Photo credits: Sandeep Hegerse.
Captions and design: Uma Challa
Photo credits: Sandeep Hegerse.
Captions and design: Uma Challa
A woman against misuse of protections and privileges granted to women.
During my childhood, I often heard older women advise young girls in the family about the importance of being educated. It had little to do with the noble goal of gaining knowledge, but it was about something more practical. It was about securing employment so as to not depend on one’s husband completely, or being employable should the husband lose his health, life or limb.
It seemed, at times, that these old women were a paranoid lot who were overly worried about the possibility of ending up alone. However, I now know that some of the really wise women were actually focusing on the importance of living a life of dignity under any given circumstance.
As a child, I saw some married women, and also widows, who ran a “pooTakULLa illu” providing sumptuous meals to many hungry people, and using the money thus earned to maintain the household and educate their children. I saw women making and selling beautiful flower garlands. I saw women selling fruits, vegetables, bangles and other things. I saw women learn tailoring skills and sew clothes as a source of livelihood. I saw women learning typing and shorthand and become secretaries. I saw the more ambitious ones complete their bachelors degree and a B.Ed and become teachers. Some took the bank exams, worked as clerks and rose in the ranks to become officers too.
I still see some women constantly pushing their limits, trying to excel in what they do, and supporting themselves, while making a difference to others.
The common trait of all these hardworking women is that they held on to their dignity even through the roughest patches of their lives, and stood as good role models to their sons and daughters.
If I remember it correctly, it was sometime during the late 1980s that a strange notion of “women’s empowerment” began. Women were now being encouraged to exercise NOT their right to education, NOT their right to employment, but their “right to divorce” and “the right to be maintained by their ex-husbands”!
This new wave was pushing women to become quite the opposite of what the wise old women of my childhood were suggesting. Suddenly, it was a woman’s right to live the life of a parasite. It was a woman’s right to throw all her education and training, experience and wisdom by the wayside, and to appear in court as a mendicant seeking maintenance from her separated or ex-husband.
This new idea of “women’s empowerment” gradually began obscuring the erstwhile virtue of dignity. It was no longer important to remain positive, strong and self-reliant in the face of adverse family situations. It was more important to “teach men a lesson” by unleashing all the laws of maintenance and alimony, to achieve whatever one can, ranging from extracting paltry sums of money every month to extorting an obscenely fat one-time alimony.
As an adult, I have seen hundreds of educated and able-bodied women frequenting courts, presenting themselves as some of the most unfortunate, destitute and vagrant beings, with no abilities or skills needed for daily sustenance, and praying the courts to order their estranged husbands to maintain them.
Today, the most vociferous women’s rights activists and women’s empowerment advocates endorse and encourage parasitic existence of women sans dignity, personal satisfaction, professional enhancement nor spiritual enrichment. We have been forced to accept that this is NOT enslavement of women, but a veritable path to women’s liberation!
As a thoughtful gentleman puts it on his blog, today, “many women who can logically plot the route and plan their logistics to lawyer’s offices and courts somehow just stop themselves short of plotting their the route to their own earned livelihood and dignified living.”
There are many people who believe that paying maintenance and alimony may hurt men but “being maintained” hurts the dignity of women even more. These people rarely exercise their freedom of expression for the fear of being labeled anti-women. However, this Women’s Day, a bunch of concerned men decided to take it upon themselves to remind the world about the need to uphold women’s dignity.
On 6 March, they all stood at traffic junctions carrying boxes labeled “Wife-maintenance fund”, and handed out pamphlets which carried the following note:
I am petitioning the public for funds for MAINTENANCE as demanded by my wife. I believe that all adult human beings with a sound body and mind, whether MALE or FEMALE, are capable of working and earning for their own sustenance.
I believe that many wonderful women who have achieved success through hard work have done it on their own will with a sense of dignity and purpose. I also believe in giving the same education and ideals to my daughter also. I will discourage my daughter if she wants to depend on anyone else financially after she grows up. #REALWOMEN
If you think that women are incapable of working or doing hard work, it is a gross insult to all working women who struggle on a daily basis to maintain their sense of dignity. However, if you still wish women to completely depend on men forever; please donate some money to my wife’s maintenance fund.
But if you think that women are equal to men in terms of financial capability and hard work, please support the concept of women’s dignity by work. On this Women’s Day let us appreciate the achievements of so many wonderful working women in our lives and public arena.
These men are observing “Women’s Dignity Day” on 7 March, a day before Women’s Day.
What a thoughtful gesture! Women’s dignity should indeed come first because Women’s Day has no meaning in the absence of women’s dignity. I am sure all the wise old grannies and self-respecting young ladies would agree.
