Breaking the silence against imposed “martyrdom”

During the last few months, there has been a wave of praise in the mainstream and social media for an Indian documentary film on IPC section 498A entitled “Martyrs of Marriage”. The filmmaker, Deepika Bhardwaj, has been extolled not only for technical excellence in filmmaking, but has also been elevated as the messiah for men. Recently, there has also been an expected, well-justified and visible pushback from the men’s movement in India, because the movie is anachronistic, it promotes a feminist lie, misrepresents men’s rights activists (MRAs) and undermines the men’s rights movement (MRM), which provided much support, information and content for the film.

 

The perspective of the men’s movement and the reasons for the pushback require a close look at the history, significance and purpose of the men’s movement, and the factual narrative that Indian MRAs have fought to establish over the last 10-13 years. It would involve learning, in depth, about why IPC 498A is a malicious law and not a law made to save lives as claimed by the film. People who are not interested in this academic exercise are bound to look to the documentary film as an authentic source of information, representative of MRAs and the entire length, breadth and depth of the MRM.

 

I would urge everyone to make the effort to know more about the MRM, MRAs and why they would vehemently oppose the only film which claims to give them a voice and show their side of the story; and why MRAs would oppose a filmmaker, who is sympathetic towards a men’s issue, becoming the face of the MRM and the “voice of men”.

 

To this end, I will direct the attention of the readers towards certain crucial but invisible aspects that do not require you to have any background in the MRM, but just require basic human intelligence to understand.

 

Every person who is arrested and imprisoned based on a false complaint goes through a phase where they are dying to scream out to the world that they are not criminals. They are stigmatized in the society, they are vilified by the media, and pushed into a corner so much so that the only thought that dominates the person’s existence is the need to NOT be identified as a criminal. There are many who experience the need to be identified as victims, and they want their personal narrative to be heard by someone, especially by those who hold the power to influence the social and political narrative, such as journalists, filmmakers, celebrities and politicians.

 

However, victimhood is an affliction suffered by but a fraction of individuals who are implicated in false cases. Unfortunately though, individuals and entities that control the narrative do not understand that a need to “not be identified as criminal” does not automatically translate into a “need to be identified as a victim”. As a result, even sympathetic journalists and filmmakers impose victimhood and martyrdom on everyone because victimhood sells, and is seen as the only way to bring attention to problems.  

 

This kind of victimhood is a state of mind, and it does not have anything to do with what life throws at us, false cases included. MRAs who have counseled hundreds of affected men observe that “men carrying victimhood for long periods of time works like an addiction which eventually destroys them. MRAs also feel that fostering or nurturing perpetual victimhood in victimized people is a feminist recipe and does not bode well for any society”. Over the last 10 years, MRAs have worked very hard to exctricate men from this sense of victimhood, to empower them to stand up for themselves, and to take responsibility for changing not just malevolent laws like 498a, but the overall social mindset which sees males as disposable.

legal terrorism

When a person does not wallow in victimhood, it is assumed that they are either culpable or that they do not experience any pain. It takes much time and struggle to gather the voice to deny criminality, to maintain the resolve, and fight to the finish to establish one’s innocence in the courts of law. Every person who has walked out of the court after hearing the words “acquitted” knows the feeling of taking a full breath of air, walking with their head held high, with the kind of satisfaction and joy that the heart does not seem enough to hold.

 

Everyday, the mainstream media keeps declaring innocent people as criminals without trial for the sake of political correctness and ratings. To those who have experienced it, acquittal means restoring one’s honor and dignity, even though one may have lost many years, dear ones, life’s savings and all the things one has given one’s life to. It is such a profoundly liberating experience, that the voice, which for many years, wanted to scream “I am not a criminal”, now wants to scream “I won” until the sound of vindication reverberates all over. MRAs have always fought, worked hard to empower and encourage others to fight, to demonstrate that we are real people and not mere numbers or data points in the National Crime Records Bureau. However, the voice of the acquitted is never heard because the mainstream media chooses to be deliberately silent about them.

acquitted cropped

As a fellow MRA rightly pointed out to me, given the status quo, “a journalist independently gaining the trust of people who have been victimized by 498A is difficult, and to make them to open up to any publicity via documentaries is even more difficult”. When a journalist comes along, claiming to want to make a film or write about us, members of the movement are always inclined to project individuals who have won their cases to narrate their stories. This is because a person who is still fighting a trial always fears a backlash from his opposition, the police or the court of law. He or she does not want to take the risk of being disbelieved or ridiculed by others because an individual’s story is not considered credible unless their cases have ended in acquittal.  

