Sunday, 18 January 2015

Gender Equality: Do men get a fair deal?

Gender equality is a term which we hear a lot about every day. From all corners of the world, there is demand to follow gender equal behavior and laws. As per the feminists, women all around the world were once a highly oppressed class. There were no voting rights given to women, they did not have a say in the decisions made in the house, they could not go out and work, etc. Then the first of wave of feminism arose, which focused on the promotion of equal contract, marriage, parenting, and property rights for women. This was a good move which then went a long way to provide some basic equal rights to women. But as the feminist movements advanced, each and every aspect of life was being targeted in favor of women to achieve gender equality. But is this gender equality giving men a fair deal?

As per Men's rights groups around the globe, now a days, the opinion that we are staying in a patriarchal society is a complete myth. By saying that we are staying in a male dominated society, we are indirectly just trying to instill a feeling of guilt inside an ordinary man. What this does is to make a man feel that a woman’s right is more important than his own. And this way, men stop bothering about their own rights and in turn gets manipulated to a large extent by feminist ideologies. This dents the confidence and self respect of men big time. This is a very sad truth. Men cannot tell their problems openly as compared to women due to the fact that they are made fun of by common people and thus men commit suicides at a much higher rate than women. But sensitivity towards men’s issues is absolutely minimal.

This statement does not look like a made up story when we see the NCRB data for suicides in India. As per NCRB data, around 80000 men committed suicide in the year 2012 against around 40000 women. The number is double the number of women committing suicide.

So, are men’s issues really ignored where as we are quite sympathetic about women’s issues?
Feminist groups and women organizations deny this theory point blank. They say that they just want to ensure that women get their rights and for that to happen, they need a helping hand. Women have been oppressed in this country for years and they need our special care and attention to come out and be independent and strong.

On discussing the same with Men's rights activists, they said that they do not have any issues with women fighting for their rights but trying to achieve rights at the cost of another person’s rights cannot be acceptable. There are innumerable evidences around us where we can clearly see the discrimination.

“We are very sensitive to women who are harassed by their in laws, but we never even blink an eye when we hear a man getting harassed in the hands of wives or in laws. On many occasion, the husband is beaten up by goons sent by the in laws, but still no sympathies and support for men. If this is what we get from equality, then we completely condemn such equality!”

Providing some more information on what is happening at a grass root level. Mudit (name changed) from Rajasthan got hold of a class 7 Social science text book. There were a lot of chapters condemning the “Male dominated society” and terming men guilty for the oppression of women directly and indirectly.

An entire chapter has been allocated towards women and their achievements but none for men.

“This type of things taught at such a young age makes a deep impression on the male child’s psyche. They start believing themselves guilty of all the atrocities done on women, where as they never ever were even born when anything like that was happening! Also, these things make a male child believe women to be superior to them and thus many times dent their confidence badly. Being made to feel guilty conscious, they start believing that they need to adjust to make the ladies feel comfortable. Even if a girl/woman is wrong, they feel the need to keep quiet to compensate for something which they have never ever done and in turn they quietly get harassed themselves.” says Mudit.

“These attributes become deeply rooted inside and becomes stronger as they grow up. Now, they start feeling ashamed for crimes against which has never been done by them. We can see videos where men apologize on behalf of some XYZ person who committed a crime against women. This in turn damages the image of men drastically. This is a vicious cycle and feminization of men starts as early as the moment they join schools. This is a case of serious concern as men themselves turn against getting equality for fellow men.” added Mudit.

Fake cases of rape and dowry are also rising at a rampant rate. As per NCRB data for Delhi, only 23% rape cases are turning into actual conviction. Rest 77%, either complainant turns hostile, or is a case of sex with promise of marriage, eloped couples, etc.

