‘Harassed’ husbands take up cudgels

Mumbai: “Indian male – hapless animal”; “women empowered men unpowered”; “husband not an ATM machine”, “options for Indian male – be henpecked or handcuffed”… these are some of the messages flashed on placards by members of various organisations who had gathered at Azad Maidan on the occasion of International Men’s Day on Thursday, to raise their voice against the perceived harassment of men at the hands of the Indian judicial system.

Members of the Indian Family Foundation (IFF), Protect Indian Family Foundation, Child’s Right and Family welfare and the Save Indian Family Movement held a dharna to create awareness about the problems faced by men. A bike rally was also held, with many members from Pune participating.

The men particularly targeted section 498A, which they said is often misused by women to get husbands arrested for harassment. They shouted slogans against the National Commission for Women (NCW) and the misuse of the Domestic Violence Act, and demanded a separate ministry for men.

According to Bunty Jain, founder member, IFF, “Most cases where section 498A is invoked turn out to be false. Baseless allegations are made against men to extort money from them, and the law and the police support women, without making complete inquiries. The laws are wife-centric, not even woman-centric, because the husband’s mother or sister is not taken into account,” he said.

Jain, who calls himself a victim, had to pay a large sum of money to his wife as alimony and is now fighting the domestic violence case that his wife filed against him. “The Domestic Violence Act should be made gender-neutral,” he said.

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Rakesh Jaiswal, who was also part of the dharna, feels that the time has now come for men to fight for gender parity. His wife, who left him two years ago, slapped a section 498A dowry harassment case against him and demanded a huge sum as alimony.” She earns about Rs2.5 lakh per annum, but I still have to pay her alimony. How is this fair?” he asked.

Another major concern is child custody, as the men feel it is always tougher for the father to be able to get custody of children. Many women were also part of dharna, most of them the mothers of “harassed” husbands. Borivli resident Kamal Kapadia, 59, claimed that her daughter-in-law made 23 allegations against her, all of them false.

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