Domestic Violence has been recognized across the world as a form of violence that affects a person’s life in every way – physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically and it is a violation of basic human rights.
Indian men facing domestic violence at the hands of a wife or female partner is a harsh reality. However, no one including our government has taken any stand on addressing it. Domestic Violence is a serious social issue, but men who face domestic violence in India have nowhere to go since the law doesn’t treat them as victims. Various countries have identified it as a serious threat to a person’s overall wellbeing thus providing relief in various forms. India has also identified domestic violence as a crime and provides relief and protection from it but for men who face domestic violence in India they have nowhere to go since the law doesn’t treat them as victims.
In India, family violence against men is almost legal as there is no provision in any law to protect a man, who faces violence from his wife or other female family members. There are several cases where a husband has been battered, abused, and tortured by his wife in connivance with her own family. Many times the violence is so brutal that the husband suffers extreme injuries, in some cases, he is killed as well. This situation is mainly due to patriarchal thinking in the society, that men are stronger than women and they can defend themselves with physical force. It’s high time India keeps pace with the rest of the world and makes the laws against domestic violence gender-neutral.
Most abused men do not run away from their abusers and apply for divorce because they are either afraid of losing access to their children or they are afraid of getting implicated in false cases of dowry harassment. They also dread huge financial losses and long-drawn litigations in the process, given the insensitive and lackadaisical attitude of the Indian Judiciary, especially towards men.
In 2004, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) found that about 1.8% or an estimated 60 lakh women have perpetrated physical violence against husbands without any provocation. However, men are more likely to be threatened and attacked by male relatives of the wife than the wife herself. The strange aspect however is, that men are not asked if they are victims of domestic violence in these surveys. As there is a lot of social stigma toward men abused by women, most of the male victims do not come out in open and do not share their ordeal with family, friends, or colleagues. Male victims of domestic violence are ridiculed and considered unmanly. Such thinking is chauvinistic and it is harmful.
Violence against men can range from anything like – physical violence including slapping, pushing, and hitting by his wife, her parents, or relatives; emotional violence with the wife threatening suicide to intimidate and control the husband; verbal abuse if the husband remains in contact with his parents or comes home late from work; throwing objects like utensils, cell phones and crockery at the husband; sexual abuse if husband denies sex to mental abuse by constant threats of implicating the husband and his family under the false case of dowry and domestic violence.
Most of the time, domestic violence against men only gets attention when a celebrity is the victim of some kind of noteworthy physical harm, such as when Tiger Woods’ wife attacked him with a golf club or when Phil Hartman’s wife shot him as he slept. Even then, the violent acts are often perceived as isolated incidents and much of the public and private speculation presumes the man “did something to deserve it.” In reality, this kind of violence is often foreshadowed by actions that may not seem like domestic violence on the surface, but do, in fact, represent a series of abuses against the men such as:
- Using insults, name-calling, and another berating language
- Interfering with him seeing his family and friends
- Threatening to expose embarrassing personal information to others
- Showing oppressive possessiveness or jealousy
- Restricting his spending or controlling his finances
- Shoving, slapping, or otherwise striking him
- Threatening harm to themselves or others as a way to “punish” him
In both the Tiger Woods and Phil Hartman cases, the violent acts were caused, at least in part, by real or imagined accusations of infidelity, a common trigger for domestic violence. Alcohol and drug abuse also play a significant role in many of these cases.
Today, many women have serious anger management issues. They also seem to bring the stress of the workplace to the home. This is one of the main reasons for domestic violence against men. The other reasons include intolerance and anger at the non-fulfilment of expectations. Sometimes, the inability of the husband to meet the monetary demands of the wife also leads to abuse and violence
Times are changing and there are many men whose wives are more educated than their husbands and earn more. However, the burden of running the house still rests on the man owing to 16th-century patriarchal beliefs and this paves the path for the abuse of men. Such a law could allow such husbands to seek maintenance from an abusive wife and lead a dignified life free from abuse. Male victims of family violence go through low self-esteem and their performance in the workplace suffers. Thousands of such men are approaching psychiatrists, who are not of much help when a law to provide protection to men and restrain the women does not exist.
Regardless of gender, ending a relationship, even an abusive one, is rarely easy. It becomes even harder if you’ve been isolated from friends and family, threatened, manipulated, and controlled, or physically and emotionally beaten down.
You may feel that you have to stay in the relationship because:
You feel ashamed. Many men feel great shame that they’ve been abused, been unable to stand up for themselves, or somehow failed in their role as a male, husband, or father.
Your religious beliefs dictate that you stay or your self-worth is so low that you feel this abusive relationship is all you deserve.
There’s a lack of resources. Many men worry they’ll have difficulty being believed by the authorities, or that their abuse will be minimized because they’re male, or find there are few resources to specifically help abused men.
You’re in a same-sex relationship but haven’t come out to family or friends, and are afraid your partner will out you.
You’re in denial. Just as with female domestic violence victims, denying that there is a problem in your relationship will only prolong the abuse. You may still love your partner when they’re not being abusive and believe they will change or that you can help them. But change can only happen once your abuser takes full responsibility for their behaviour and seeks professional treatment.
