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Patil warns against gender law misuse

New Delhi, Dec. 27: President Pratibha Patil has cautioned against the misuse of pro-women laws such as IPC Section 498A that deals with dowry harassment and sought better implementation of others to create a gender-just society.

“Instances exist whereby protective legal provisions for the benefit of women have been subjected to distortion and misuse to wreak petty vengeance and to settle scores. Some surveys have concluded that 6 to 10 per cent of dowry complaints are false and were registered primarily to settle scores. It is unfortunate if laws meant to protect women get abused as instruments of oppression,” she said.

Patil was addressing the National Conference of Lady Lawyers and Lady Teachers on Justice for Women at Yavatmal in Maharashtra. Though much has been done to create a gender-just society in terms of enacting laws, their implementation left much to be desired, she said.

“The intent of some laws has suffered because of poor and faulty implementation. The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act is a living example. Enacted in 1996, it saw the first conviction in 2006 after 10 long years. Such disturbing revelations need prompt remedy,” Patil said.

She called upon women lawyers to take the lead in dealing with “female foeticide” which she termed “one of the most pernicious and inhuman forms of crime”.

“Another disquieting trend has been that women themselves have not been innocent of abusing women,” she said. “At times women have played an unsavoury, catalytic role in perpetrating violence whether against the daughter-in-law, the mother-in-law or female domestic helps.”

Laws made to prevent women from harassment should not become instruments of oppression, she said, calling upon the legal fraternity to ensure that provisions designed to prevent exploitation and suppression of women are “fairly invoked” and “honestly implemented”.

“The bottomline, therefore, is the fair invocation of legal provisions and their objective and honest implementation,” she said.

Though several laws have been enacted in the post-Independence era to usher in a gender just society, these would have to be better implemented, she said.

In this context, she referred to a host of laws such as the Special Marriage Act, Dowry Prohibition Act, Sati Prevention Act, Maternity Benefit Act, Factories Act, Equal Remuneration Act, Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act and provisions in the IPC to deal with obscenity etc.

She also referred to the recently enacted Domestic Violence Act, 2005, which “addresses the right of women to live in a domestic atmosphere not violative of woman’s dignity”.

“The Hindu Succession Amendment Act deleted the gender discriminatory clause to rectify the gender imbalance in inheritance rights. The 73rd and 74th Amendments, by providing ensured representation for women in urban and rural local bodies, have enabled public decision-making by the hitherto marginalised and suppressed humanity of women in India,” she said.

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