“lEchiMchi, nidra lEchiMdi mahiLaa lOkaM, daddarilliMdi puruSha prapaMchaM…” https://youtu.be/MmVujeuCKmI (the women’s world has woken up from slumber, and the man’s world shook with panic) was a song I used to love as a child. As a fiery young woman, I frowned upon what I thought was “misogyny” on the part of one of the greatest Telugu lyricists ever. Now I admire the clarity of thought of Sri Pingali Nagendra Rao gaaru who penned the song way back in 1962, at a time when the country was still tolerant to truth.
To elaborate on Pingali gaaru’s poetic rendition of facts, the first Lok Sabha in India in 1951 had 22 women MPs. Soon after, in 1955, with the advent of the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) in 1955, Indian society was, for the first time, introduced to the concept of “divorce”. Contrary to its title, the HMA has nothing to do with marriage. It does not explain what marriage means nor does it enumerate the responsibilities of a wife and husband towards themselves, each other, their children, both sides of the family or the society. It enumerates circumstances in which a Hindu marriage can be legally broken. It was introduced to enable women who could not tolerate marriage to legally liberate themselves from wedlock, and to claim share in the marital property in the name of maintenance and alimony (HMA Section 24).
The most common grounds for divorce – cruelty, desertion, impotence, adultery etc. – are not only poorly defined, but are also difficult to prove. In addition, because litigation involves evidences and arguments from both parties, HMA did not prove as “empowering” to women as was envisioned by women’s rights activists (WRAs).
Enacting the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act of 1956, which entitles a woman to be maintained by her husband during her entire lifetime (Section 18), and CrPC of 1973, which extends maintenance to wives indefinitely even after divorce (Section 125), did not do the magic either, since they still involved time taking two-sided legal procedures.
In the year 1983, the Parliament passed a criminal law, Indian Penal Code 498A, which made “cruelty towards a married woman” a cognizable and non-bailable offence. Here, the word “cruelty” was left undefined and allowed to be a function of a woman’s perception and her lawyer’s imagination. Divorce and maintenance cases, combined with this draconian criminal section, which allows immediate arrest and incarceration of the husband and in-laws, proved to be fantastic tool of blackmail, vengeance and extortion in the hands of disgruntled wives for many years. It was accompanied by vigorous campaigns by WRAs to “sensitize” the police and the judiciary to be sympathetic towards women. Even such drastic measures did not prove to be “empowering enough” according to WRAs, because not all husbands succumbed.
The conviction rates under IPC 498A remained very low and the law only gained notoriety for its misuse. The hope that all husbands could be reined in and forced to pay a “monetary compensation/settlement” under the fear of arrest and criminal prosecution started waning.
In 2005, a new and elaborate civil law, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (DV) Act was introduced. The act not only categorized every possible male action as an act of domestic violence, it also made provisions for a wife and a live-in partner to use DV accusations to claim monetary reliefs including maintenance (Section 20) and residence rights (Section 19) in the same property where the alleged violence had occurred.
Every year, several thousands of Indian women leverage the power sanctioned to them under these laws to terrorize husbands and to extract alimony and maintenance from them. Still, the utopia envisioned by the WRAs remained elusive since entangling a man in multiple litigations ensured neither speedy divorce nor quick extraction of maintenance and alimony.
In 2013, the Rajya Sabha approved the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill which, once again, claimed to make “divorce friendly for women” by providing for the wife, a share in the husband’s immovable property, after “irretrievable breakdown of marriage”. The Bill empowered the courts to decide the “compensation amount” from the husband’s inherited and inheritable property. Recognizing the “grave and far-reaching legal, social and economic implications of the proposed amendments” as pointed out by senior citizens groups and NGOs working for men, the NDA Government’s Law Ministry decided to put the Bill on hold.
According to news reports, there is now a fresh proposal “to explore the possibility of making it easier for women to walk out of a marriage”. This brand new endeavor, backed by the Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, proposes to give legal validity to prenuptial agreements.
The Economic Times (18 Sept 2015) quotes an official of the Ministry of WCD who stated that the introduction of prenuptial agreements will “save marriages” because, “once, the liabilities, assets and responsibilities are decided in advance, a husband will be more careful and cautious in seeking dissolution. He would have a clear idea of the amount of alimony he will have to pay to his wife”.
The article also quotes another senior official of the Ministry who supported prenuptial agreements as a way to counter the “judicial delays on account of backlog of cases”, and the “delaying tactics husbands resort to”.
It is noteworthy that for the last 60 years, champions of women’s empowerment have been preoccupied with women obtaining an easy divorce and collecting maintenance and alimony by hook or crook. Their proposal to legalize prenuptial agreements is neither novel in its approach nor noble in its goals.
