While it is traumatic for women to come out, call out their sexual perpetrators and voice the atrocities they faced, the same is true for men who have had to spend time in jails accused of false and unproven rape cases, dowry harassment charges, domestic violence or workplace harassment charges. There are a number of men who attempt or commit suicide, too. At present, a woman with no weight of evidence can erroneously blame a man for sexually attacking her and by law the authorities can question and apprehend the man. Ultimately, the weight of evidence lies on the man’s shoulders.
A judgment by the Kerala High Court, delivered recently, observed that there is a growing tendency in the recent years to foist false charges alleging sexual abuse of his own child against the biological father, misusing the provisions of the POCSO Act. This normally takes place when a custody battle for a child is pending resolution before Family Courts. In the light of such incidents, it has become imperative to address the problems of men who do not speak up against women’s atrocities. Hence the #MenToo movement that is gaining traction across the country.
“Men do not come out and express what they are going through. I feel in our society, a man and a woman can be victims of any crime, including a sexual one. When a woman faces a sexual assault, society stands by her along with 40 laws that only a woman can invoke including rape, sexual and workplace harassment laws where the woman is the victim and the man the perpetrator. If a man goes through a sexual harassment episode at his workplace, the law will not give him any protection where as our Constitution says that the protection from law should be irrespective of caste, creed and gender,” explains Amit Lakhani, president of the Men Welfare Trust, a Delhi-based NGO that supports and assists men and their families who are victims of gender-based laws being misused. The Trust is a conglomerate of about 50 NGOs across India, which is under the umbrella of Save Indian Family movement.
P.R. Gokul, secretary of the Men’s Rights Protection Forum in Kerala, which comes under the Save Indian Family movement, says, “We have been getting a lot of cases of misuse of laws pertaining to false cases of sexual harassment, workplace harassment, domestic and physical violence and dowry. The observation by the Kerala High Court has only highlighted the grave nature of the offences committed against men.”
Dowry harassment is the most common offence followed by domestic violence and misuse of the rape law. What Gokul and his team ensure is that pertinent solutions to problems.
“Most men believe that all is lost if a false rape case is filed and that they can do nothing, but we give them hope asking them to look for evidence. In this tech driven world, digital footprints will be left in the form of chats, voice messages, recordings or emails. Sometimes, these can vindicate the man’s stand.”
Gokul believes that if a falsely accused man gets even a small helping hand, he can grasp that and climb out of a quagmire. “We give emotional support especially in our monthly meetings,” he adds, saying that around 20-30 people turn out for those meetings and that they get 40-50 calls monthly from traumatised men.
Talking about what the #MenToo Movement wants to achieve, Amit staunchly says, “Any law should protect a man and woman equally in a similar situation. We are here to just ask for gender neutrality in laws. In place of a husband and wife it should be written as spouse and in case of man or woman as person. We are not asking for any special privileges or special laws. In case a man is victimised, he should be able to come out and voice it!”
Amit points to the absence of a single helpline from the government for a man who is suicidal, depressed, beaten up or facing abuse from women, nor are there shelter homes or any Men’s Commission. The Trust has a helpline number through which victims can seek guidance and emotional support and there are weekly meetings where psychological counselling and laws and rights are explained. The helpline gets around 6000 calls in a month connected to 10 cities.