This article is written by Mahima Mishra pursuing BBA. LLB from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies. The reason for writing this article is to elaborate upon the fact that justice is the right of every person. This article will not only help you to understand that domestic violence exists against men, but will also delve into the issue of misuse of gender-biased laws. It also throws some light upon some of the incidents as well during recent times.
“Domestic violence” is universally known to be a heinous act which leads to the human rights violation. It is an emotional, physical, and psychologically traumatic experience for any human being who goes through it. Section 498A of Indian Penal Code, 1860, was the first provision inserted by way of the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983, which identified domestic violence against women as a crime. Afterwards, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was enacted to protect women from domestic violence. According to the “National Family Health Survey” (NFHS), data over 30% of Indian women go through domestic abuse not only in the form of physical violence but in the form of emotional and sexual abuse too. The social well- being is also affected and not just the health of the victim.
Now, whatever discussed in this article may sound uncomfortable and absurd. Most of the people may find it offending and politically unreasonable in today’s situation where we are living.
But as we all know, there are two sides to the same coin. In simple words, when it comes to domestic violence, the Indian mindset is still stuck on the fact that it just takes place against a woman, and this thought that domestic violence might occur against a man does not even cross our minds. People have this inherent belief that a man cannot be a victim to a woman.
Most people are not even concerned about this another aspect of domestic violence, and they might even laugh it off by saying many phrases like “Mard ko dard nahi hota” (a man does not feel pain) or “mard ban, biwi se kaise pit gya” (Be a man, how can you get beaten up by your wife). Section 498A was inserted by our lawmakers with a very noble intention to prevent violence and cruelty perpetrated by the husbands and their families, but now after 38 years, it is a law that is most misused and abused in the history of jurisprudence.
Understanding the concept of domestic violence
Domestic violence means just what the term implies. Violence is an act committed with the intent to harm anyone, mostly physically. When this cruelty takes place between two members of the same family, it is known as domestic violence. Due to the reason that it occurs within the family, the victim is very much hesitant and is unable to report this crime or take legal help from any of the legal institutions or NGO’s. Domestic violence not only affects the victim, even children witnessing domestic violence in their households or between their parents develop a similar tendency of aggressive behavior later on in their lives or their future relationships. This act of violence strongly affects the emotional and psychological health of the child.
Types of Domestic Violence
When we learn about domestic violence, we tend to think of it as only in the form of physical violence. In simple words, when there are visible injuries. According to Section 3(a) of the act, domestic violence includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and economic abuse.
Physical abuse is the most recognized and prevalent kind of domestic violence. It includes any act or conduct that is of the sort of nature as to cause bodily pain, harm, or risk to life, limb, or impairing the health of the aggrieved person and consists of assault, criminal threat, and force. Some of the examples of physical abuse are pushing, slapping, punching, biting, hitting with an object, etc.
Sexual abuse or sexual violence can be either physical or of verbal nature. Some of the acts in which sexual abuse has taken place are:
- Making derogatory sexual remarks on the victim.
- Exploiting and using sexual force on the victim who is intoxicated or is not in the senses to make a prudent decision or is scared of the perpetrator.
- Showing unnecessary jealousy resulting in a false allegation of an extramarital relationship.
- Controlling the behavior and not letting the victim have any contacts with the outside world.
Verbal abuse includes comments, threats, accusations, and warnings made by the perpetrator on the victim. It happens when someone frequently uses humiliating terms to attain control and authority over someone. It is the most common type of abuse. This form of abuse is mostly accepted, as the victims get used to it since they don’t even realize that they are going through domestic violence.
Emotional abuse is attacking the self-esteem and self-confidence of the victim. It consists of:
- Telling the victim that they are mentally incompetent and insane to attack the victim’s self-respect and self-worth.
- Continuously neglecting, overlooking, or disregarding the victim’s requests and necessities.
- Passing disrespectful remarks and humiliating publicly.
Economic abuse or financial abuse is a way of threatening to deprive the victim of the usage of financial resources.
- Depriving the victim of all the resources to which the victim is entitled to get by the virtue of their domestic relationship, including access to the shared house.
- Not allowing the victim to gain access to the essential facilities consistently.
