Legal Frankensteins and Monstrous Women: Judicial Narratives of the "Family in Crisis"

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Indiana University Press


Anti-violence activism for women in India has been riddled with a unique advocacy challenge. Women experiencing violence within the home confront a widespread backlash against Penal Code section 498A, the only criminal law in India that specifically encompasses domestic violence. Analysis of this phenomenon reveals that this prohibition against marital cruelty has been drastically undermined by a level of skepticism that not only permeates societal consciousness, but more perilously, has entered judicial decision-making in these cases. In this essay I deconstruct the patriarchal narratives that undergird the judicial backlash against Section 498A, arguing that they reflect a modern incarnation of the “crisis” discourses that have characterized state responses to women’s right claims. I contend that Indian patriarchies are being recast in law through the construction of gendered subjects who threaten to destabilize the sanctity of the Indian family, and who are therefore deemed undeserving of the law’s protection.