- In order to address violence against women, it is sometimes recommended that women be encouraged to come forward and make official complaints. Justice will triumph once the legal system is put into place, according to popular thinking.
- But an analysis of more than 4 lakh FIRs in Haryana that was published in the American Political Science Review clarifies the difficulties women encounter while attempting to obtain legal recourse.
- The results show a notable gender bias throughout the legal system, which makes it difficult for women to obtain justice.
Gender Bias in Legal System:
- According to the study, incidents of violence against women in which women are the main complainants are more likely to be dropped from court proceedings, not to be registered, or end in acquittals.
- The researchers refer to the prejudice caused by gender bias as “multi-stage” discrimination, which goes beyond registration and includes prosecution.
Historical Gender Disparities:
- The prejudice against female complainants is not a recent development; historical accounts and anecdotal evidence support the notion that female complainants frequently have their complaints dismissed from police stations.
- Longer wait periods and frequent pressure to drop complaints are experienced by women.
- The belief that women tend to overstate their concerns or abuse the legal system contributes to these gender disparities, which continue throughout the judicial procedure.
Impact of Judicial Pronouncements:
- Women are further deterred from pursuing justice by statements made by the judiciary suggesting that they abuse the law.
- The statements made by the Madhya Pradesh High Court on the “misuse” of Section 498A in relation to cruelty to women and the Calcutta High Court regarding women using Section 498A for “legal terrorism” are devoid of any factual foundation and impede the ability of women to obtain justice.
Urgent Need for Gender Sensitization:
- The study’s conclusions highlight the alarming fact that half of the population confronts significant barriers to both receiving justice and even being heard.
- Fast-track courts and all-women police stations are examples of procedural fixes that are insufficient.
- Encouraging more women to join the police (who make up an appalling 11.7% of the force) and offering thorough training and sensitization to everyone involved in the legal system from police stations to the judiciary are crucial.
- The study draws attention to the pervasive gender bias in the legal system that hinders women’s ability to disclose abuse and pursue justice.
- A comprehensive strategy is needed to address this problem, one that includes raising the proportion of women in law enforcement and improving gender sensitization throughout the judicial system.