You want to protect your children. You worry that if you leave, your spouse will harm your children or prevent you from having access to them. Obtaining custody of children is always challenging for fathers, but even if you are confident that you can do so, you may still feel overwhelmed at the prospect of raising them alone.
There can be various reasons for violence against men in a domestic environment.
It has been observed in a study that less income, education up to middle class, nuclear family setup, and the influence of alcohol were risk factors for violence against men. An earning spouse with education up to graduation was found to be the risk factor for bidirectional physical violence. Caste and socioeconomic status were not found significantly associated with violence against men. It was observed that the couples where the spouse is earning and educated up to graduation, the physical violence can be committed by both the spouses against each other.
Many women have serious anger management issues and because of this they become aggressive, and verbal or physical abuse takes place. Women facing stress at the workplace have frustration and anger due to nonfulfillment of expectations and thus also can indulge in violent behavior. Financial constraints due to the husband’s poor income and/or more income by the wife may also be one of the factors leading to violence.
In a male-dominated society, men feel that it is shameful to be beaten by a woman and they do not report the violence. The pressure from family also prevents them from taking any legal action, and they are also afraid of getting trapped in false accusations under 498A. When men report domestic abuse and violence, people do not believe them. Also, when these men try to complain about these problems, within marriage and family, no one takes them seriously. Many men are ashamed of talking about and sharing that they are beaten by their wives.
The probable reasons for underreporting include belief and hope that things would get better, fear of losing social respect and position, protection, love toward their children and family, and fear of getting blamed. Complaining by men also can be perceived as “feminine behaviour” in the male-dominated Indian society.
Any violence affects life physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. It is also a violation of basic human rights. Unreported and unnoticed violence against men may lead to denial of accepting the family, divorce, depression, or suicide in extreme cases. It has been observed that suicides were more in married men as compared to separated/unmarried men. According to WHO (2002), women think more about committing suicide, whereas men die by suicide more frequently. This is also known as a gender paradox in society.
According to WHO,exposure to violence can increase the risk of smoking, alcoholism, and drug abuse; mental illness and suicidality; chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer; infectious diseases such as HIV, and social problems such as crime and further violence.
Despite the data available, suggesting violence against men, no law to protect men is yet to be formed by the legislature. All laws for controlling domestic violence consider women as victims. Anti-dowry laws, Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, and later Section 498A passed by the Supreme Court of India already show the concern and asked to stop the “Legal Terrorism” in the form of misuse of 498A and the necessary changes to be made by the Parliament.
In the United States of America, one out of every nine men is subjected to domestic violence by their intimate partner or their wives. One in every seven men has been the victim of physical violence by their wives or intimate partners.
Men account for two out of every five victims of domestic violence in the United Kingdom. This refutes the widely held belief that domestic violence only affects women. Domestic violence against men often goes unnoticed, according to the men’s rights campaign group parity, and their attackers are rarely prosecuted.
According to a British crime survey, 40 percent of domestic violence victims were men between 2004-2005 and 2008-2009. In recent years, it has dropped to 37.7%.
Strangers and in public places are the most common perpetrators of domestic violence against men. Since the age of 15, 1 in 16 Australian men has been subjected to domestic violence in the form of physical or sexual torture by their wives, intimate partners, or cohabiting partners.
Between 2012-13 and 2013-14, one man was killed every month as a result of domestic violence by his current or previous partner. Domestic violence against men by their wives or intimate partners is not uncommon, according to these surveys and studies from various countries. Appropriate provisions for dealing with domestic violence in a more neutral manner should be in place.
Women use the Section 498A and Dowry Act as weapons against their husbands by filing a false complaint. Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code allows a husband, his parents, and relatives to be charged with cruelty to a woman in order to meet their illegal demands (dowry).
In most cases, the husband, his parents, and his relatives are arrested without a thorough investigation and imprisoned on non-bailable terms.
The accused is presumed guilty until he or she proves innocence in court, even if the complaint is false. If found guilty, the maximum penalty is three years in prison.
Thus, there are two approaches of defense a man has in this situation:
- DEFENSIVE APPROACH
A defensive approach is taken when a man must defend himself and his family, he can take the following steps:
- Collect as much electronic evidence as you can find against his wife. Recorded calls, chats, etc. showing that he and his family have never demanded dowry or allegedly committed any kind of violence.
- Apply for Anticipatory Bail, the moment an FIR is lodged against him.
- Complaint against blackmailing or false allegations to the Police. But sometimes, Police do not believe the husband and thus do not file the report. In this situation, the husband can write a letter to the SP or Commissioner.
- The husband can also file for Restitution of Conjugal Rights available under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act.
- Do not settle with the perpetrator.
- Raise awareness about your situation as much as possible.
- A husband can also complain about these atrocities on: pmindia.gov.in – here you can submit your complaint to the Prime Minister of India, or he can send a letter to: Web Information Manager, New Delhi – 110011
- OFFENSIVE APPROACH
A husband can also take the offensive approach against his wife, namely:
- The biggest card defense a husband has is Section 227 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The section states the situations of Discharge and if the husband has enough proof that the wife is alleging false complaints, he can file an application under this section.
