Cruelty towards Women

Being born a woman in a patriarchal society is not easy. Women have had to overcome loads of obstacles thrown their way which included gender discrimination, sexism, misogyny and most of all, cruelty. Cruelty against women have been prevailing since decades due to the idealogy of a woman being inferior to men and of the rules that they have to follow, breakers of which have to face severe punishments. Violence and cruelty against women is something that the women are finally standing up against and realising the evil nature of the treatment that they have had to face over the past several decades.

Ever since the laws have recognised cruelty that women face regarding dowry, the mental and physical torture, there have been changes and amendments in order to fix the discriminatory problem in our society. The Supreme Court of India has extended the ambit of Article 21 of the Constitution of India as not merely the Right to live, but also to live with dignity. So, wherever any crime is committed against a woman, it should be seen as a violation of her Fundamental Right under Article 21 of the Constitution.However, even after all these developments in the field of law the social evils against women still continue to prevail and is rampant in different parts of India. Humiliation, rape, kidnapping, molestation, dowry death, torture, wife-beating etc. have grown up significant over the years and no hint towards the deceleration of this rate is visible as of now. 

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What is Cruelty?

Child Abuse

Cruelty is when anyone – human or animal – is put under circumstances that hurt them physically, as well as mentally. This is done with the intention of causing hurt to the person and the psychology behind such acts could range from the abuser being a sadist, to them wanting to teach their victim a lesson. And when it comes to cruelty against women, it is specifically segregated into gender-based violence against them, which can have drastic results. More than the physical aspect, it is the psychological aspect which has to be the main focus of treating and dealing with such victims, if they manage to survive the cruelty they are made to go through. The physical wounds of such women may heal over time, but it takes a lot for their psychological wounds to heal. This is why this aspect of such crimes need to be addressed further in the society and not let such social evils prevail for long – for the betterment and well-being of all women who take care of us and help us sustain. The sorry state of women in Indian society was well within the knowledge of the framers of our Constitution. Hence, various safeguards were enacted in the Constitution providing certain privileges and safeguards to women. Adding further to protection, various laws were enacted to provide a safeguard to women against cruelty.

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What is cruelty to a wife under the Criminal Law and its implications?

According to Section 498A of IPC, any kind of physical and/or mental harassment caused to a woman by her husband or his relatives, especially for dowry, which leads to harming her life and/or sanity, amounts to cruelty.

Any cruelty against a woman is considered a serious offence and its repercussions, in law, are not treated lightly. Once a complaint against such offender is filed, the arrest can be easily made without the need of a warrant, and mostly, the offence is non-bailable, i.e. the man or his relative(s) cannot get out of their jailtime with the help of paying any required amount set for bail; they have to spend their sentencing in the confinements of a prison. Going upto the official authorities for filing a complaint and seeking the required help in such cases is looked upon – it not only addresses the physical and/or mental cruelty against the victim but also sets an example for suffering women all over.

There are many ways in which one might prove the cruelty that has taken place against her – the main way being of keeping her family and close ones in loop of what is happening to and around her. Any letters, online conversations and messages, statements of friends, family and neighbours, can be used as evidences in such cases for the cause of proving the cruelty. Further, police complaints and medical records are the evidences which are taken as proof after the investigation begins. But even before any investigation starts, every woman should be alert about the intentions of the people around her, which might prove to be highly beneficial in her safety in the future.

Among other cruelties that a woman faces, one confusing situation she can find herself in, is marital rape – or forced sex in marriage. It is a rather simple concept, really – if she doesn’t want to, she shouldn’t have to. Consent means everything in any kind of relationship. Be it a non-existent relationship with a stranger or a relationship of marriage with her husband, if there is no explicit consent given, it is wrong. A marriage is a holy bond but it does not give any man the right over the body of his wife. If this does happen, it is considered as a marital rape and is punishable by law similar to any other mental and/or physical harassment instance.

Signs of Sexual Abuse of a Child

If a child is unable to speak up about their sexual abuse, it can still be noticed from their behavioural patterns. Provided, that the parents or guardians of the child are able to pin-point the signs of such abuse, it is possible to tackle the abuser and provide the child with the relief and therapy they so badly need after the trauma.

For instance, if a child starts talking about being sexually abused, even if its hypothetical, we should be careful when approaching them to further investigate into the reality of the situation. Asking them what is wrong, when it is noticed that they are shying away from their close friends or from a specific person, or if they keep having nightmares, usually helps the child soften up and speak about the main issue they are having to deal with. 

Most physical signs of sexual abuse in children include difficulty in walking, sitting or peeing. If any of the above mentioned signs are brought to your notice, kindly be gentle in asking your child about the situation. Most children tend to be afraid of telling the truth for the reason of unknown repercussions or due to the threats given to them by their molesters. More than often, the child will be told to keep the molestation as a secret, and half of the times, the child is not even aware of the wrong that is happening to them. It may be the case, that the adult who is sexually abusing a child may have gone through the same treatment in their childhood. It is crucial to break this toxic cycle of abuse and help prevent it from being passed down to the next generation.

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For further detailed information on crimes such as domestic violence, and how to seek help in such situations, click here. Seeking help in such situations is a must and there should be no second thoughts about it. Standing up and fighting for yourself will enable hundreds and thousands of women to do the same! You never know who you’ll end up inspiring and moving. But more than anything, inspire yourself. Start with you. 

The fact that women even today are subjected to cruelty, whether we acknowledge it or not, is the bitter truth. No women should remain silent even if the violence is not being inflicted on her. Every single voice counts. The growth of a nation is only possible when all its citizens aid in its development – which includes men as well as women. The important contribution that women make towards development of the nation has been well recognized by government and this is the reason why scores and scores of laws have been laid to deal with the issues that women face. This is where Section 498A and Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code come into play by punishing perpetrators who inflict cruelty on women. The court procedures may be intricate and require plethora of details, but what is guaranteed at the end is justice. 

It is where we, the lawyers, play our part for we as the part of legal fraternity believe that law should not only function on paper but rather become the stark ground reality and ensure the liberation of the oppressed and the suffering. The various Indian Penal Code Sections in general and 498A in particular, not only ensure that women are not subjected to cruelty, but also ensure that people who commit such heinous acts are punished for their crime. As a woman, if one is subjected to cruelty, it’s not a time for her to keep mum but rather the time to seek the legal help she needs and readdress her grievance because every case left unreported can be the potential node for similar future case.


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