 

Therefore, when the documentary filmmaker in question approached the Indian MRM for interviews of affected individuals, she was also directed to meet individuals who had been acquitted some years ago. Revisiting profound personal tragedies, many years after the fact and years after acquittal is an ordeal in itself, and not something anybody would want to do. However, MRAs, who chose to take one for the team, reluctantly opened up to the filmmaker who promised to highlight these stories as those of hope and triumph to inspire others to fight. MRAs unravelled personal details to demonstrate that they are normal people, just as vulnerable as anyone else, and traced their own journey to victory, in parallel with their activism in the MRM to inspire everyone to be “that second mouse”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51lFmdChOA0

 

When these detailed accounts of gallant fight are edited, placed out of context and shown as stories of plight, and the filmmaker uses her film and her public image to promote victimhood, to become the face of MRM and the “voice of men” by lie of omission, one is bound to feel violated. The filmmaker silencing MRAs, by playing the victim card against them is an additional violation that needs to be overcome. Under such circumstances, it takes much time, effort and thought to gather the voice to say “I am not a victim”, and to initiate a meaningful conversation around the important issues concerning MRAs and the MRM. The struggle to deny this imposed martyrdom is just as emotionally excruciating as the one to deny imposed criminality.

 

It is important to recognize that there is little difference between journalists painting us as criminals for TRPs and filmmakers misrepresenting MRAs as victims just to make the cut in their career.

 

In this context, it is also important to look at how different individuals who approach the movement identify themselves in very different ways. Many individuals approach the movement for help, but always remain aloof as individuals, see themselves as unique in their hardships, feel entitled to support and help, look for a quick fix and an easy exit. They are the victims looking for a messiah, preferably in female form. In their myopic view, anybody, even a filmmaker, who can offer them a temporary vicarious experience and fleeting hope for change, is a savior. These victims would be willing to let a whole movement and the collective hard work of all the MRAs who dedicated their lives to it, be sacrificed on the altar of their personal desire for quick relief and freedom. Longtime MRAs are usually glad to take one for the team, but everyone must realize that exploitation of personal tragedies, for any reason, is an insult to the dear ones whose honor we fight and win for. It is an insult to the MRM, which gave us life and that we gave our lives to.  

 

While the film, which boasts of highlighting human struggle, ironically, undermines the same, there are some who have been foolish enough to believe and say that MRAs are jealous of a filmmaker’s success. MRAs have much to be proud of because they stand up and fight to restore their own honor and that of their families, and also empower others to fight. With no offense intended, it must be said that there is little to be “jealous” about a victim-turned-filmmaker, who has neither experienced nor understood what fighting means, and promotes victimhood among men.

 

Some MRAs have been demonized for saying that the filmmaker did not duly acknowledge the MRM and MRAs for their earnest contribution to the film, and for stating that the filmmaker is undermining the movement through calculated silence. While I leave it to experts to comment on the technical excellence of the film, I propose a thought experiment and ask the reader to imagine what the filmmaker’s reaction would have been, had someone taken all the credit for her hard work, through lies of omission. MRAs have been maintaining a dignified silence about this issue for several months, but when a filmmaker takes advantage of her popularity to undermine a long-standing movement, and becomes the “voice of men” by lies of omission, silence is no longer an option.

 

International Men’s Day – 2016

Captions: Uma Challa

Click HERE for more posters!

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International Men’s Day – 2016

Photo credits: Sandeep Hegerse.

Captions and design: Uma Challa

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Photo credits: Sandeep Hegerse.

Captions and design: Uma Challa

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!

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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.

 

Make a difference for men and boys!

Make a difference for men and boys!

imd-logo-4

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.

  • These men include sanitation workers, construction workers, chemical and gas factory workers, mechanics and miners who routinely suffer from chronic occupational health issues and often die before they reach the age of 60.
  • They include soldiers, firefighters, land mine removers, deep sea fishermen, electric linemen, house painters and glass cleaners who risk their lives everyday.
  • They include farmers, weavers, tea sellers, drivers, paperboys, mailmen and watchmen, who render their services, often without receiving a word of recognition or gratitude.
  • They include teachers, doctors, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and public servants, who help improve the quality of life for everyone in the society.
  • They include fathers, grandfathers, brothers, husbands, friends and colleagues who stand by us, inspire us, make us laugh and enrich our lives.
  • They include men in all walks of life who live honest, decent lives and help keep the wheels of progress and hope turning.

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.”

IMD poster India 4.1

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