What’s holding women back?

Recently, I have been accused of being jealous of the “success of another woman”. Jealousy is something almost all women and men would have experienced and been accused of, so it’s really not that big of a deal. However, I believe that the rationale behind these specific accusations reflects a very harmful trend that currently prevails, both among men and women in India. Artificial, imagined and imposed standards of success, which form the main basis for these accusations, are also the prime reason that today holds many women back from enjoying the simple, natural pleasures of being a woman, a mother and a human being.

 

Just to give a background, I have a pretty good academic resume, with educational accomplishments in India and broad. I have many natural talents and skills that have come of use to me at different points in time. I have a lot of resilience, which helped me during the toughest times in life. I have received more public and media attention than most people I personally know, and more than I had ever needed or asked for. I also hold the distinction of navigating and freeing myself from the clutches of the criminal justice system in India in record time, without compromising on any ethics. I am also known for my contributions to bigger causes which attempt to make the society a better place for us and the next generation.

 

What makes me most proud though, is the fact that despite all the feminist propaganda I was exposed to when I was younger, and despite all my unfounded doubts and fears, my intelligence served me well (and luck favored me equally) to ensure that I didn’t miss the bus. What gives me the greatest joy and satisfaction is being the wife of a fantastic man and the mother of a sweet child. Yes, “wife” and “mother” and the two titles that make me most proud and happy.

 

Compare this to a  woman who barely has any academic accomplishments to speak of, who settled criminal charges against her for money, whose sense of self-worth is determined by the number of likes on her (selfie) profile picture on social media (which must change at least every fortnight if not more often), who chases pleasure and fame by selling other people’s tears in name of social service, and most importantly who is past 30, single and childless.

 

I know that a lot of people don’t want women to be judged anymore by their marital status and whether or not they have children. However, a lot of men and women now seem to be doing the exact opposite. They are inadvertently caught up with money and fame as universal measures of success, and worthy of envy. They seem to not only chase money and fame (often at the expense of everything and everyone else in life) in order to be considered successful, but they also expect everyone around to care about their imagined “success” just as much as they do. They ignore and deny women who derive the most joy and satisfaction from family.

 

I cannot speak for men, but I am quite certain that this attitude has been holding many women back from living fuller lives. It holds them back from putting family first, from fully experiencing motherhood, and from loving and giving unconditionally. It holds them back from being empathetic to other human beings. It holds them back from upholding important human values and responsibilities. These false measures of success are eroding the self-esteem and dignity of women, and pushing them into living suboptimal lives.

 

I will not pretend that I am immune to jealousy, but there is nothing to be jealous of what I personally consider a suboptimal life. If you show me a woman who had married sooner, has a bunch of children, is spending more time with them, and playing with them more than I am with mine, yes, I will be jealous, and nothing will hold me back from admitting it.

 

 

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Making divorce easy? Or barking up the wrong tree?

Making divorce easy? Or barking up the wrong tree?

– Uma Challa

Published by MyIndMakers 

“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:

 

  1. Hindu marriages are religious unions and not legal contracts, even when they are registered and legally recognized. A prenuptial agreement is a contract, with the terms and conditions of separation spelled out. It cannot be applied to Hindu marriages without stripping them of their religious sanctity and the underlying philosophy of the union of two souls.
  2. While prenuptial contracts do lay down the terms and conditions of separation, the contracts are not binding nor strictly enforceable, and there are no provisions anywhere in the world to penalize a partner who does not comply with the terms of separation. However, the proposal to include punishments for “offending” spouses in Indian prenuptial agreements is nothing but another attempt to criminalize the marital relationship, pamper women and penalize men.
  3. In spite of having a prenuptial agreement, a woman will still be able to claim that she signed the prenuptial agreement under duress. She will still be able to file complaints under IPC Section 498A, the DV Act and other related civil and criminal provisions.
  4. Rich men will use prenuptial agreements to get rid of women by paying money, and unscrupulous women will use prenuptial agreements as a way to make quick money. We, as a nation and a culture, might do better by just legalising prostitution rather than prostitutionalizing the Hindu marriage in the name of empowering women through delusional and deceitful means.

 

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.

 

Alimony.9

 

 

Feminists bully, India Times succumbs!

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:

India Times apology

Ironically, India Times only recently updated its cover photo to one which says, “Not afraid”.