Aside from the fact that this initiative too has nothing to do with really empowering women, here are just a few problems with prenuptial agreements:
It is about time the Ministry of WCD stops barking up the wrong tree and looks into positive ways of empowering women by helping, stimulating, supporting and encouraging them to achieve true economic independence. It is time we realize that unless women learn to want economic independence and unless they work hard to achieve it, without depending on maintenance and alimony, all the talk about empowerment and equality is meaningless.
It is time the “women’s world” awakens to this reality and embraces ways that are uplifting to themselves and the entire society, rather than those that shake men with fear and shatter their lives.
India Times ran an informative poster campaign about men’s issues on International Men’s Day, 19th November, 2015.
Feminists have exposed their intolerance for any discussion about men’s issues and the celebration of International Men’s Day. They bullied India Times into retracting the article from their website and forced them to issue an apology. Here’s the apology note by India Times:
Ironically, India Times only recently updated its cover photo to one which says, “Not afraid”.
Of course you are, India Times! You are just plain afraid!
Thanks to the internet and social media though…Truth can be deleted from a website, but cannot be completely erased!
Thanks to https://legalfighter.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/indiatimes-bows-down-before-feminists/#comment-3258 for saving, reproducing the posters and making them available for download.
Dear Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda,
I am writing as a responsible citizen of India, who cares about the health, well-being and safety of men, women and children.
As you may be aware, 19 November is International Men’s Day, and it is being celebrated in over 80 countries in the world this year with the theme “Make a difference for men and boys”.
On this occasion, I would like to specifically draw your attention towards the health and well-being of men and boys.
It is important to remember that everyday, men make many sacrifices to protect and provide for their families, and thereby make many positive contributions to the community, society, family, marriage, child care and the environment.
However, men’s health, both physical and emotional, is one of the areas which is seriously neglected in India. Even the most recent National Health and Family Survey of 2015, only addresses maternal health and child health, while examining the key indicators of health and family welfare. It refers to men only in the context of family planning and as to how they can contribute to the health and welfare of women and children.
In India, a lot of health problems in men remain poorly diagnosed or left undiagnosed. Male-specific health problems also tend to be more fatal. For example, as against 5.37 lakh women, only 4.77 lakh men were diagnosed with cancer in India in 2012. In the same year, 3.26 lakh women and 3.56 lakh men, i.e. 30,000 more men compared to women, died of cancer (Ref 2).
A recent study (Ref 1) reports that the incidence of prostate cancer among Indian males is “constantly and rapidly increasing in all the most recent Population Based Cancer Registries (PBCRs)”, and “the cancer projection data shows that the number of cases will become doubled by 2020.” The study also states that “Given the current age-specific incidence, morbidity, and mortality rates of prostate cancer, this disease will become a far greater public health problem in the future”.
While the top five cancers that claim men’s lives in general are lip/oral cavity, lung, stomach, colorectum and the pharynx (Ref 2), this recent study (Ref 1) shows that prostate is “the second leading site of cancer among males in large Indian cities like Delhi, Kolkatta, Pune and Thiruvananthapuram, the third leading site of cancer in cities like Bangalore and Mumbai and it is among the top ten leading sites of cancers in the rest of the population based cancer registries (PBCRs) of India”.
Male-specific health issues are often blamed on negligence of men themselves. No effort is made by the Government on spreading awareness about or for preventing and controlling male-specific illnesses, diseases and disorders. As a citizen, a voter and a taxpayer of this country, I believe that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare must
On the occasion of International Men’s Day (19 November), I request you to focus your attention on the above issues , and help make a difference for men and boys.
International Men’s Day – India – 2015
THEME: MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR MEN AND BOYS
Veeraiah stands atop an electric pole fixing power lines while thousands of people call the electricity department asking when the power supply would be restored.
Rajanna, an emaciated old man, ploughs the field where crops are grown to satisfy the hunger of men, women and children in far off places.
Mallesh, a spirited young lad, rarely gets his head out from underneath the chassis of an automobile, while everyone busily zooms around town in their sleek cars.
Suresh misses his family reunion and goes on rounds in the hospital wearing scrubs, to ensure that his patients are recovering well.
There are countless number of such invisible heroes who make positive contributions to the community, society, family, marriage, child care and the environment every day.
These men include sanitation workers, construction workers, chemical and gas factory workers, mechanics and miners; soldiers, firefighters, land mine removers, deep sea fishermen, electric linemen, house painters and glass cleaners; farmers, weavers, tea sellers, drivers, paperboys, mailmen and watchmen; teachers, doctors, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and public servants; fathers, sons, grandfathers, brothers, husbands, friends and colleagues.
