RECENTLY I filed a writ petition in the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, praying for the formation of a National and State-level Men’s Commission to look into specific men-oriented issues and problems.
The focus of the petition is on the unique problems being faced by males. It says that the petitioner fully understands, realises and appreciates the fact that in society at large and particularly in Indian society, women in general occupy a more difficult place vis-à-vis their male counterparts. Thus, it is universally accepted that women face many specific and special problems. The nature of society, its long evolution, its complexion, its ethos, its values, culture and mores are such that generally it gives a natural advantage to men compared to women. So, generally the males seem to enjoy a definite superior position compared to women as regards various aspects of life.
The petition further says that many a time this superior position also results in men misusing their authority vis-à-vis women in various ways, resulting in women’s atrocities, women’s harassment, sexual assault, and so on. This makes one understand the need for special bodies, like a Women’s Commission, and special laws that can look after the specific needs and special demands of women.
But at the same time, society is changing. What used to be the situation a hundred years ago is not there today. Even during the last few years, there has been a massive change in society. More and more women are becoming empowered. There are many women now in society who are educationally, socially, economically, culturally and politically very strong.
What the above facts state is that though women still have, in general, a position allegedly supportive and subordinate to men, in reality a substantial percentage of women are today defying this rule. This number is rapidly increasing by the day and the number of empowered/enlightened and strengthened women is growing by leaps and bounds.
Hence, unlike previous times, when the only possibility perhaps was for the men to harass, suppress, torture, ill-treat, condemn, castigate and chastise the women, through their superior mental, physical, social, educational, cultural and economic positions, today the time has come when there are any number of women who are superiorly placed than many men in several aspects and, as a result, there are more and more examples of women misusing their authority, power, prestige and position in different ways to harass, suppress, torture, ill-treat, condemn, castigate and chastise men.
In addition, misuse of law and legal options by women has also become much more rampant. The misuse of the provisions of Section 498-A IPC is often alleged by a large number of people, where a substantial number of people are there to say that they were wrongly, unnecessarily and improperly framed under the said Section. This must have been the reason for the Supreme Court of India to state in Arnesh Kumar vs State of Bihar and Another: “The fact that Section 498-A 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. The simplest way to harass is to get the husband and his relatives arrested under this provision. In quite a number of cases, bed-ridden grandfathers and grandmothers of the husbands, their sisters living abroad for decades are arrested.”
It is well known that every Commission, be it the National and State SC-ST Commissions, Minorities Commissions, Women’s Commissions, Backward Class Commissions, and so on, have been formed on the fundamental hypothesis that they shall have a sensitive, sympathetic and empathetic perspective as regards the specific sections they are catering to.
The time seems to have come when a male also deserves a Commission specifically oriented to his needs as a male when he is being harassed or deprived solely for being a male.
When I had filed this petition based on the aforesaid arguments, I had not known that it would generate such a huge response. Since the time I have filed it, I have been flooded with people meeting me, calling me on the phone, sending congratulatory and grateful email messages. My Twitter account has not stopped getting tweets and re-tweets on this topic, making me realise that the matter is possibly much more serious and heartrending than I previously perceived it to be. Almost all these people are personal victims of misuse of women-oriented laws. Some of them had to spend days behind bars in what they claim to be completely false cases of dowry and women’s harassment. One person who came to meet me said that he was implicated by his wife in a dowry case while the fact was that it was he who was providing her family members with all kinds of financial support. He had all the evidence to prove the monetary support he had been rendering to his former wife’s family members and yet he had to spend days behind bars. Another person, who allegedly had to undergo the same kind of trauma, has now turned into a poet and singer who writes only men’s harassment-related songs and sings them as part of public awareness.
The pain, anguish and agony in these people’s voices is truly heart-rending and some of these people, who had to go through such extremely unpleasant experiences in life, had so much pathos in their voices that it was truly touching.
To quite some extent, this facet of life was not known to me. For good or for bad, I have had a marital life where there have been regular ups and downs but I have never had such extremely intense pain and anguish on that front so as to realise and understand it. But the filing of this petition exposed me to a completely new world where I could easily perceive lakhs of people actually living with such mental conditions, where harassment by women has brought a morbid and deeply hateful feeling in them for women as the perpetrators of all kinds of crimes and harbingers of all the injustices of the world. I am sure most of the people who have not passed through this phase of life would not be able to appreciate and understand this facet of life and I also know that feminists and women rights-oriented activists might also claim this to be abjectly wrong. I remember a TV discussion I participated in which where a strong feminist not only opposed this idea tooth and nail, she also ridiculed the mere concept of men’s harassment by women as being a complete chimera.
But today, after having filed this petition and after having interacted with so many actual sufferers, I can say with complete confidence and strength that protection of rights of such men who are suffering solely for being men is sorely needed. At the same time, this experience also makes me realise that many a time we remain oblivious of the sensitive issues related with many marginalised classes like such tortured males and often mainstream perceptions like women being harassed by males rules the public imagination on such a massive scale that the issues related with marginalised and subaltern classes get completely ignored. This experience once again shows the dangers of stereotyping and the sooner we get rid of the tendency to stereotype things the better will society be able to deliver justice to all classes.
Amitabh Thakur, an IPS officer from UP, is also working for transparency in governance. The views expressed are personal