‘No help for men in bad marriages’

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Male victims of domestic violence and harassment have few avenues for redressal, mens’ groups say.

Vivek Deveshwar, co-founder of Purush Adhikar Sangh, says emotional abuse of men is common, although the law is primarily concerned with abuse of women.

His organisation, working across cities, offers counselling and legal help to men in distress.

“We have seen many instances where the woman threatens to leave her husband. She intimidates him by threatening to commit suicide and tortures him by saying he is having an affair. Sometimes she shames him by calling him impotent,” he says.

The situation is the same across religions, classes and castes, he observes.

Men in such situations sometimes seek help at hospital psychiatry departments.

“Many men, who come to us for counselling, are doctors and IT professionals. And the problems are not restricted to so-called modern families. In fact, we see more cases from orthodox, conservative families than from liberal ones,” says Dr Raghu Krishnamurthy, consultant psychiatrist, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital.

‘Laws favour women’

Legally, there is not much men can do if they are physically and mentally abused, says Deveshwar. “Firstly, there is so little information about male abuse. There are hardly any studies or surveys. Often, even the police don’t pay heed to complaints filed by men, even if they show physical scars. The most men can do is file for divorce,” he says.

Dr Raghu says Indian laws are keeping pace with the times.

“In the ’70s and ’80s, dowry was a huge social problem and the Dowry Act was brought in to protect women. In the last few decades, the problem has gradually decreased, although it is still prevalent in certain communities. But the stringent provisions of the law have not been relaxed,” he says.

Dowry offences are non-bailable. Even before an inquiry, the husband and his family are arrested. Many educated girls use this as a tool to torment the husband and his family, he says.

Psychological trauma

Akanksha Pandey, consultant clinical psychologist, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, says abuse in marital relationships is bi-directional, contrary to popular perception. The abuse could be physical, verbal, emotional or sexual. 

Few organisations come forward to help men in distress. Also, society dictates that being expressive or displaying emotions is unbecoming of men, making them hesitant to confide in even their closest friends and relatives.

“People enduring abusive relationships over a prolonged time go through emotional distress, sleep disturbance, depression, anger, irritability, low self-esteem, helplessness, and substance abuse,” says Akanksha. When it comes to marital distress, people are advised not to air their feelings openly, so men tend to suppress what they go through.

The recent incident of ISRO chief K Sivan breaking down in the face of a professional setback received criticism; many labelled him weak and unprofessional without taking into consideration the time, effort and emotions he had invested in it.

“This reflects the mindset of society,” says Akanksha. Irrespective of gender, people in abusive relationships stay in denial, and believe they must safeguard children from a failed relationship, she points out.

Financial problems

Dr Raghu says some demands that girls make are widespread. “They want boys with a good salary and property but no dependents. They feel the groom’s parents are ‘baggage’ and so they should either be dead or if alive, shouldn’t be dependent on him financially,” he says.

He has seen cases where women, both working and not working, demand 50 per cent of the husband’s salary. “The rest is for him to meet the household expenses,” he says, adding that this puts a huge mental stress on the male.

Sivan’s moment

ISRO chairman K Sivan broke down and wept when the Chandrayaan team faced a setback last week. Many people criticised him, saying he ought to have been in control. Men are often shamed for showing their emotions, activists say.

‘Laws loaded against men’

Men’s rights activist Vivek Deveshwar says maintenance laws in India are skewed. “There isn’t even a stipulated time a marriage should have lasted before a woman can ask for maintenance,” he says. Kumar Ratan, co-ordinator of Save Family India Foundation, says even independent women with high-paying jobs demand alimony. “Men are responsible for running the family, regardless of whether the wife chooses to stay with him or not. The way our laws are written, they offer women power and no responsibility,” he says.

He also talks about courts favouring women when it comes to custody of children in divorce cases. “We are being stripped of our fatherhood as well,” he says.  

Helplines

Some groups say they offer counselling and legal help to men in stressful marital relationships. 

Purush Adhikar Sangh: 98457 46684

Save Indian Family Foundation: 92789 78978

498A: 78270 90270 (9am to 9pm)

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