Even though only some types of violence constitute the basis for legal action, all kinds of abuse have a detrimental effect on the mental and physical well-being of the victim.
(Source: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence, 2013 – By Nupur Bhutani)
Men suffering in silence
When we think about marriage, it is a beautiful and lifelong sacred bond, but the harsh reality of today is divorce, which happens due to various reasons. Today more than 30% of marriages end up with a divorce. The most prominent reason is domestic violence. Mainly when a marriage falls apart due to this reason, we are of the view that it’s the man and his family who are the culprits. If a man shouts on his wife, he can be accused of domestic violence, but if a woman shouts on his husband, there is nothing that can be done. In our male-dominant society, it is hard to believe that a male can even go through such kind of abuse and a female can be an offender. Though domestic violence is primarily faced by women but that cannot be an excuse to exclude male victims simply because of their gender.
There are several reasons why a man is not able to come forward and be vocal about such an issue, but the most well-known reason is the thought, what will society think. Other reasons might include:
- Fear of a dowry, or Domestic violence case, or a case under section 498A: The most extreme fear for men is being accused of a false accusation of domestic violence or dowry case, as it tends to go on for many years, and is mostly in the favour of the wife.
- For the sake of the children: knowing that this kind of experience will harm the mental health of the child and also because getting the custody of the child is very difficult for a man.
From the very childhood, a boy is taught that he is not supposed to be sensitive. Even in school, if a boy used to cry, his classmates used to mock him, make fun of him by saying that “you are crying like a girl.” People start questioning the masculinity or manliness of a man if he speaks about being harassed or abused at the hands of his wife. Due to these biases, not just a man, a woman is also not able to take a stand for herself. Our society has made a list of traits that a man or a woman should possess within them, and if they see something unusual or irregular, they will start being judgmental.
(Source: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence, 2013 – By Nupur Bhutani)
Due to the general view that men can’t be subjected to domestic violence and abuse, there are no such proper remedies available to men. All the laws for domestic violence are women-centric, and a male going through such an act doesn’t have many options.
There are many institutions like NGO which are fighting for women’s rights, but there are hardly any government-backed institutions for men’s rights. Mostly, when a male victim approaches the police for filing a case of domestic violence, they are ridiculed, threatened, or beaten.
Legal aspects involved in domestic violence
Domestic violence against a man is not recognized by the law in India. The Act was passed with the purpose to cater to the needs of only a female and not a male victim. Laws which were made for the protection of the women are now being abused and are used as a tool to harass a man and his family.
Definitions of “aggrieved person” and “respondent” under Section 2 of the domestic violence act, it is observed that an aggrieved person can be a woman only, and a respondent can only be a male. The exclusion of a man as a victim from these laws per se is not fair to them who suffer at the hand of their female partners.
There has always been this presumption of innocence that is “innocent until proven guilty” which is applied universally, and is the basis of criminal jurisprudence. It is not implemented here, because as soon as a woman files a complaint against his husband under section 498A of the IPC, he will be treated as a criminal. As the offence is cognizable and non-bailable, the police can anytime without any further investigation, arrest a man on just a mere statement by the woman, and which is sufficient to throw a man behind bars.
The man whose character is defamed with fake allegations can opt for some legal measures for restoration and seek protection against Section 498A of the IPC. Here they are:
- The husband can file a case of defamation under Section 500 of the IPC.
- Section 182 of the IPC is one of the previously used measures against false 498A cases. When the authority finds that the averments made were bogus, the culprit is subjected to imprisonment of 6 months or fine or both under Section 182 of the IPC. The person will be charged on the grounds of misleading the judiciary with false information.
Incidents during recent times
Recently it has been noted that there have been Continuous threats of false charges of domestic violence and dowry against the men and their families by the women. There are many incidents in which a wife accuses her husband of torturing and abusing her, but out of these, in some cases, the wife was falsely accusing the husband due to evil ulterior motives. Now, what is the reason for falsely implicating a man?
There might be a situation where the wife is verbally abusive towards her husband and his family. He decides to file for a divorce, but his wife files a complaint that he was the one who was physically abusive in their relationship. Here, the husband is not left with any other option, and the police can arrest him just on the mere statement of his wife. The police here will not even inquire about the veracity of the statements made. This is just an example, but there can be many other reasons or situations in which a man is falsely charged.
