India is observing International Men’s Day for the first time in history on 19 November this year under the auspices of Save Family Foundation and related organizations working towards family harmony and gender equality.
In the last 60 years of Independence, many efforts have been made, many measures taken and many laws passed for uplifting, empowering and protecting women, who, as a group, were considered weak and disadvantaged. While proudly championing women’s rights, society also tacitly approved the propagation of anti-male sentiments and policies by “radical groups” and the resultant diminution in value of men’s lives and the blatant violation of men’s rights. The growing apathy of the government and society towards the sufferings of men has necessitated the observance of International Men’s Day to remind everyone of the valuable contributions by men to our families, economy and society and the need to work towards true gender equality.
While men still perform some of the most risky and challenging jobs in the society and while the Government of India collects 82% of its tax revenue from men, not a single rupee has been allocated in the name of men’s welfare in the country’s budget in the last 60 years.
It is also important to note that according to the Labor and Employment Ministry, during the years 2001-05, men employed in the public and private sectors lost 14,00,000 jobs, while women gained 1,00,000 jobs during the same period.
While an increasing number of men are losing employment, more women are entering the job market and defying their traditional roles within the family and the society. Nevertheless, the society is refusing to free men of their traditional duties of protecting and providing for women, children and the aged.
In addition, men are being subjected to severe discrimination under law and their basic human rights are being violated every day in the name of more and more legal provisions that claim to empower and protect women.
Thousands of men are becoming victims of “legal terrorism” unleashed by the misuse of Indian Penal Code Section 498A, Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act, adultery laws, laws against rape and sexual harassment, and even divorce, maintenance and child custody laws.
To make things worse, even family members of men, including senior citizens, children and women, regardless of their age, health or marital status, are arrested based on unsubstantiated allegations of dowry harassment and domestic abuse, and subjected to long-drawn trials.
The growing disregard and hatred against men in our society is forcing many Indian men to end their lives. According to the National Crime Bureau, the number of suicides by males in every age group studied outweighs the number of suicides by females, in the recent years. In the year 2005 alone, nearly twice as many married men (52,483), compared to married women (28,186), committed suicide, unable to withstand verbal, emotional, economic and physical abuse and legal harassment.
In order to achieve true gender equality and to ensure justice to the genuinely aggrieved, the Government should
· Establish a “Ministry for Men’s Welfare” to cater to men’s needs in the changing society.
· End the “legal terrorism” perpetrated through the misuse of anti-male, anti-family laws. Specifically, Section 498A of IPC should be made bailable. It should also be made non-cognizable to prevent arrests of innocent citizens based on mere complaints unsubstantiated by evidence or investigation.
· Make civil and criminal laws applicable to men and women equally. Specifically, provisions of IPC 498A, Domestic Violence Act, adultery laws, laws against rape and sexual harassment, family laws (divorce, maintenance and child custody) should be made gender-neutral.
· Pass directives to resolve all marital disputes under civil law.
· Make provisions to punish those who abuse the judicial process irrespective of gender. Specifically, heavy penalties should be imposed on people misusing IPC 498A and Domestic Violence Act as weapons for settling personal scores in marital disputes.
· Confer equal protection upon men and women against verbal, emotional, economic, physical and sexual abuse at home and in the work place.
· Grant joint custody of children to both spouses upon dissolution of marriage.
· Amend Article 51A(e) of the Constitution of India as follows:
It shall be the duty of every citizen of India—
(e) to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst
all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women AND men (as opposed to just women).
· Amend Article 15(3) of the Constitution of India as follows:
Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for men, women and children (as opposed to just women and children).