I have come across thousands of these cases - cases where broken marriages have turned into dowry cases, failed affairs have turned into rape cases

I am Deepika Bhardwaj and here is why I chose to fight for men
Blog Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 14:50

If you are neutral on situations of Injustice, You have chosen side of the Oppressor – Desmond Tutu

Seeing my uncles leave their parents and set up separate homes no matter how much they loved their parents and wanted to keep them along, was a normal for me as a young girl. I never bothered to think about it. Though I saw the pain in eyes of these old and ailing parents, I thought it probably was more important for a man to listen to his wife than to those who brought him up in this world, taught him how to walk and made him the man he is today. I grew up and saw few of these men completely snapped from family ties but once again I never bothered to enquire much.

Three years ago, I was forced to THINK.

A very dear friend of mine was on brink of divorce a year after his marriage and two months after his parents started living with the couple. His wife gave him two options - leave his parents forever or divorce with a huge sum.  He chose the latter. I still remember endless drives where he spoke less and cried more for that decision. He never wanted to break his marriage but was forced to. He was also forced to pay a price that was worth his and his parent’s life’s savings. This time, though I did think why he was paying so much, I did not get too much into reasons.

Two years ago, I was forced to ACT.

It happened again. A young boy, who fell in love with innocence of this girl, was cheated and cheated beyond explanation. She was a dream to him; he was a tissue for her. He married her for making a home; she married him for societies tag.  She loved another man and this marriage was just a part of the plan! He felt humiliated. She felt victorious. He did not want her to go. She wanted divorce. He consented to amicable separation. She cried DOWRY! The man was given two choices – divorce with a huge sum or a dowry case and family behind bars!

I accompanied my cousin to meet a retired Judge and seek guidance. There had been no dowry demand and the girl was lying. “Truth has no significance” he said. “As a husband you can do nothing to save you and your family if she wants to file a dowry case. It doesn’t matter if you are right or she is wrong. What she says is right,” was his confession. I was enraged. I told him that we had evidences! He laughed saying “A woman isn’t punished for adultery in this country. However, she can file endless false cases against you, get you arrested under 498A and make you run around courts for years until you satisfy her demands. She’s a woman.”

My cousin was extorted too. I saw his family’s trauma and his transition from a cheerful boy to a shattered man. I still can’t forget his screams. That’s when I understood why my friend paid, why my cousin paid and why men compromise.

After my cousin’s case, suddenly I saw it happening everywhere. Or perhaps what I had ignored for years was now staring at my face. I started researching on dowry cases and realized what media had told me wasn’t the only truth.  Deeper I went uglier was reality behind these cases.  The other side of 498A left me utterly confused as a woman – How can I use a law when I am wrong? How can it allow me to play with anyone’s life? How can it be used as a weapon? How can ‘she’ be always right and he be ‘always’ wrong? How can it allow a woman get away with so many lies?  That night I stumbled upon suicide video of Syed Ahmad Makhdoom in which he describes false 498A and his ordeals as the reason behind his death. It changed my life...

I could no longer ignore. I could no longer be Neutral and side the oppressor. That’s when I decided to raise my voice against misuse of laws by women and fight for ones never considered victim – Men.

Increasingly - men in India are becoming victims of systematic abuse through gender biased laws. Laws where his innocence doesn’t matter, where he is presumed guilty and where a mere verbal accusation by a woman makes him puppet in hands of police and judiciary for years to come. Laws where he is humiliated, abused, extorted and pushed to the brink for being a Man!

In last two years, I have come across thousands of these cases - cases where broken marriages have turned into dowry cases, failed affairs have turned into rape cases, appraisal rejections have turned into sexual harassment cases, property dispute turned into outraging modesty and street fights turned into molestation - Just because a woman now has the power to “feel” like a victim the way she wants and her words are enough to nail a man.

Misuse of laws isn’t the only issue. Problem is absolute apathy to problems of Men. There is no law in India that recognises Violence on Men by his spouse/partner. There is no law in India to analyse abuse on men by women. There is no law in India that clocks murders/burning/suicide of married men by wife or in-laws (like Dowry Death of women). Domestic Violence act that recognises emotional, economical, physical, sexual violence doesn’t accept man as a victim to any of this violence. Despite the fact that number of men committing suicide in India is twice that of women – there is not a single helpline dedicated to men. Forget about having any laws for him, if a married man who is abused, uses his only option – Divorce, he can rest assured of dozen of cases by his wife. So from a victim he becomes an accused!

Women right activists often argue with me that number of abused men is very less.  I ask– when there is no law to assess their abuse, how can there be numbers. Moreover neither is numbers my game nor is holding placards with statistics my bread and butter.  My fight is for injustice to men in name of justice to women - even if it’s for just one man. I wish to help every man who is a victim of this systematic abuse and hope to fight until justice stops looking through the eyes of Gender.

(Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj is a Journalist and a documentary filmmaker. She is currently documenting misuse of section 498A of IPC through her documentary film 'Martyrs of Marriage.' She can be reached @DeepikaBhardwaj on twitter or martyrsofmarriage@gmail.com)

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