'People don't believe men can be abused'

A decade and a half ago, when International Men’s Day was launched on November 19 in Trinidad and Tobago, Ingeborg Breines, the then director of the Unesco arm, Women and a Culture of Peace, had said it would bring about some gender balance.

But how far has this statement been true in the patriarchal society we live in?To mark this day, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Children’s Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP) released a documentary film in Kannada called “Moustache” in the City on Wednesday, in an effort to spread awareness about how men suffer from gender bias in society.

CRISP president Kumar Jahgirdar explained, “Men are just expected to give and not take, make sacrifices, and then everything they do is tagged as his ‘duty’. People don’t believe men can be abused, despite phrases like ‘be a man’ or ‘don’t cry like a girl’ being thrown at him when he seeks help for emotional distress.”

The statements of Jahgirdar, who has dealt with gender-biased laws for quite a while and now helps others who are similarly distressed, find echoes in the people both behind and in front of the camera of “Moustache”. 

Cinematographer Kartik Mallur and actor Kartik Kumar may not have faced legal hassles like Jahgirdar, but they identify with the subject-matter of the film in different ways. “Nobody will believe that it was the girl’s fault if she gets into an accident with a guy,” said Mallur, speaking from experience. 

Kumar had a different take. “The other day, I read about a woman beating up her husband because he asked for extra food. We laughed at it. Reverse the roles, and suddenly it’s not so funny anymore,” he said.

Manoj David, who started a City-based litigant self-help group called the National Litigant Bench (NLB), has faced an enraging instance of how men accused – sometimes falsely – of dowry demand or domestic violence have failed to find succour.

“The Central government had notified Section 41(A) of the Code of Criminal Procedure way back in 2010. Had it been implemented, there would be no arrests in cases registered on offences that entailed less than seven years of imprisonment if the accused co-operated with the authorities,” said the co-founder of NLB, an ally of CRISP.

Jahgirdar, who has been advocating for men’s rights, explains that the aim of CRISP’s efforts is gender neutrality. “There’s a ministry for women and children, and even one for environment and forests. Where is the ministry for men?” he asks, the plea for drawing attention to a rarely discussed subject clear in his voice.

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