Mens' Fight for Gender-Neutral Legislation

This August, India celebrated 75 years of independence. In these years, India has seen many ups and downs, and development strategies have been put in place to uplift its citizens. People of India enjoy many freedoms and a bundle of rights. However, these rights came after a long walk of struggle. Even now, many are not aware of their legal rights and remedies guaranteed by the constitution. When the laws were being laid, circumstances and conditions were very different from today. Earlier, women were victims of domestic violence, and men committed various offences against women.

Equal status was given to every citizen in the constitution of India to develop the nation. Nevertheless, the acceptance regarding the same did not come easily. Years of effort made the citizenry realise that everyone is equal in the eyes of the state. Women are now walking shoulder to shoulder with men. Their participation in economic activities has made way for modern India. Women are now more aware than ever and have far better knowledge of their rights and duties. Legislation has also worked tremendously to improve women's conditions and help them get a voice against all forms of discrimination and violence.

However, many recent cases have shown the dark side of women empowerment. In the name of rights, many ignorant women are using their rights for harassing men. In the most recent case in Hyderabad, which caught everyone's attention, a woman slapped a cab driver and broke his phone. Many people criticised the woman's act as it was clear from the local CCTV video that the cab driver was innocent. The police arrived and filed an FIR against the cab driver, which led to his malicious prosecution. However, as soon as the news gained media attention and the reality came out, the woman was found guilty; another FIR was filed against the woman. In an interview, the cab driver was seen saying that he only wants his self-respect back.

This incident questions the very existence of numerous rights available to women and the lack thereof for men's safety. The constitution of India provides equality to all its citizens irrespective of their gender, so why is there no provision for men's safety and for protecting them from offences committed by women against them.

To voice against this injustice done to men, many have come together and formed a popular movement known as MEN'S RIGHTS MOVEMENT. This movement came into existence in the early 2000s when a group of resentful husbands came together to defend themselves against the misuse of dowry-related laws and laws relating to domestic violence filed by their wives. The grievance was primarily against Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, enacted in 1983 to safeguard women from violence, abuse, and harassment by the groom's family to assert their dowry demands. This section provides for the immediate arrest of the groom and his family for demanding dowry and harassing women.

After the law was passed, there was a surge in the complaints of dowry demand, which women were generally filing, and it was found that most of these complaints were false and women were merely playing the victim card. This law derogated many families' reputations until 2014 when the Hon'ble Supreme Court came to defend men's rights and removed the provision of immediate arrest.

Women have tremendously misused dowry laws and laws relating to sexual abuse, assault, and even rape. In a report published by Delhi Commission for Women, it was stated that 53% of the rape cases filed in the capital were false.

When the Men's Rights Movement started, many women also joined the movement to raise their voices against the discrimination men faced. Misuse of laws to extort men not only leads to defamation of a man but also his family. Moreover, more often than not, it pushes them towards suicide.

Men also face domestic violence and abuse by their female counterparts, but they do not come out to defend themselves because they know that the law supports and favours women. Men are seen as perpetrators, and it is perceived that they cannot be victims of abuse as they are mentally and physically stronger than women.

Men's rights activists are also working to propose changes in the child custody and divorce laws claiming the law to be biased. In India, child custody is allowed to the father only when the mother is unstable or has left the child and the matrimonial house. These activists say that men should also be seen as capable of bringing up their children as many men single-handedly brought up their children after the demise of their wives, raising a sincere question as to why cannot they take care of their children after divorce. Women ask for alimony after taking custody of children. The amount of alimony being demanded is sometimes beyond the reach of the men, causing them mental distress. Women should not be allowed maintenance if they have extramarital affairs, leave willfully, or are financially independent. Men's financial condition and the reason behind the separation should be taken into account before deciding maintenance. In a family where a woman is a supreme earner, she should maintain her husband and child the same as the men do.

Women's rights data are numerous, but very little data is available regarding men and their rights. Reasons behind false cases should be considered why women are trying to represent themselves as victims, and if they want to part their ways with their husbands, they should know that they can do so without defaming their husbands and his family. Women who defame their husbands should not be given a share in their husband's property or alimony.

Allegations made by women on men have severe implications on men's career and social reputation. Media trial and social media dissent overflows in a case affecting women's modesty. Before the court decides the guilty, the media has already held men liable.

Men have largely lost their belief in the law. They do not raise their voices against discrimination, abuse, false allegations, and blackmailing because "men are abusers and more powerful than women, hence, cannot suffer abuse at the hands of women."

What is required is to have equal and gender-neutral laws for both men and women. Legislation should be amended from time to time with the changes in society and its citizens. Punishment against false accusations should be made stern to teach a lesson to the offenders. Everyone should be taught the limits of their legal rights. The extent and importance of legal rights should be made clear to all citizens.

The consequences of wrongful acts of women against men should be precise so that they are careful and think before filing a false complaint. On the part of men, they should be taught the rights provided to them and how they can raise their issues.

Feminist is a term associated with the fight for equal rights of movement. If we look at the current trends, feminism has become an "anti-men movement" as all men are being disregarded by the "feminist leaders" and are continuously criticised. Boundaries between true feminism and anti-men feminism have become very thin. Feminists and men's rights advocates should know the real motive of the movements and should not misuse laws for their advantage as they disrespect the whole campaign and other people associated with it.

There should be governmental organisations the same way as there are for women's rights. Separate branches for men's rights should be formed to increase the participation of men against the injustice they suffer. There must be a careful inquiry about grave issues of rape, dowry, abuse, and domestic violence. The accused person's identity should be kept hidden to avoid media trial and safeguard the dignity of the accused until proven guilty. Legislation, as it applies in the cases of females, should be applied in the same manner as to males to avoid resentment from any side. Families should be kept away from the personal issues of husbands and wives whenever it is possible. Men's rights activism should spread] to talk about men's issues, their lives and difficulties. Accurate data should be collected, and surveys should be conducted to present the reality for everyone.

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