- Under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code – the husband can allege that his wife is committing Criminal Conspiracy against him.
- Section 167 of the Indian Penal Code can also be used against the Police officers who refused to file an FIR and/or helped the wife in making a false complaint. Section 182 of the Indian Penal Code can be used too.
- The husband can also file a defamation case under Section 500 and Section 504 of the Indian Penal Code against his wife as his reputation has been damaged due to her false claims.
- ARUNESH KUMAR VS. STATE OF BIHAR
The wife claimed that dowry was demanded of her and that she was ejected from the matrimonial home for failing to comply. The husband attempted to get anticipatory bail but was denied. As a result, the husband filed a special leave petition with the Supreme Court.
The Court noted in this case that because Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code is a cognizable and non-bailable offense, it is frequently used as a weapon rather than a shield by disgruntled wives.
It leads to the husband and his relatives being harassed by having them arrested under this Section, and it is even more disturbing to see bedridden grandfathers and grandmothers being arrested without a prima facie case.
As a result, the Court established certain guidelines that a police officer must follow when making an arrest under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code or Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, and that such an arrest must be based on a reasonable belief in the veracity of the allegation. Furthermore, even Magistrates must be cautious about authorizing detention on a haphazard and mechanical basis.
- MANJU RAM KALITA VS. STATE OF ASSAM
The wife accused her husband of physical and mental cruelty and filed a complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. The husband, on the other hand, has denied all of the allegations.
The Court held that “cruelty” for the purposes of Section 498-A Indian Penal Code must be determined in the context of Section 498-A Indian Penal Code because it may differ from other statutory provisions.
It should be determined by looking at the man’s behaviour, weighing the gravity or seriousness of his actions, and determining whether or not it is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide, among other things.
It must be proven that the woman has been subjected to cruelty on a continuous basis, or at the very least in the time leading up to the filing of the complaint. Petty quarrels, the Court went on to say, cannot be classified as “cruelty” under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code.
- BIBI PARWANA KHATOON VS. STATE OF BIHAR
The facts of this case are similar to those of previous cases in that the wife was killed by her husband and relatives setting her on fire. The deceased wife’s sister-in-law and brother-in-law appealed the conviction to the Supreme Court.
The Court noted that the appellants in the case did not even live in the area where the accident occurred. There was no proof that their claim was true beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, the Court acquitted them and stated that the Court must avoid falsely implicating relatives.
- RAJESH KUMAR & ORS. VS. STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH
In this case, the husband and other relatives were accused of torturing the wife in the absence of dowry demand. Other relatives, on the other hand, demanded that there be some guidelines in place to prevent over-implication. As a result, in the majority of Section 498A cases, the husband’s relatives are also dragged into Court.
It is not necessary, however, that they were involved in the crime. As a result, the appeal raised a question about the need for directions to prevent the misuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
The Supreme Court issued broad guidelines to prevent the misuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, in the following areas:
- Family Welfare Committees – the Supreme Court said that a Family Welfare Committee should be established in every district to look into the complaints made under Section 498A.
- An Investigating Officer should be designated to look into the complaint.
- Disposal of cases where settlements have been reached.
- Passports to be impounded by the issuance of a Red Corner Notice.
- Regulations related to Bail were also changed.
- Cases with some parties could be clubbed.
- The personal appearance of all family members is now not a mandatory requirement.
Society’s values, culture, and norms have changed dramatically in recent years as a result of modernization and westernization. Previously, men were seen as protectors of their families, but nowadays, both men and women work, raise, and manage their households, contributing equally to their incomes.
Men have begun to open up about the domestic violence they face, and they have begun to openly share their pain, agony, and struggles. Men are no longer superior to women in terms of strength. It’s past time for statutes and laws to acknowledge their problem as a social issue or problem. Domestic violence against men can be recognized through effective legislative changes, public awareness campaigns, and the dismantling of stereotypes and preconceived notions. False accusations against men are on the rise, and it’s a serious problem because it violates basic human rights. Nobody is unaware of the problem; everyone is aware of how women abuse legal provisions to fulfill their unlawful demands against their husbands.
Section 498A is also non-compoundable, making it more severe for men. Though the government recently issued guidelines for amending existing laws to ensure that men and women are treated equally. The Supreme Court is also working hard to improve things for Indian men, and in a recent decision, the court issued some guidelines to prevent arbitrary arrests of men in 498A cases. There have also been landmark decisions in favor of men due to the widespread misuse of Section 489A. According to a recent decision, if a woman makes a false accusation against her husband, it is grounds for divorce. The country is moving forward but not at a pace that is required by the rising problem.
The survey conducted by National Family Health Survey which throws light on unprovoked violence against men by women is evident in the face. Notwithstanding the fact that double the numbers of men commit suicide compared to women, it should not be a surprise to ask for a law to protect men as such a law for women already exists. In fact, it would be preposterous in this age of gender equality, not to have such a law. Such a law to protect men from domestic violence would act as security to millions of those men who feel victimized and left out. It would also provide them with a legal platform to come forward and share their pain and get some semblance of relief.
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