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Delhi Commission for Women Chairperson Swati Maliwal | Vijay Verma/PTI
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Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal has found herself in the crosshairs of feminists too often of late.

New Delhi: Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chairperson Swati Maliwal has been at the receiving end of liberal fury of late.

Last week, she was attacked for calling the Supreme Court verdict decriminalising adultery “anti-women”. In August, a tweet demanding punishment for women who file false rape complaints was panned by feminists. Her fast unto death in April demanding capital punishment for rapists who assault children did not find favour either.

Yet, the fiery social activist remains unfazed.

“I am happy to not be branded a liberal… My stand varies from issue to issue,” she told ThePrint.

“Most people who are wedded to an ideology speak for the ideology, and not the cause,” she said, “So, it is fine if I’m criticised by liberals for speaking my mind as a rational human being.”


Also read: Swati Maliwal: The woman on an indefinite hunger strike that India hardly cares about


Giving men a ‘licence to cheat’

In a historic verdict last week, the Supreme Court struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which made adultery illegal unless with the husband’s consent and didn’t allow women the right to complain against an adulterous husband. While it was welcomed by most women’s groups, Maliwal described it as a “ridiculous judgment”.

“Rather than making the adultery law gender-neutral and giving women the right to complain if their husbands cheat on them, the court has scrapped the law itself,” she said at the time. “I don’t think the right to cheat is a human right.

“Besides, for women like us, it may be easy to walk out of a marriage if our husbands are cheating on us, but the hundreds of thousands of women I deal with, leaving their husbands is not an option,” she had said, “What recourse do they have?”

Explaining her position further, Maliwal told ThePrint that it was one thing for liberals to celebrate autonomy and freedom, and advise people to walk out of unhappy marriages, “But do we see how easy it is for men to say they are unhappy in a marriage?

“They get unhappy if their wife gains weight or doesn’t cook properly. Should they be given the licence to cheat,” she asked.

Maliwal’s criticism of women who file fake rape cases came as the Supreme Court acquitted two men of sexual assault charges after they had spent seven and 10 years in jail.

“Due to false rape complaint, two brothers spent 7 years in jail,” she tweeted, “Now SC acquitted them, but who will compensate them for the immense humiliation and pain they went through?” she had tweeted, “Women and girls who file false complaints should also be punished. This girl should be given 10 years in jail (sic)!”

‘Will not seal my lips’

Her comment invited a barrage of criticism from those who believed it vindicated the position of anti-women voices in society, but Maliwal does not buy any of those arguments.

“I am working day in and day out for women… I’m filing hundreds of FIRs on their behalf, so I obviously believe them,” she said.

“I still maintain that nine out of 10 women are speaking the truth, but what about those men who spent seven years in jail because of a false complaint,” she asked.

“Just because I am pro-women and a feminist, it doesn’t mean I will seal my lips if a man is wronged,” Maliwal said.

“I believe the survivor all the time, but if a case has gone through the scrutiny of the highest court of the land and is proved to be false, why should I not say anything?” she said. “I don’t want myself to be bracketed and people to think I will always be saying the same thing no matter what the issue is.”


Also read: India not only doesn’t want to scrap Victorian adultery law, it wants women included too


Maliwal, who is a strong votary of death penalty for rape – another sticky point between her and other feminists – said, “I am neither liberal nor conservative… I’m here to speak for women, not a particular ideology.”

Welcoming the Central government’s decision to maintain a sex offenders’ registry, another move opposed by several women rights activists on the ground that it precludes the possibility of reformation, Maliwal said, “It is my right to know if someone sitting next to me has been a predator.”

The registry, launched last month, is currently only available to law enforcement agencies.

“After I have that knowledge, I am free to conclude he is a changed man, but I should have that knowledge first,” said Maliwal. “The list should be made public.”

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  1. There is a problem with her reasoning. First, if a woman cannot walk out of a marriage despite her husband cheating ,there can two reason : Financial dependence and/or societal pressure. Under such circumstance, it is mental and emotional torture for a woman to stay in the marriage. Instead, divorce with alimony is a better option. A culture should be prompted where the individual and it’s well being should lie above the institution of marriage.

    Second, even if you criminalize adultery and make it gender neutral, the purpose of the law stands defeated and contradictory. If a woman complains against her cheating husband because she does not want to walk out of the marriage and if the husband is found guilty and is sent to jail, the marriage anyway will fall apart on two levels. Who will support her then? And even if he comes out after few year, how will they live together when one sent the other one to jail?

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