Harassed husbands call for gender-neutral laws

While much has been discussed about domestic violence against women, are there enough laws drafted to protect men in case of harassment as well? To seek answers for the same, Save the Family Foundation organised a protest against the Domestic Violence Act in the capital recently. According to many activists, the act is full of loopholes and is increasingly being misused by many women. Victims and NGOs working in the city to help harassed husbands now call for gender-neutral laws and highlight the loopholes in the existing laws.

“Section 19 of the Domestic Violence Act says that on the sole testimony of the victim (woman), the judge may presume that some domestic violence may have happened, without listening to the accused. And the judge may also pass a protection order. This is against the basic human rights. Shouldn’t a man be given the chance to prove himself?” says Neeraj Aggarwal, coordinator of the Save Family foundation.

Another section which favours women is Indian Penal Code’s (IPC) section 498A. Niladri Das, secretary, Gender Human Rights Society explains, “Section 498A is a non-bailable offence which protects married women from cruelty subjected to her by her husband or in-laws mainly for the purpose of dowry. And a case can be filed on mental and physical cruelty under this section. Since it’s non bailable, women have misused this law to settle scores in bad marriages and husbands are put behind bars without any evidence. At least this should be made a bailable offence.”

Interestingly, NGOs working in the field stress on the need for many more measures to ensure that there are no loopholes in the law and both genders enjoy equal rights. “Stringent penalties should be imposed on people who misuse this law to discourage its abuse by women, arrests should be made ‘only’ if there is irrefutable evidence of grave physical harm, the trial for 498A must be time bound and completed within 6 months to a year and all anti-dowry laws should be gender-neutral since both giving and taking of dowry are punishable offences,” concludes Dr Anupama Singh, president, Rakhsak, India.

Male victims who have suffered domestic violence blame factors other than just law for the injustice they are subjected to. “Cops play a major role in the process and often harass men without any evidence. My wife filed a case against me, complaining that I beat her but the dates she mentioned in the complaint were days when I wasn’t in Delhi. So when cops knew I had evidence to save myself, they secretly asked them to change the dates and filed a fake chargesheet against me,” says Ashish Kumar Sinha, a software engineer.

Source: The Asian Age

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