laws to target men


The laws to protect women are in place, but unfortunately some of them are manipulating situations and filing false charges against men. The legal machinery needs to be updated to protect men too, writes Manu Shrivastava.

If there is anyone who has harmed women empowerment, it’s women themselves. India is one of the rare nations in the world that has the maximum number of legislations to protect women and provide socio-legal support for their development and empowerment. And sadly, also among the rarest where the same laws meant to protect women are highly misused by them to serve ulterior motives, take revenge or hurt men.

Even judiciary turned victim

In April 2019, when the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi was accused of sexual harassment by a former employee of the apex court, a Junior Court Assistant, the country was in shock. No one thought about the merits of the case or the possibility that this could be a false allegation and most were likely to believe that a man in ‘position of power’ exploited a woman. The in-house special panel of judges who looked into the allegations gave a clean chit to Justice Gogoi as it found “no substance in the sexual harassment allegations”.

While the identity of the ‘accused’ is revealed, that of the ‘victim’ is never revealed, even after it is proved that the allegations were false. Yet, if you google ‘Ranjan Gogoi’, the top results will be of the alleged sexual misconduct. And, if you are lazy enough to not read further, you are more than likely to believe that the Chief Justice of India had sexually harassed a woman. So, while the law provides a woman to protect her interests, it does not prevent that of a man who undergoes mental torture, public humiliation and even extortion in some cases.

False accusations maximum in Television industry

The ‘false’ rape accusation and arrest of renowned television actor and singer Karan Oberoi by a woman in May 2019 was one such promiment case, where Oberoi was the victim. In the FIR, the woman alleged Karan raped her in 2017 on the pretext of marriage, filmed the act and then extorted money by threatening to make the video go viral. Karan was granted bail a month later. The woman was arrested by Mumbai police for staging a fake attack on herself. It turned out later that Karan was, in fact, the victim of harassment, stalking and blackmailing. The woman, a self-proclaimed ‘healer’ and ‘astrologer’ even threatened Karan that she would damage his reputation and the well-being of his family members if he didn’t maintain contact.

Karan felt women are given the benefit of doubt and men are not even heard in most cases and something needed to be done to address this “imbalance in society”. In Karan’s case, his friends, known celebrities themselves, came to his rescue and campaigned with him against the ‘injustice’ meted out to him for being a man.

False cases soar despite stricter law

A study suggested false rape cases rose drastically after the amendment in the rape law in 2013 through the Criminal Law (Amendment), Act 2013 that provided for extremely strict penalties for the act of rape.

The amendment was a reaction to the brutal gang-rape of ‘Nirbhaya’ in Delhi in 2012 that caused an uproar in the nation and citizens urged the strictest punishment for rapists. The amendment also expanded the definition of ‘rape’ liberally. According to another 2014 report by the Delhi Commission for Women, 53 per cent of rape cases filed between April 2013 – July 2014 were false.

In January 2020, the Crime Branch in Pune arrested a woman for allegedly extorting money from an HR Professional by threatening to file a fabricated rape case against him. The woman had, by then, managed to extort Rs. 45,000 from the victim.

Rape allegations against men are levelled by avenging women, refuted girlfriends, manipulating colleagues, even families who want to avoid ‘losing face’ on acts of sexual activities being discovered.

The Indian legal system is burdened with thousands of cases every year where a woman accuses a man, she was in a relationship with, of rape. When the relationship ends, often on a sour note, the woman who had consensual sex with the man accuses him of rape under the promise of marriage to take revenge or just to hurt the man. “Sometimes, they even do it to blackmail the man and extort money,” says Delhi-based family lawyer Sudhir Singh. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported 38,947 rape cases in India in 2016, of which 10,068 cases were of women accusing the men of raping on the ‘false promise’ of marriage.

Consensual sex by minors also ‘rape’

The other significant category of cases is that where a minor girl is ‘raped’ by a minor boy. The legal definition of rape qualifies a consensual act of sex between two minors as ‘rape’. Mostly in such cases, the girl’s family files a rape case against the boy.

When a 17-year-old youth of Chandoli village was caught in an act of physical intimacy with his 16-year-old girlfriend by her father, he never thought he would land in jail. The girlfriend’s father filed a rape case against the youth, whose family could never believe that a hard-working student, could commit such a heinous crime.

“It is sad that law is misused like this. Parents of such girls often file a rape case to cover up for their unmarried daughter and to save the family honour,” says Udaipur-based social worker Manasi Parmar. “They would rather say their daughter was raped than accept she engaged in sex willingly. They spoil their daughter’s life and that of the boy too.”

Women hurt own cause

Needless to say, false accusations by women of domestic violence, stalking, sexual harassment, molestation and rape trivialise the seriousness associated with such acts. Such women do disservice to millions of other women who are ‘real victims’ and have to try much harder to convince the authorities and society about their situation.

Many may not be aware but International Men’s Day is celebrated the world over on 19 November to raise awareness about men’s issues, men’s health, promoting gender equality, and to protect men from exploitation, gender-based discrimination, violence, injustice and oppression.

Men’s rights activists believe it isn’t fashionable to fight for the rights of men and the cause doesn’t have too many takers. That said, there are millions of men in India and across the world living with the constant fear of being framed or implicated for serious offences such as domestic violence and rape spurred by trivial motives of manipulative women. It’s good to have laws to protect women but there should also be provisions to protect men when spiteful women misuse the law to harm them and their families, sometimes even their own husbands and in laws. These acts risk destroying the foundation of society based on mutual trust and respect.

What Karan said after the incident sums up the situation: “Men will be running scared of women, scared to talk to them, marry them, date them. That’s not the society we aspire for. We share moral and social responsibilities. More importantly, we have responsibilities as good human beings”, he added emphasising on how a false case of such a serious offence could ruin life of the ”accused” and his family, and, in just a jiffy.

Manu Shrivastava

Manu Shrivastava is a media legal researcher with DraftCraft International, and co-convener of ‘The Woman Survivor’ initiative that documents abuse of women and children within families.