Amend laws that discriminate against men

Publish: 9:14 PM, September 22, 2020 | Update: 9:14:PM, September 22, 2020

Laws are not only for obeying. The same need to be framed with a view to doing ‘justice to all’ without prejudice. Out of necessity, laws are required to be ‘fair’ both to ensure their obeying as well as for protecting the rights of all.

Laws go through a process. Normally in a country like ours which is a parliamentary democracy, a law is first introduced in parliament, debated, suggested amendments to it frankly and earnestly discussed, the same are sought to be incorporated partly and fully, and finally adopted by vote. But even after adoption and enforcement of such a law, if it is found credibly that this law is proving somewhat lacking or unfair in its application, then nothing stands in the way of making amendments in it to make it fitter and fairer in its application.

We think that some laws dealing with punishment of repressors of women and children, fall in this category of laws that have long been viewed as misused in some cases leading to perceived gross injustices even. The same involve serious issues like what is to be considered as rape and what consensual intercourse by the consent of both parties. The recent case of the arrest of a former Vice President (VP) of the Dhaka University Central Students Union (DUCSU) on allegation that he was associated with the rape of a student of the university is a case in point.

First of all, let us look at this allegation. The plaintiff alleged that she was raped by someone she has been intimate with for a long time with the promise of marrying her which was not fulfilled later. But how can this be considered rape? Rape, as normally and universally understood, is forcing a female physically to engage in intercourse without her least approval of such an act or consent. It is plain that in this case there was no such disapproval on her part and the event took place with consent on both sides. In that case, how consensual intercourse between two adults be considered as rape.

The litigant is not a minor but full adult and she cannot pretend to be so innocent. It could not be that she was not aware of her religious, moral and legal obligations while engaging in intercourse. Besides, she has admitted in her complaint that she was tempted by offer of marriage which clearly implies that physical force was not used. At most, the litigant could explore the prospect of starting case against the alleged rapist for deceitful behaviour, her suffering thereof and seeking compensation. But how can the case be on one of ‘rape’ ? Or how even the police could arrest anybody on the basis of such an allegation ?

Police could do so because the specific laws do not make it obligatory on policemen to first understand the merits or demerits of such an allegation before arresting someone. As the law presently stands, the police is expected to arrest anyone promptly on receiving a complaint and keep that person in jail as the offence under the law is an unbailable one.

Now let us look at another preposterous side to misapplication of the law. According to the plaintiff, the former VP of DUCSU was an associate in the rape incident and therefore deserved arrest. We may like to think that possibly the VP was physically present in the scene when this alleged rape event took place and he himself participated in some way in the rape or physically assisted the process of raping.

But as it transpired, the litigant had approached the VP after some time has passed, told him about the incident and requested him to persuade the alleged offender to marry her. It appears that when the VP failed to oblige her or told her that he was in no way informed or involved in the matter earlier and felt no personal stake in it, she was disappointed by the VC’s attitude and sought to avenge by complaining to the police that the VC was an active accomplice in her alleged raping.

The police arrested the VP but he was released soon after because a former DUCSU VP is not a nonentity and can raise a stir on deserved grounds. The same worked in the case of this former DUCSU VP and he is now outside jail. But can commoners find any justice under misapplication of this law ? We believe that the police certainly could use their discretionary senses and stayed away from arresting the VP on grounds of his being not a direct party in the rape allegation and flimsy charges of his accomplice status.

Laws to specially protect and promote the safety and well-being of females and children are welcome. There is need for the same in view of their relative weakness and lack of empowerment particularly when pitted against males. But can we create and maintain, unreformed or unamended, laws that create discrimination and injustice against other social groups or to say it specifically, men ?

Certainly not and that is why it has become imperative to take a fresh look at these laws and carry out substantial additions, deletions and changes in them to ensure that the same cannot be so easily misused by tendentious or opportunistic users. If one takes care to assess the number of such cases of misuse over time, we are certain that the same would yield a number to be considered as shocking. Thus, addressing of such issues has been overdue.

As it is, we believe not only amendments of these laws would be enough. It has reached such a stage, that a new and comprehensive law should be framed and made enforceable that would seek to protect men from repression and unconscionable and discriminatory acts against them.