Everywhere in the world, performing the most difficult, exhausting and dangerous jobs is more of a necessity than a choice for men. Everywhere in the world, most men dedicate themselves to protecting and providing for their families at the expense of their own health, wellness and safety. Young boys are also taught and expected to grow up to be men who will follow the same path.
Sadly, the present day society and media tend to idolize and honor just a handful of stars and celebrities, while ignoring the contributions of the majority of men. They also demonize all men and everything masculine, without realizing the negative impact that it can have on men, women, children, and the society as a whole.
International Men’s Day (IMD) is a day to
IMD is also a day to examine the various issues faced by men and boys and to discover ways to address them. It is a day to sensitize the society to work towards making a difference for men and boys. This year True Equity Network (TEN) India and All India Men’s Welfare Association (AIMWA) will be focusing on two important issues, namely, health and education of men and boys.
Men’s health, both physical and emotional, is one of the areas which is seriously neglected in India. Even the most recent National Health and Family Survey of 2015, only addresses maternal health and child health, while examining the key indicators of health and family welfare. It mentions men only in the context of family planning and as to how they can contribute to the health and welfare of women and children.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare must acknowledge the place and the value of men in the family. The country and the society must spend time and resources to spread awareness about stress and depression, male specific cancers, heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases which are responsible for reduced quality of life and premature mortality among men. The Government must allocate resources to conduct research and to find affordable remedies and cures for male-specific disorders, diseases and illnesses.
On the occasion of IMD, TEN – India and AIMWA will be conducting a “Movember March” which is meant to specifically draw attention towards the health and well-being of men and boys. We will be writing to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare about the need to include men’s health, well-being and safety in their agenda.
Education of boys is another area that needs immediate attention. Boys falling behind in education has become a global trend.
In India, the situation is often touted as girls being “more willing to learn” or being “capable of outdoing boys” in academic performance. While a lot of encouragement and incentives are provided to send girls to school and to keep them from dropping out, no such efforts are made to keep boys in school. Recently, the female Chief Minister of a certain State even demeaned boys at a school function by referring to them as “rejected maal”. Such discrimination has a severe demoralizing effect on boys, leading to underperformance in academics and dropping out of school.
Social scientists and educationists have also observed that since boys are expected to support the family, the need to earn taking precedence over the desire to learn, especially during times of crisis, is another major factor forcing boys to drop out of school and migrate to find jobs.
On the occasion of IMD, TEN – India and AIMWA will be writing to the Ministry of Human Resources Development asking it to correct this imbalance and to take measures to encourage and support boys to complete their schooling.
As Late Dr. K Anji Reddy, Founder of Dr. Reddy’s Foundation said,
“The highest patriotism and philanthropy consists in helping and stimulating men and women to elevate and improve themselves by their own free and independent individual action.”
This IMD, we ask everyone to help and stimulate, encourage and support men and boys to stay healthy and to realize their true potential.
Let us join hands and make a difference for men and boys!
Make a difference for men and boys!
The 19th of November is being celebrated the world over as International Men’s Day (IMD) since the year 1999. Every year, the number of countries celebrating IMD keeps growing, and this year, the number has reached 80.
Although this is the 9th year that India is celebrating Men’s Day, questions as to whether or not such a celebration is needed and if men really deserve a special day still linger in the minds of many. The answers to these questions were spelled out long before the questions even arose.
President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure.”
Along similar lines, President John F. Kennedy said, “A Nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers…”.
While we see a handful of men constantly being idolized as heroes, and many film stars and sports stars being felicitated by the society, there are countless number of invisible heroes who make positive contributions to the community, society, family, marriage, child care and the environment.
It is often forgotten that everywhere in the world, men perform a variety of tasks, including some of the most difficult and daunting jobs, to protect and provide for their families. It is often forgotten that doing these jobs is more of a necessity than a choice for men. The goodness and selflessness of these men is often taken for granted.
As the former President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, rightly said, “When surrounded by day to day issues, there is a tendency to forget the good things we are bestowed with.”
This International Men’s Day let us remember all the good things about men and boys around us. Let us acknowledge and celebrate the invisible heroes of everyday. Let us honor them for all their positive contributions to the world. Let us pray for their health, well-being and safety. Let us vow to ensure fairness towards men and boys in all walks of life. Let us join hands to end misandry and to restore respect for masculinity.
Let us all work to “make a difference for men and boys”!
Here’s wishing all men and boys a very happy International Men’s Day!
– Uma Challa
Radio Talk Show on International Men’s Day
TEN-India partners with Bol Hyderabad Community Radio 90.4 FM in the celebration of IMD 2015.
Broadcast dates: 3 Nov 2015 18:30 hrs IST
Speakers: Uma Challa, Aravind and Partha TR
Languages: Telugu and English