South Asia

Organized Panel Session

5 - To Be Used as a Shield and Not an Assassin's Weapon: Section 498A and the Images of ‘Unscrupulous’ Wife and ‘Persecuted’ Husband

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Silveroak I, Ground Floor

The litigious Indian wife is variously projected in popular culture, men’s rights groups and mass media as an ‘unscrupulous’ woman ‘fabricating stories’ to harass her husband by ‘misusing’ the law. The juridical language too has absorbed discourses, languages, and rhetoric emerging from the outside “messy” world and ignored the assemblage of backlash politics and legal maneuvers that shape the rhetoric of misuse. The juridical discourse on protective legislation like 498A (criminal law for domestic violence) consequently has been framed in the language of ‘legal terrorism’ that allows the ‘unscrupulous’ wife to ‘wreck personal vendetta or unleash harassment against the husband’. In this visual rhetoric of judicial framing, while the woman claiming the protection of law becomes the ‘vengeful’ wife, the protective legislation itself becomes an ‘assassin’s weapon’ that systematically persecutes the husband. However, the language of ‘misuse’ is seldom anchored to any data and often tends to shift the category of facts not proved to the category of disproved, thus marking a case of domestic violence as potentially fraudulent. I argue that the juridical lexicon of ‘misuse’ of law by monstrous women is also representative of a crisis within the judiciary itself, a hetero-patriarchal institution trying to reorder values around gender and marriage by ‘re-masculinizing’ the state. I map how ‘misuse’ enters the juridical arena through this reordering gaze where the judiciary actively uses the MRA discourse to craft new subjectivities. 

Jhuma Sen

O.P. Jindal Global University, India

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5 - To Be Used as a Shield and Not an Assassin's Weapon: Section 498A and the Images of ‘Unscrupulous’ Wife and ‘Persecuted’ Husband



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