Gender & policy
'Where is the national policy for men? What about men's suicides? Why do you hate the boy child?!'

An army of men’s rights activists are outraging over the Ministry of Women and Child Development’s latest draft on the National Women’s Policy. With the ministry inviting suggestions, men’s rights activists have taken it upon themselves and over the comments section to vehemently oppose the draft policy.

The draft policy defines women empowerment as a "socio-political ideal envisioned in relation to the wider framework of women’s rights" and aims, with its programs, to ensure "equal rights and opportunities for women in the family, community, workplace and in governance.”

Comments have called the draft gender-biased towards women, unconstitutional and prone to misuse – and those are just the innocuous ones of the lot. One user who goes by the name of Hari Narayan Yadav_2 asks, “Where is the national policy for men? When are you going to ask women to work instead of filing false cases against men and their relatives to extort money? Why is boy child not important to you?”

Another one calculates how the policy will “eliminate the existence of men in India”.

“50% of reservation for women in local bodies election means, the percent of elected women in local bodies will be between 50% to 100% whereas men will have 0% to 50% only. There is a probability of 0% place for men in local civic bodies governance. This is against the Constitution right of equality,” writes Sahayaselvam.

Many others argue that this policy would be another weapon in Indian women’s armory, apart from Section 498A and the Domestic Violence Act. “Women are using 498A as a weapon. As a result 40% marriages are breaking,” states Pradeep Kumar_727.

So, what exactly do their female counterparts have to say about this seemingly ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘absurd’ policy?

“I’ll bet none of them have even read the constitution,” says Ranjana Kumari, a political scientist and director of Center for Social Research.

“If they did, they’d have known that the Directive Principles of State Policy do provide for the government to make special provisions for ensuring equal opportunity for women. There are clear cut guidelines in the constitution to work for the upliftment of women,” she asserts.

Shobha Oza, President of the Mahila Congress emphasizes on the acute need for the gender-sensitive policy given that more than six decades after independence, women’s fight for equal rights is not over in India. “Men actually get to make the best of the laws. Despite existing reservation, what is the proportion of women you do see in the parliament?” she challenges.

“Sure, they aren’t stopping us explicitly but are they creating an environment conducive to equal participation? The constitution doesn’t ban the entry of women into places of worship. And yet, norms have been created so that women have to fight for that too,” she adds.

Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association laughs off allegations of laws like Domestic Violence Act being misused. “Misused? They are underused!” she exclaims, adding that in her experience, a woman is often subjected to abuse multiple times before she reports it, if at all.

“What these men’s rights activists are fighting for is not equal rights, but for the right to enjoy privilege,” she says.

Krishnan recounts an incident where she was on a debate on a national channel where a woman was claiming that a false case of harassment and abuse had been filed against his son, behind which rallied the men’s rights activists on the panel. However, the mother-in-law also accidently let slip these words towards the end of her monologue – “She went and even took away the dowry she had got!”

“She (the mother-in-law) obviously thought that she is entitled to dowry. It is the same sense of the entitlement that these men (who have commented on the policy) have. In fact, they should rename themselves to MPA – Men’s Privilege Activists,” she says.

However, Krishnan also opines that the draft is a weak policy and has many problems. However, the need for a policy is something that all activists echo.

Meanwhile Aleyamma Vijayan, a social worker and secretary of Sakhi Resource Centre for Women, has a simple response to the hateful voices. “We live in a patriarchal society and men responding like this reiterates that. And that is why we need a policy that puts women at an equal footing,” she says.