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Domestic violence against men: High time government addressed the problem

By: Virag R Dhulia

IBNLive Specials

Last Updated: June 11, 2015, 14:15 IST

Domestic violence against men: High time government addressed the problem

India has also identified domestic violence as a crime and provides relief and protection from it – albeit to only Women!

Domestic Violence has been recognised across the world as a form of violence that affects a person’s life in every way – physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically – and is a violation of basic human rights. 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 – albeit to only Women!

Indian men facing domestic violence at the hands of 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.

In most countries in the world, the laws against domestic violence provide protection to both men and women. Men can also seek restraining orders from courts, which restrain the abusive partner or wife from perpetrating abuse and even contacting the victim. Whereas 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 wife or other female family members. There are several cases where a husband has been battered, abused, tortured by wife in connivance with her own family. Many a 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. Its high time India keeps pace with the rest of the world and makes the laws against domestic violence gender neutral.

Save Indian Family Foundation, an organization working on men’s rights, has now approached MPs to submit a private member bill in the parliament to start the steps towards enacting a law for protection of men from domestic violence. It is long overdue. We are currently Marital Rape and the argument is that it is recognised as a crime in several countries. If that be, domestic violence is also recognised in most countries as spousal violence and not man on woman violence. To keep pace with these developments, there has to be a policy to prevent family violence against men, believes SIFF.

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) has 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, men are not asked if they are victims of domestic violence in these surveys.

When physical violence and threats against men by wife’s relatives are taken into account, an estimated 3 crore men are facing domestic violence in India.

As there is a lot of social stigma towards 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 as unmanly. Such thinking is chauvinistic and it is harmful.

Violence on men can range from anything like - physical violence including slapping, pushing, hitting by wife, her parents or relatives; emotional violence with wife threatening suicide to intimidate and control the husband; verbal abuse if 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 false case of dowry and domestic violence.

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 of domestic violence against men. The other reasons include intolerance and anger at non-fulfillment of expectations. Sometimes, inability of husband to meet monetary demands of 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 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 at 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.

Most parents of women blame the son-in-law for the breakdown of the marriage, without accepting that their daughter is abusive or she has serious anger management issues. They somehow think their daughter can never be wrong and expect the son-in-law to tolerate her. They get violent at son-in-law to teach him a lesson or seek revenge. Police rarely accept any complaints filed by husband about the violence he is suffering, claiming that this is a family issue. They also refuse to provide any protection to the man.

The patriarchal thinking that “Mardko Dard nahihota” (Men do not feel pain) eulogizes and patronizes emotional castration of boys from a very young age which teaches them to tolerate abuse and feel glorified about making sacrifices. Owing to this social conditioning, a vast majority of victimized men wear a plastic smile and hide their scars and suffer in solitude.

The survey conducted by National Family Health Survey which throws light on unprovoked violence against men by women is evidence 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 succour to millions of those men who feel victimised and left out.

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    It would also provide them with a legal platform to come forward and share their pain and get some semblance of a relief.

    (Writer is the Head, Gender Studies, Confidare Research)

    first published:June 11, 2015, 14:15 IST
    last updated:June 11, 2015, 14:15 IST