India's abusive husbands cower from new laws

India's abusive husbands cower from new laws
Amrit Dhillon in New Delhi
Last Updated: 12:18am GMT 12/11/2006

Like many Indian husbands, Sanjay Kumar never saw himself as a wife-beater. The punches he landed on his long-suffering spouse were, he insisted, nothing more than routine marital discipline.

Now, two weeks after India introduced its first laws against domestic violence, he sees himself as the victim.

"It's a noose around my neck and the end of the rope is in her hands, to pull or not to pull," he complained, as he and his wife, Maheshwari – still badly bruised – attended a compulsory marriage counselling clinic in Delhi. "Men have no power left. At this rate, we'll be wearing bangles."

The new Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act gives courts sweeping powers to help abused wives. Yet such is the culture shock to India's male-dominated society it has galvanised new recruits for a counter-lobby group – the All-India Harassed Husbands Association.

"The law is so lopsided that a future generation of men might not get married for fear of losing their property and income," said one member, Akhil Gupta.

The new law recognises physical violence, marital rape and all kinds of abuse — emotional and verbal – as crimes. It also prevents men forcing wives to watch pornography, refusing to let them work or banishing them from their houses.

"I didn't want to file a case against him but it was becoming unbearable," said Maheshwari, 28, who has two daughters. "The last time he almost strangled me. This law will let me live at home and stop him torturing me."

Hundreds of wives are now registering cases under the new law – the product of a decade of campaigning by women's groups.

A 2005 UN Population Fund report found that 70 per cent of married women in India were victims of beatings, rape, or forced sex. Even trivial "misdemeanours" such as burning the dinner, can provoke male violence.

Yet many men fear the law will be prone to the same misuse as India's stringent anti-dowry laws. The regulations are meant to protect women from husbands and in-laws who torture them for more dowry after marriage but are sometimes used by women to harass innocent husbands.

Mahesh Tiwari, 35, a New Delhi lawyer, began fighting for husbands when a client hanged himself in jail after being falsely accused by his wife of demanding more dowry. "He was a gentle person married to a witch," he said. "No evidence is required under the law."

Since the new law on domestic violence was passed, about 20 anxious husbands a day have sought the advice of the Save Indian Family Foundation, which campaigns for reform of the anti-dowry laws.

"Women are using psychological violence with this law as a new weapon," said Swarup Sarkar, a foundation member.

The All-India Democratic Women's Association has little time for this. "Why don't they be honest?" asked Brinda Karat, the general secretary. "They want to hold on to their birthright to beat up women."


Anonymous said…

India is so divided as it is and such laws will only send females to some sector of the men men police, men lawyers, men judges. As per the law, men are not trusted it seems and most of the people handling the cases are men. This is the place where the same ladies will say yes sir and can end up doing whatever is said to them and will have to keep the mouth shut also, and later realise what real trouble can be.

Let all that happen and then when they don’t have any place to go to, then the lesson will be learnt… this what we want to happen to our sisters, wives and mothers? Don’t you think it will be too late by then? Meaning….. where will they complain when harassed by men police, men lawyers, and men judges? These guys may not be your husbands but they will still be men. Will they care for you more than your husbands? Will they truly care for you?

Lot needs to be done to have good population of men police, men lawyers, men judges etc before letting these women go to these men. I say this because men are not trusted as per the law. It is like a case where a woman law maker is sending a poor cow to a lion hoping that the lion is a vegetarian. Note for the law maker (specially the female law maker):- Please first sort out other problems before this creates more problems for the society.



Anonymous said...

Anonymous said…
My question: how does a women tackle the harassment of Men.

Like if a husband tortures the wife by way assassinating her character repeatedly by abusing her verbally, which cannot be proved, as it happens in four walls of the house. What is solution given to such women who are been tortured by physiologically, especially if there is a dependency of children, whose future is at stake because of this.

Is there a solution without breaking the family??
ryali said…
My question: how does a women tackle the harassment of Men.

Like if a husband tortures the wife by way assassinating her character repeatedly by abusing her verbally, which cannot be proved, as it happens in four walls of the house. What is solution given to such women who are been tortured by physiologically, especially if there is a dependency of children, whose future is at stake because of this.

Is there a solution without breaking the family??
Anonymous said…
I live in the United States and we are not permanent residents of the US yet. I have been married for 10 years and we have an eighteen months old daughter. My husband has cheated on me several times including with my cousin, slept with uncountable prostitutes,complains that he coudnt marry a white woman and get his Green Card because he is married to me. He has been verbally extremely abusive with occassional physical abuses. I dealt with all these for so long because I didnot want my family to go through the shame and embarrassment of my divorce. But now I think I cannot bear this anymore. The other day he kicked me several times on my back and abdomen because I accused him of not watching our daughter while I was gone grocery shopping. I donot want to put my daughter's future in jeopardy at the same time cant deal with this any more. please give me some advice.
Nicol said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicol said…
I being a woman standing for womens rights is appalled by the fact that the womens protection act is being misused by many women particularly in middle and rich income families, I have been approached by several mens groups in India where men have been victimized by their spouses using the womens protection act. In one instance a women literally beat up and sleeping husband and then registered a complaint of domestic violence against him. I have come across several men who resort to other means to settle scores because the law would be biased against them on any complaint between men and women. On the other hand the womens protection bill has surely helped rural women to stand up for their rights. But we must understand that if their is no fair law the law itself would be undermined. Therefore i would suggest that any law that would grant extra protection or privileges to women would prove contrary in outcome of its objectives. Thereby we would need a just law as prevalent in Europe Australia and America whereby the system is fair to all parties concerned. I have recently heard that a group in Karnataka
led by Muthappa Rai has stood up for harrassed husbands on several issues. May be all the Harrased husbands should make a plea to Mr Muthappa Rai to state the anti dowry legislation being used illegally and for dubious ends by wifes mainly in the middle and rich income families
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