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In search of justice and care: how women survivors of violence navigate the Indian criminal justice system

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The conversation around Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, a provision that addresses marital cruelty, is saturated with the discourse of 'misuse', and the belief that it is the province of 'scheming wives' making 'false allegations'. However, not all cases filed under Section 498A reach the courtroom at all. Before cases go to trial, the police conduct an investigation, and may close the case if it is found to be 'false' or the result of a 'misunderstanding'. This paper explores the trajectory of such cases through interviews with women and stakeholders, and analysis of police reports. It was found that women approach lawyers and the police when they are facing violence they are unable to tolerate, to leverage police intervention. Laywers direct them to Section 498A to leverage the pressure of arrest. Women agree to close the case once some degree of 'compromise' has been effected by the police. The number of these 'false' cases paradoxically feeds the discourse of misuse, and judicial reluctance to convict. Women continue to turn to the state for support in ending violence. There is thus an urgent need for a vastly improved network of social services and better connections between multiple women-centric laws.
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Keywords: CRIMINAL LAW AND INTERVENTIONS; INDIA; MARITAL VIOLENCE; POLICE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2017-05-01

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  • The Journal of Gender-Based Violence (JGBV), is the first international journal based in Europe to show case the work of scholars across disciplinary and topic boundaries, and from a range of methodologies.

    The journal acknowledges both the breadth of gender-based violence (GBV) and its links to gendered inequalities. It aims to continue to document the voices and experiences of victims and survivors of GBV, to publish work regarding those who perpetrate GBV and of the varied and complex social structures, inequalities and gender norms through which GBV is produced and sustained. The journal recognises the intersection of gender with other identities and power relations, such as ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, faith, disability and economic status.

    JGBV will publish high quality papers that contribute to understanding of GBV, policy, and/or activism, on sexual violence, domestic abuse, ‘honour’-based violence, prostitution, trafficking and/or reproductive violence and abuse in a wide range of intimate, familial, community and societal contexts.

    The editors invite interest from scholars working across the social sciences and related fields including social policy, sociology, politics, criminology, law, social psychology, development and economics, as well as disciplines allied to medicine, health and wellbeing.

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