Hyderabad: The most common reason that men cite in divorce petitions, especially when faced with a dowry case, is mental illness of their wives. This is the easiest way to get custody of the children and to keep the family jewellery and property.
According to prominent lawyers, women petitioners in several dowry harassment cases have been accused of having mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. They are painted as being unable to either take care of the children or manage property.
“The defence lawyers use that claim as the basis on which their client wins the case”, said prominent human rights lawyer Gulam Rabbani.
In the last year, police in the state has booked more than 6,300 cases against husbands and relatives. While men’s rights activists have always maintained that Section 498A (dowry harassment and domestic violence) has been increasingly exploited to extort men, defence lawyers in such cases often accuse women petitioners of being mentally ill.
If convicted, the punishment for dowry harassment is three years in jail and a fine.
“In my experience, when an accused in a domestic violence case meets his lawyer, the first conversation he is likely to have is how to portray the complainant as a mentally ill person in court”, said another lawyer from the city.
There is so much pressure put on the complainant with allegations of mental illness that so metimes the victim agrees to settle the matter for minimum compensation.
“The humiliation the victim faces due to such allegations can be very harmful. It gives men an upper hand in the whole process”, said Mr Rabbani.