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

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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!

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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.

 

An Open Letter to Minister of Health and Family Welfare, India.

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.

  • 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.

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

  1. acknowledge the place and the value of men in the family.
  2. include men’s health in the National Health and Family Survey of India.
  3. 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.
  4. allocate resources to support research on male-specific disorders, diseases and illnesses – both physical and psychological, and to help find affordable remedies and cures for the same.

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.

Thank you,

Uma Challa
Author, Hyderabad

References:

  1. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214540014000486
  2. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/7-lakh-Indians-died-of-cancer-last-year-WHO/articleshow/27317742.cms