The upcoming winter session of the Parliament will see an interesting proposal by men's rights organisation coming up for discussion. The Saving Men from Intimate Terror Act 2012, or SMITA in short, has been drafted to protect men and boys from domestic violence from their spouse, girlfriends and parents.
A joint initiative by the Indian Social Awareness and Activism Forum (INSAAF) and Confidare Research, this act will be petitioned in the Rajya Sabha.
Arnab Ganguly of INSAAF, and Virag Dhulia, head of Gender Studies, Confidare Research, say they have identified various forms of violence/abuse faced by men and boys like physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, legal abuse, economic abuse, sexual abuse and they see that there no law in India that specifically caters to the needs and issues of men or one that is drafted from an understanding of men's problems.
"Every year more 6,2000 married men are committing suicide in the country. Often we hear news of men committing suicide after the police forces them to stay with their abusive wives, else the police threaten them with arrest. There is no social acceptance of a harassed and victimised man. Often when men share their problems, they are ridiculed and belittled by society. Hence society and the government need to understand this, and for it this law is required," they add.
INSAAF and Confidate Research have come across various forms of abuse against men by the opposite sex and have classified them accordingly:
Physical abuse: Husbands and male partners have presented serious evidence of being scratched, punched, bit, things thrown at them by their female partners apart from attacks with deadly instruments. In the absence of a legal system to protect men from physical violence, these victims get little or no medical care or attention and are even unable to speak of their physical wounds due to the unavailability of a law to protect them from abuse.
Emotional abuse: Demands to forcefully separate the husband from his parents and family, demand for separate residence, threat of police action and legal recourse if the wife's demands are not met, were some of the commonly seen tactics of emotional abuse. Also, constant non-cooperation of the wife or the female partner in the smooth running of a family was another commonly seen tactic which was used to abuse husbands in case of non-fulfillment of the demands of the wife.
Verbal abuse: Calling husbands and male partners derogatory names with an intent to demean and hurt. Names like "impotent", "spineless", "hijra (eunuch)" have most commonly come up and were verbal abuses that were levelled against husbands and male partners with an intent to cause pain and ignominy.
Legal abuse: The acts of misusing the state machinery by the wife or female partner for coercing the husband or the male partner to abide by their demands. Common among these are the misuse of IPC 498a , DV act 2005, rape/molestation laws, denying child custody on event of separation and maintenance laws.
Economic abuse: Constant irrational demands on the husband for purchase of jewellery, real estate, expensive clothing, automobiles, restaurant hospitality, feminine beauty products and demands for payments to family members of the wife's family were also noted.When the husband or the male partner was unable to meet the financial demands of the female partner, they were subjected to further emotional and physical abuse.
Sexual abuse: Using consensual physical relations to coerce a man for either financial payments and/or forced marriage, threatening to file cases of rape and molestation after consensual physical relations, forcing men to start families against their will and denying physical relation in a matrimonial relation if irrational and unreasonable demands are not fulfilled were some examples.
INSAAF's study has also has taken into account the scale and propensity of abuse of the husbands and males partners in India and compared that to worldwide abuse numbers. "We have concluded that in more than 50 per cent of cases wives and females also initiated fights which led to attacks on their male partners," Dhulia says.
He adds that they are hopeful that some action will be taken after the Rajya Sabha discusses this issue. "In August we met with at least 40 members of Parliament who echoed our concerns and felt the need of such an Act."
The draft bill was sent as a petition to the Rajya Sabha by the NGOs, following which an acknowledgement was sent to the petitioners, paving the way for a discussion on it in the Upper House.