In this case, the husband was mentally tortured and humiliated by the wife as she accused his family of dowry and domestic violence. The real story behind it was that the wife was having an extra-marital affair and the husband gave her option to either move on with her lover or to start their married life again. But the wife wanted to end the marriage. After a point of time, tired of all the false allegations of domestic violence and dowry, the husband, not left with any other option, decided to end his life and made a video just before he committed suicide.
This is not the only case where a man suffered. There are many other cases where a man suffered in an abusive relationship or due to gender-biased laws, some of the cases have been discussed below: Jitesh Yadav: In this case, the husband and the wife both approached the police, but they registered his wife’s complaint and not his. After being separated, the wife again entered the house of the husband and started threatening him and his family. A false complaint was also filed against the husband for domestic violence. The wife’s family started beating him, and they both called the police, but the police, for obvious reasons, believed the wife and started threatening the husband.
Sonu Sharma: Here, the husband’s life came upside down when his 6 months old baby accidentally fell off the bed. He asked his wife that they should take the baby to the hospital, as he was bleeding but his wife told him to do so, as it’s his child and she even called up her family and falsely told them that the husband had hit her and asked them to come and take her.
After all of this, the wife’s family members hired some gangsters, and they started misbehaving with the husband and his family.
Santosh Raj: A similar incident took place here, just after 3 months of marriage, the wife hired some goons who attacked the husband and his family. The wife falsely accused him of impotency and demanded a large amount of 1 crore for a divorce. Somehow the amount was brought down to 35 lakhs, but the husband did know that they will not stop harassing him even after all this, so he went underground.
Supreme Court’s view
In 2005, the apex court in Sushil Kumar v. Union of India observed that,
“Merely because this provision (section 498A) is constitutional does not give rights and license to unscrupulous persons to wreck personal vendetta or unleashed harassment by misuse of the provision, new legal terrorism can be unleashed. This provision should be used as a shield against the wrong but not as an assassin’s weapon because when actual wolf appears then you won’t get the help”, “The fact that 498-A is a cognizable and non-bailable offence has lent a dubious place of pride amongst provisions that are used as weapons than a shield by disgruntled wives.”
In the case of Rajesh Sharma & Ors. vs. State of UP and Anr, the SC passed a directive to the police and magistrates that they will not instantly arrest the accused under section 498A after the complaint is filed. They will first ascertain the truthfulness of the accusations.
It was observed that “there was a growing pattern of cases where the women were misusing the legal provision to charge their husbands and his family members in criminal cases based on personal vengeance or ulterior motives.”
Providing aid to the Victimized
There have been some initiatives to bring the reality of men who are victimized. “Save Indian Family Foundation” established in 2007, is a non-profit and non-funded organization which fights for men’s right and even runs a helpline for men who face domestic violence or who underwent through an abusive relationship or implicated under false cases of section 498A. They have reached up to more than 40,000 people on the ground and around 5,000 on the internet who are fighting against such false accusations.
The documentary “Martyrs of Marriage” (2016) was directed by an equal rights activist Deepika Bhardwaj, which showcased how men and their families are being victimized in India because of gender bias law and also portrays how section 498A is being misused. It has an IMDB rating of 8.5/10 and is available on “YouTube.”
Now, it would not be wrong to say that gender-neutral domestic violence laws are the need of the hour. This misuse of gender-bias laws is not just an injustice to a man but a woman also. Anyone is capable of being a victim, and anyone is capable of being an abuser. These incidents against men might be less common than domestic violence against women, but these victims need some protection too. There has always been this mindset that if a woman slaps a man, he must have done something wrong, or she has been provoked to do the same. The same rationale is applied to a man also, but violence in any form done to anyone being a man or woman is completely unforgivable and wrong. Though most of the victims of this act are majorly women, it is quite surprising to know even men go through such atrocities. This side is overlooked and is even not much talked about, but it’s high time that people and the government start addressing this issue and enact laws that regulate this aspect of domestic violence too. Justice is the right of every individual regardless of their gender.
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