By Maitreyee Boruah
Bangalore, Aug 4 On India’s Independence Day Aug 15, a group of men will meet in Shimla and chalk out a plan for “equal rights” and “freedom” — from “harassment” by their wives.
“On Independence Day we will raise the issue of freedom and dignity of harassed husbands. More than 100 men, representatives of 30,000 other harassed husbands from across the country, will converge at a day-long meeting to come up with strategies to take on their wives,” Anil Kumar, president of the Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF), told IANS.
Bangalore-based NGO SIFF, along with another Bangalore based NGO, CRISP (Children’s Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting), in partnership with Maharashtra’s Purush Suraksha Sanstha and Uttar Pradesh’s Pathi Paramesh Kendra have organised the event.
“All the four groups are working for equal rights for men and women in India. We feel that in many instances, the Indian law is biased when it comes to husbands, as it often favours the wives. Be it in the case of custody of children for divorced couples or false allegations of domestic violence and dowry harassment, the law generally takes the side of women, without listening to the side of men,” said Kumar.
“However, we would like to clarify one thing. We’re no women haters. This is about equal rights of both men and women,” said Kumar Jahgirdar, founder of CRISP.
In order to prove that harassment of husbands was prevalent, Kumar cited the latest report of SIFF on suicide rate of men across India.
“Around 1.2 lakh (120,000) harassed husbands in India have committed suicide in last four years,” SIFF’s president claimed.
The suicide figures were collected by SIFF from the National Crime Records Bureau.
“This is an alarming number. Our fight is against such wives and for justice to the harassed husbands. In fact, husbands committing suicide because of harassment is double the number of wives committing suicide in the country,” the founder of CRISP said.
Some of the demands to be raised at the Shimla convention by the husbands’ group include a separate men’s welfare ministry on the lines of the women and child welfare ministry, equal taxation for men and women, change in inheritance laws, amendment to the domestic violence prevention law, and mandatory joint custody of children for divorced couples.
“We’re meeting at Shimla, not to draw a gender dividing line. We want to discuss a social issue and find solutions as the country is seeing a large number of divorcees,” said Virag Dhulia, a senior member of SIFF.
“We’ll also demand pre-litigation counselling before grant of divorce, an end to police brutalities and judicial reforms to help address the social issues.”
According to data available with SIFF and CRISP, on an average 20-25 cases of divorce are filed every day in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.
A total of 9,000 divorce cases were filed in Delhi, 7,500 in Mumbai and 5,000 cases in Bangalore in 2008.
The figures were collected from family courts in the three Indian metros.
If harassed husbands are blaming their wives for failed marriages, women rights activists have a different take on rise in divorce rates across India.
“There are reasons galore for the rise in divorce cases. Urbanisation and increasing violence against women and financial stability of both husband and wife, to name a few,” Dona Fernandes, a member of women rights’ group Vimochana, told IANS.
“Today’s empowered women are refusing to follow the traditional diktats of Indian marriages. Marriage is the biggest form of displacement for any woman as she has to shift from her home (natural habitat) to her husband’s home.
“It is the wife who is supposed to adjust. But today’s financially strong women are not ready to take undue pressure on their individual existence and thus marital discords are bound to increase,” said Fernandes.
(Maitreyee Boruah can be contacted at email@example.com)