The other day I was invited to an interactive session on ‘Human Rights in India: Challenges before Civil Society’ organized by the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) – Goa Chapter, and moderated by two extremely capable individuals who justified their standing in their fields of expertise. Needless to say, it was a jam-packed lecture hall with invitees from both the print and electronic media, and a few well-known activists.
It was a lively session no doubt, but unfortunately meandered way off course within no time. The verbal lashing of various NGOs and the inevitable splurging of communal hues to the whole show rendered the meeting meaningless, reducing it to an effusion of unwanted themes that the audience was never short of.
In this rhapsodic melee, a singular voice stood out for its clarity of thoughts - a young girl in her early 20s who dared to call ‘a spade a spade’ without any pretensions! I was taken in by the spontaneity of the lass. Driving home her arguments based on bare logic, she momentarily dwelt on a subject that none of us ever thought of! In line with the highly hyped ‘women empowerment’, her concern for those males who are unfortunate victims of domestic violencemerits much consideration.
In a male dominated society where the persecution of females has necessitated a rigorous campaign over the years to empower women, that the males hold a grouse against the womenfolk is a fact that needs some convincing.
A henpecked husband is the butt of all jokes; moreover violence against men by their spouses has been depicted as a humourous interlude in the media and elsewhere. It is just impossible to envisage such a situation where you have husbands rushing to police stations or approaching courts seeking succor for all the humiliation heaped on them by their better-halves and the discomfiture caused.
But a rising graph of such crimes in recent times makes one sit up and take notice of these disturbing trends. Acts of spousal violence are almost equal between men and women nationwide. However, violence against women is constituted as a human rights violation, whereas violence against men is not! Yet, what distinguishes the two is that while in the first instance, the weaker sex, as they are wont to be called, cry hoarse over the ill-treatment met out to them, the men prefer to bear it out stoically.
Nevertheless when faced with the shocking reality that most men complaining of mistreatment suffer in silence for fear of being discredited or ridiculed by the society, the feeling that the lack of social support contributes considerably to this dilemma is further strengthened. The social stigma associated with coming forward is a hurdle to males getting the help they need, resulting in a lot of psychological, and sometimes, irreparable trauma to the abused male.
Though a universal problem, domestic violence against men is completely ignored by the society and government. While there are no laws to protect men from any form of domestic abuse, the spread of radical feminist thinking in every sphere of public life gives one a distinct feeling that legal protections given to women have been designed to serve as weapons for legal harassment of men only - the misuses (more than the advantages) of IPC Section 498 - A, for instance!
Espousing the cause of women’s rights, feminism could be thought of as a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing and defending equal political, economic and social rights for women. Masculinism correspondingly is the advocacy of the rights or needs of men. If masculinism and feminism exist as counterparts, why harp on the special privileges for the weaker gender?
The perception that domestic and sexual crimes are overwhelmingly committed by men and that the victims are invariably women and children, needs to be dispelled once and for all. In fact one would be surprised by the atrocities the so-called educated and cultured women of urban India commit against men and their own children.
One is then forced to ask whether the ‘empowerment’ of women has also managed to attract all the unwanted embellishments that go with such social crusades. In any case, empowering women at the cost of men is just not right by any yardstick!
If I may be allowed to quote psychologist Helen Smith, “Our society shames men who are abused by women just as it shamed and blamed women many years ago who were abused by men. Neither strategy is a good one for a society that purports to promote justice and fairness.”