These figures are very alarming. More and more girls are grossly misusing the laws made for their safety. Whenever a woman cries rape, she gets lot of sympathy from all over the country. They even get some benefits from the government to compensate for the tragedy. But, just imagine the fate of a guy implicated with a fake rape case. He loses respect, loses his job, is arrested for a good number of days and also sometimes loses his parents who die out of shock. Stones are thrown on him, dirty language used by people on him. People don’t want to mix with them because he is considered a rapist. And the saddest part is that this continues even if the guy is acquitted. Nobody is ready to accept that fact that the court has cleared him. His entire life is spoiled by one fake case, but no compensation is provided. Such is the travesty of justice!

A men’s right activist from Bangalore added” Whenever we hear any female celebrity involved in sex rackets or prostitution, sympathy pours in for her and people are ready to totally ignore her condemnable deed. They even question media for showing her face in public. Whereas when a mere rape allegation is put on male celebrity, the same bunch starts making highly derogatory comments on him and starts terming him as criminal. Why such double standards?”

The other side of this is something very unheard of. Men are also sexually harassed by men or also women! But, this is much more grossly unreported than female rapes because men are supposed to be lucky to have sex with a girl even if by force or are laughed at by society and become a source of many jokes made on them.

Recently as per US magazine Times report on March 25, 2014, New study says it's possible for women to rape men. 18% of surveyed guys say women used physical force to make them have sex against their will. This study challenges some widely held assumptions about coercion, sexual assault and gender. According to a paper published in the American Psychological Association journal, Psychology of Men and Masculinity43% of high school and college-aged men say they have had “unwanted sexual contact,” and 95% of those say a female acquaintance was the aggressor. Researchers surveyed 284 young men and found that 18% reported sexual coercion by force, 31% said they were verbally coerced sex, and 26% said they’d experienced “unwanted seduction by sexual behavior.” Half of those surveyed said they ended up having sex against their will, 10% said sex was attempted, and 40% said the coercion resulted in fondling or kissing.

Thus, male rape does not look like far-fetched idea at all. According to NCRB 2012 data, 175 men have been kidnapped and abducted for the purpose of illicit intercourse since 2009. The cases have been registered under Sec.363 to 369, 371 to 373 of Indian Penal Code (IPC). Men too are vulnerable is evident from another disturbing statistic. The NCRB report also shows that since 2009, 995 men were either kidnapped or abducted for forceful marriage. NCRB data further shows that 115 men were kidnapped for the purpose of prostitution. Most of the kidnappings and abductions of men for the purpose of getting sexual favor have been reported within 18 to 30 years and 30 to 50 years age group.

Men are again on the receiving end here in terms of equality. Sexual assault on men is not at all considered seriously and no sympathy for such victims.
Other than rape law, other laws like Dowry law or 498A, Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, Maintenance, etc. are also being grossly misused by many women.
Recently a bench in Supreme Court laid out guidelines to stop automatic arrests in dowry cases. Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Prasad said there had been a phenomenal increase in dowry harassment cases in India in the last few years. "The fact that Section 498A is a cognizable and non-bailable offence has lent it a dubious place of pride amongst the provisions that are used as weapons rather than shield by disgruntled wives," he said. "The simplest way to harass is to get the husband and his relatives arrested under this provision. In a quite number of cases, bed-ridden grand-fathers and grand-mothers of the husbands, their sisters living abroad for decades are arrested," he said. The bench quoted "Crime in India 2012 Statistics" published by National Crime Records Bureau to say that nearly 2 lakh people were arrested in India in 2012 under Section 498-A, which was 9.4% more than in 2011.

"Nearly a quarter of those arrested under this provision in 2012 were women i.e. 47,951 which depict those others and sisters of the husbands were liberally included in their arrest net. Its share is 6% out of the total persons arrested under the crimes committed under Indian Penal Code. It accounts for 4.5% of total crimes committed under different sections of penal code, more than any other crimes excepting theft and hurt," it said.

"The rate of charge-sheeting in cases under Section 498A is as high as 93.6%, while the conviction rate is only 15%, which is lowest across all heads. As many as 3,72,706 cases are pending trial of which on current estimate, nearly 3,17,000 are likely to result in acquittal," the bench said illustrating the misuse of Section 498A as a tool to harass husband and his relatives.

