There is no denying the fact International Women’s Day is big in India. Billboards and magazine adverts that are published months before March 8 ensure that the day doesn’t go unnoticed.
Contrary to that — International Men’s Day gets no attention in India. Apart from a couple of Facebook post International Men’s Day on Nov. 19 largely went unnoticed. It seems even big brands have not woken up to the possibilities of the big day.
Wonder why is that? I believe women’s issues might be in focus these days, but it’s the men who are often caught in the quagmire of sweeping social changes that is India now.
In my opinion men’s issues in India need to be addressed as much as women’s issues. In fact, some of the issues that men face are not regarded as issues at all. But if we delve deeper we will see these issues have long-term social consequences.
Indian men are perpetually caught between the mother and the wife
Like parents living with their married sons is the norm in India, ugly daughter-in-law-mom-law-relationships are equally the order of the day. While moms believe that they have a right on their sons and hence they are the decision makers in the household, more and more educated and financially independent wives are challenging that. Caught in between this battle of rights are the men who don’t know whose side to take.
After a grueling day at work it is not uncommon to see a man cringing about going back home because the moment he rings the doorbell both the women in his life rush to answer it only to pour out their woes to him.
Sudin Ghosh, an IT professional, (name changed) had a heart attack at 40. He solely blames the unbearable tension that his mom and wife created at home for his ill health. “But my heart attack changed my mom and wife’s attitude towards me only for a few days. They quickly went back to bickering over everything. I prefer to go and sit in a park from work. I only return home late at night. I am also on anti-depressants.”
Moving out is often not an option because of financial constraints and parental pressure. But many men are now opting for that even if it means burning a bigger hole in the pocket. One man said, “We sold our house and I bought an apartment for my parents with the money and I moved with my family to a rented accommodation. But my mother stays at our place most of the time saying she misses my daughter and the mental peace that I hoped for with this step is just not there.”
Martyrs of marriage
The martyrs of marriage website states:
“More than 62,000 married men committed suicide in year 2011 alone, as per official records of the National Crime Records Bureau, an entity under the Ministry of Home Affairs, India.”
More and more men are resorting to this alternative because of severe mental, physical and economical abuse in strained marital relationships. The worst however is the legal torture that men of this country are subjected to – courtesy section 498A of IPC. Any woman of this country can file this section against her husband, his parents and relatives (howsoever distant they are), at any point of marriage (even after 22 years), get them arrested and make them a puppet in hands of police, media and judiciary. Even if it’s a false allegation, a person has to undergo the trial, and he is considered guilty until proven innocent. The only way out for a husband’s family, if implicated in a false case is either to give in to the demands of the women (property, cash and any other fancy demands) or fight the case with the system for the next 5-6 years at least. Even the Supreme Court of India has accepted the misuse of IPC 498A and termed it as “Legal Terrorism.”
Section 498A was drafted to save women from domestic violence but the misuse of the section has lead to unbelievable trauma to men and their families.
I know two people very closely who have gone through the horrors of this section. While one person’s wife committed suicide in her parental home, her family lodged a complaint under this section and he was immediately arrested along with his elderly parents. His parents were released within 15 days but he got bail only after two months. It took him 10 years to prove his innocence.
In case of the other person his wife framed a case against him and asked for a hefty amount for an out-of-court settlement only after bribing the police to torture him in custody. But he refused to give her a single penny and instead chose to prove his innocence. He travelled from Delhi to Kolkata for eight years to fight his case and finally emerged victorious.
Deepika Narayan Bharadwaj is a documentary filmmaker who’s making a film Martyrs of Marriage on this legal terrorism delving into case studies.
There is no escape from financial responsibility
Indian women can opt for a career or become homemakers no one would question that. But in the case of men, especially in urban Indian society, if he is not earning a living and pursuing a career he is regarded a bit less of a man.
The pressure is always a more on the men to excel in their studies to make the cut at tough entrance exams, to study as engineers, doctors or IT professionals or join the family businesses and take it to new heights.
On top of that they have to be in conventional professions. A man might be earning hordes as a musical band member or a private tutor but his brand value in the marriage market will be nil.
And despite all the progress Indian women are making, a career woman with a fat pay pack will never go for a man who opts to keep the house tidy and pamper her when she comes back home from work.
Yes, house husbands are still a trend yet to catch up in India. Some men are opting out of the rat race to stay at home but that is only after they have achieved financial security and proved their credibility.
Indian men have to deal with negative perceptions about them
Because of a spate of rape cases in India and escalating violence against women in the country which is being widely reported in the international media, Indian men have to constantly deal with negative perceptions.
In May this year when an Indian student was denied an internship at the biochemistry department of a German university citing the rape problem in India, it raised an international furore. But this in a way shows how Indian men are perceived now.
Navin Agarwal, a student in a university in Canada, said, “The recent incidents have created the impression that men in India are a violent, sexually perverse lot and no woman is safe there. I feel like I have to constantly clear my name for a crime I have not committed.”
Amrita Mukherjee is a freelance journalist who writes on social issues in India with focus on women. She divides her time between Dubai and India and blogs at www.amritaspeaks.com
The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Asia Times.
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