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!

img-20151122-wa0008img-20151122-wa0007img-20151122-wa0006img-20151122-wa0005img-20151122-wa0004img-20151122-wa0001img-20151122-wa0002img-20151122-wa0003img-20151122-wa0000

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.

 

Violence Against Men and Boys Awareness Month

October is Violence Against Men and Boys Awareness Month (VAMBAM)

-Uma Challa

Power of a woman

“Stop violence against women!” That is a slogan that we have heard, day in and day out, over the last thirty years and have agreed with, unquestioningly. By doing so, we have also embraced its underlying assumptions, that violence is a gender issue, that men have been historically inflicting violence on women, all men (and only men) are capable of violence and that violence against men (by women) does not exist.

More recently, the focus of the subject has been broadened to include boys. A social awareness platform called Vogue Empower even made a short film entitled “Start with the Boys” which says, “We have taught our boys not to cry. It’s time we teach them not to make girls cry”.

Echoing this politically correct stance, and underlining the agenda of her Ministry, Women and Child Development Minister, Ms. Maneka Gandhi, recently said, “All the violence is male generated. One of the ways to tackle this is at the school stage”.

Ms. Gandhi proposed a program called “gender champions’’ in which “boys who have been particularly respectful and helpful to girls and deserve to be emulated” will be rewarded every year.

The powerful impact of these political and media generated messages is reflected in everyday conversations as well. To quote an example, a mother, who was worried about her 7 year old boy who would not talk to girls on his school bus, expressed her concern on Facebook, and received the following response from another boy’s mother:

Boys do need to do “feminine” things like cook, wear pink, dress up in florals, wear a skirt if only for protest against rapes….After all, a true man is someone who is in touch with his feminine side.”

For a while now, even something as innocuous as the usage of “he/him” has been politicized enough to make everyone pause and reconsider the use of the masculine pronoun in a normal English sentence.

One might have believed that all of the above are genuine efforts aimed only at gender equality and protection of women, if not for the stark apathy shown towards men in distress. There has been a prolonged and uncomfortable silence in our culture about female violence against men and boys. Emboldened by this silence, the war against men and boys, and everything masculine, has now become full-blown, and too glaring to ignore.

Today, exploiting, abusing, insulting, kicking, punching and slapping males has not only become acceptable, but it is even considered laudable behavior on the part of women and girls. While the popular media showers titles such as “bravehearts”, “youth icons” or “female role models” on these feisty women (like Rohtak sisters and Jasleen Kaur), State Governments have even announced cash awards to them. Ms. Gandhi herself has proposed prizes to girls who have been outstanding in their “bravery and attitude”.

There are far too many examples and compelling (NCRB) data about female violence on men and boys, begging for the conspicuous silence of the society to be broken.

The idea behind observing “Violence Against Men and Boys Awareness Month” (#VAMBAM) in October 2015 is to break the silence and address female violence against men and boys, which is stoked by gender politics.

Let us treat men in distress with the same kind of compassion and support as women in distress. Let us recognize that ignoring violence by women, and denial of protection against the same amounts to promotion of violence against men and boys.

Let us allow boys and girls to naturally explore and discover ways to relate with the opposite sex. Let us recognize that imposing gender politics on children to modify the behavior of young males or shaming those who do not comply amounts to violence against boys as well.

All India Men’s Welfare Association, All India Forgotten Women’s Association, True Equity Network and Paritran Foundation have joined hands to observe VAMBAM in India. VAMBAM has also been endorsed internationally, as seen in this message by Ms. Diane Sears, who is the Director of In Search of Fatherhood ® International Fatherhood and Men’s Issues Program:

October 2015 has been designated as INTERNATIONAL VIOLENCE AGAINST MEN AND BOYS AWARENESS Month. This initiative is the brainchild of Mrs. Uma Challa, a Gender Issues Thought Leader, humanitarian, author and India’s Coordinator for International Men’s Day. The USA International Men’s Day Team endorses Mrs. Challa’s initiative. Violence against Men and Boys creates a psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually toxic environment in our homes, our communities, and our world. INTERNATIONAL VIOLENCE AGAINST MEN AND BOYS AWARENESS Month — October 2015 — is a key “piece of the puzzle” to bringing healing to Men, Boys, our families, our communities, and our world and transforming our psychologically, emotionally, spiritually toxic and dysfunctional environment into a vibrant, loving, and nurturing oasis.

We urge all girls and women, boys and men everywhere to join us in this effort.