Voice over, man eaters! by Statesman News Service

BANGALORE, Jan. 18: Has the time come for the government to have a ministry exclusively for men’s welfare or, for that matter, a national commission for men’s affairs?
It would seem so, going by the Save Indian Family Foundation, whose membership runs into thousands, comprising largely of software professionals from all over India. Troubled, abused and harassed under Section 498a of the Indian Penal Code, these professionals have united against what they say is the jailing of innocent elders, children, women and men under the Dowry Act.
It is to press for their demand for a ministry, along with a national commission for men’s affairs, that the SIFF has organised a protest in the city tomorrow. Supporting the foundation are thousands of members who are joining the protest, including software engineers, doctors, drivers, plumbers, scientists and even NRIs and businessmen from Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and other parts of the country.
The SIFF has invited Mr Azim Premji, Wipro chief, whose company was dragged into a domestic violence case by the wife of an employee. The organisers propose to carry on the protest every month in different parts of the country, to force Parliament to amend the laws to stop legal terrorism and make all the laws gender neutral, according to Mr Pandurang Khatti, one of the SIFF founders and a leading software professional. He said men were facing a host of issues owing to lack of protection from the law, including extortion, dowry harassment, domestic violence and economic abuse.
Quoting the National Crime Records Bureau, he said every 10 minutes, a married man was committing suicide in the country.
The current Domestic Violence Act, for example, suffered from too many maladies, including the definition which itself was wrong, goes his argument. Even the procedures were wrong as was the relief. There were many instances where violent and abusive women had got their way. The law was used to grab the property and wealth created by elderly people out of their retirement funds.
This had removed the peaceful residency rights of the elderly people, unleashing legal violence on them. Even the Supreme Court, he said, had termed the Domestic Violence Act a badly drafted law which could lead to social chaos. Even the Justice Malimath Committee recommended that the Dowry Act and Section 498a of IPC be made bailable. Mr Justice Arijit Pasayat and Mr Justice Seema of the Supreme Court had spoken in anguish, terming the misuse of Section 498a of IPC as legal terrorism.
The SIFF organiser said the judges even urged the legislature or Parliament to make provisions for stopping the misuse of the law.
The impact of legal terrorism, he added, was huge more so when every six minutes an innocent man was arrested, every 30 minutes an innocent woman was arrested; every two hours an innocent elderly was arrested and every day an innocent child was arrested.
Quoting from the National Crime Records Bureau, 2005, he said men in their thousands were forcibly separated from their children if they had any differences with their wives. As a result, the suicide rate of Indian men was increasing. Suicides by married men, he said, were high with 24,000 doing so following abuse by their wives ~ three times the number of socalled dowry deaths. Men were portrayed negatively.
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