Let's Talk About Men's Rights in India
The underlying reason behind any major movement in the history of our world has always stemmed from the feelings of oppression and injustice. The aggrieved section of society that start the movement, aim at rebalancing the inequality in access to equal rights. Usually these movements have been led by marginalised sections of society, be it women, dalits or african-americans. Being treated as second, third or even fourth (#casteismInIndia) class citizens fuels their anger and determination until that day finally arises, when a voice finally breaks the deafening silence of injustice. Today, we’re talking about an underdog movement in India that is picking up momentum as you read this article : The men’s rights movement (MRM)! Like any other movement, its underlying cause is the feeling of injustice being perceived by aggrieved men in India.
The MRM is a movement fighting for the introduction of gender neutral laws, revision of laws that are negatively biased against men, and the termination of what they perceive as an internationally funded feminist agenda. The MRM activists primarily rally against the anti-dowry laws, domestic violence laws, divorce laws and child custody laws in India. According to these activists, these laws are misused to harass and extort money from men.
The MRM started way back in 1988 in Delhi by Supreme Court advocate Ram Prakash Chugh to fight against the psychological abuse caused by false claims of dowry harassment by wives.
Section 498A which deals with anti-dowry provisions had acquired the reputation of being the most abused law in the history of Indian jurisprudence. As per this section, the law allowed the immediate arrest of those named in a complaint. Accordingly, 2.7 million people, including 650,000 women and 7,700 children, were arrested between 1998 and 2015 due to this Section. Understandably this furthered the fire in the MRM movement.
In 2005, MRM garnered tremendous success when the Supreme Court ruled that husbands needed to be protected against the misuse of the Section 498A. The Apex court described the misuse as legal terrorism. Accordingly, it repealed the automatic arrest provisions and ordered the police to follow a nine-point checklist before arresting anyone in a dowry complaint.
Another reason for the MRM movement has been the false rape cases being registered. According to the MRM activists, many women file false rape cases after a consensual relationship goes sour. The Delhi Commission for Women reported that 53% of the rape cases filed between April 2013 and July 2014 were found to be false. When the Supreme Court judges interpret low conviction rates in cases pertaining to dowry, violence and sexual abuse, to indicate frivolity of complaints, it highlights the growing danger of the MRM movement to the much needed women’s rights movement.
The MRM consists of many organisations, most notable ones being “Save Indian Family Foundation” based in Delhi and Vaastav Foundation based in Mumbai. Amit Deshpande, founder of Vaastav foundation delivered a speech at a TEDx event on the need for Men's Rights and prevalence of male-hatred, male-mocking or ‘Misandry’ in today’s society. His foundation also released a calendar called "Malendar" marking male oriented days such as Father's Day and International Men's Day. During another campaign, 150 men from Vaastav Foundation participated in the Mumbai Marathon dressed as ATMs. Their propaganda, "A man is forced to be an ATM for his family and if he fails to protect his wife or provide for her, he is immediately accused of mistreating her."
"Feminists are driving stupidity into people's minds, infantilizing women and demonizing men as a group"
- A female MRM activist
A movement is fundamentally a fight for justice and rights. However, when one movement’s ideology demeans another movement’s fight for justice and rights, the entire idea of a movement is hypocritically defeated. That’s exactly what the MRM movement does.
While there is some rationale behind this movement, but the truth of the matter is that every 15 minutes a rape is recorded, every 5 minutes an incident of domestic violence is reported, a bride is killed for dowry every 69 minutes and every year hundreds of thousands of female foetuses are aborted and infant girls are killed! These are not just numbers but actual lives we are talking about. The women’s rights movement (commonly and wrongly referred to as Feminism among the MRM activists) has been the much needed answer to the patriarchy and misogyny that has plagued society thus far. At the end of the day we do believe that our strict laws have come into force for a reason. When a misuse is being felt by a certain group, their action should be towards addressing the misuse rather than spreading propaganda about the futility of these laws, or the false positives or in this case their misinformed views about feminism.