Arts, Culture & Media

Domestic abuse law in India

This man left India in 2001 to study medicine in Alabama. He stayed and eventually became a U.S. citizen. he wanted to marry an Indian woman and met his future wife on the internet. With help from a loan from his cousins, the couple married in India and then returned to Alabama. But after problems emerged, the couple divorced. He then got a call from India. The father of the wife filed a police complaint that the husband and his whole family had harassed her for extra dowry, physical abuse and everything. The wife's family had his relatives arrested in India under Section 498A, claiming his loan was a dowry and claiming adultery and physical abuse. The husband says the claims are false, but the effects are real and he now can't go back to India because he would be arrested and held until the case is cleared which could take years. The man says he feels trapped, even though he has all the evidence against him, because he would have to go to India to fight the case. He is not alone, he's gotten support from a non-profit which has offices in the U.S. but offers help to Indian men in legal trouble no matter where they live. This worker says he understands Indian women need protection from abusive husbands, but he says the law leads to an abuse of men's rights because those accused can be arrested and held without any evidence delivered and if the men live abroad, their relatives can be held. Even more disconcerting is that government statistics show that fewer than 10% of 498A cases end in a conviction. But those statistics don't sway this women's rights worker in India, and he adds that both parties are compromised in such situations. He believes the law should not be changed because it does protect abused women. But in recent weeks, Indian government officials have suggested they're open to changing the law to make it less prone to abuse by women. For one thing, reform advocates say police shouldn't be allowed to arrest and hold suspects without having all the evidence at hand.

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