Mr Surendra (name changed) narrated his experience, “I was married to this girl a year ago. I asked her if she had any affairs with anyone, to which she coolly replied negative. But, just 5 days after our marriage, she just ran away with all jewelry. After reaching her father’s house, she filed a domestic violence complaint and marriage annulment. After that i traced her calls and found that she had illicit affair with a guy in her maternal place and she used to talk to him for hours together.”

Another victim of fake case Mr Ramesh (name changed) said, “I was very happy with my marriage and did a lot for my wife. But one fine day was shocked when a guy stopped my bike and warned me that if I don’t spend more money on “his girlfriend”, he will “punish me”. Afterwards when I got the recordings of a few calls of my wife, I was just near tears. I could clearly hear them having personal conversations as if they were a couple. She even used to bring him to my house in my absence as told to me by my neighbors. After a few days, she filed a DV case on me and left my house. Her intention is to leave after squeezing a good amount from me and start a life with the other guy. Even after being harassed by my wife, I did not have any law or government body to support me and on the contrary, she filed case against me doubling my sufferings. Where will men like me go to seek justice? ”

In many other incidents as told by victims, mostly the girls misbehaved badly with her husband and her in laws, some went on to hit old parents in laws with slippers. Their demand was to separate from the in laws and live with her parents. The girl’s parents were supposed to be completely supporting their daughter’s demands. Thus, girl’s family’s interference and support seemed to be a major cause of breaking of families. But again we have an intriguing question, are equal rights given to men? When it is said that it is a male dominated society or patriarchy, then why are men having no rights or laws for their safety? Are men an ignored section of the society?

Partha Sadhukhan from Bangalore did some analysis on UNESCO data, the following tables taken from recent UNESCO report clearly depicts that Boy’s education is coming down –

Please note the increased GPI in 2011 and more enrollment of girls for pre-primary education.

The point to be noted here is that lesser number of boys intake in 2011 compared to the year 1999 and a substantial increase in GPI (F/M). This shows that currently the main issue is the girls are sent to school while the boys are kept out of the school, which is very alarming.

Activists agree with this statement. “Government is concentrating on girl child’s education, women friendly laws, women’s safety, etc. The plans and laws can easily be gender neutral and men’s safety is a bigger concern as men are more prone to crimes in India. But even after men contributing more than 80% of the tax money, are treated as second class citizens." 

More and more laws are being made to harass men. Now, should men work for the betterment of the country or spend time and resources fighting fake cases against themselves? Now, Govt is trying to bring an amendment to marriage laws where after 3 years of separation, divorce can be filed on the ground of IrBM or Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage. But, only women have been given the right to oppose it and also can get 50% of the husband’s property and his inherited and inheritable property as well. This is clearly a violation of section 14 of the constitution of India which states no discrimination can be done against anyone on basis of cast, creed, religion or gender. Also, this is law is looking forward to penalize only men for a broken marriage. Wives only stand to gain from it as she bags all of her husband’s property in her kitty. Her and her inherited and inheritable properties have no mention in the laws. These are gross injustice to men and society as a whole. Marriage has become a punishment for men. In the future more men will skip marriages and start having Civil Unions in the lines of USA and this in turn will mark the end of Indian culture and society completely.

Men’s right activists are campaigning vigorously for changing/scrapping existing and against bringing new women friendly laws. They also demand the formation of a Men’s body in the lines of National Commission of Women.

“There are government bodies for women, animals and anything you can imagine, but no commission for men. Are men so unwanted? Where is equality?” is the intriguing question here.

But many people have different thought, they think that situation is improving, only thing that it is a slow procedure. Supreme Court recently termed section 498A as “Legal Terrorism” and has stopped automatic arrests. 
Many women also understand the violation of men’s rights and have joined in fighting for men’s rights. They too understand that to have a sane society, everyone needs to have equal rights.

People need to understand that fighting for women’s rights does not mean violating men’s rights. To have a healthy society, the need of the hour is to understand and give importance to each other’s rights and issues.

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