There’s no denying the fact that violence against women is getting unprecedented attention these days, and perhaps rightly so. But at the same time, the problems plaguing men get overlooked, leading them to undergo severe pain, losses, loneliness and even depression, with no help at hand. It is high time to highlight the ugly truth that it’s not just men who can be violent, women are as capable of being abusive or can even be murderers.
A woman from Delhi has realized this fact and doing every bit possible to address men’s issues. A personal tragedy made Jyoti Tiwari, head of Delhi Centre of Confidare Community Centre for Men, change her perspective towards the way society views men. Her brother’s death caused by being trapped in a false case of dowry harassment had shaken her up so much that she started watching things with a completely different perspective.
A prominent proponent of men’s welfare and research analyst at Confidare Research, Jyoti has vast experience of dealing with media as she was previously working with All India Radio. Also a blogger, Jyoti is very vocal about men’s rights on TV debates and programmes. She personally talks to thousands of victimized men, listens to their misery and helps them become emotionally stable during their bad phase.
Jyoti is constantly spreading awareness about the issues men go through. In an exclusive interview with Newsd, Jyoti shed light on domestic abuse of men, common cases she encounters, how easy it is for men is to seek help, how prevalent the problem is and lots more.
Q. Why do we need MRAs (Men’s Rights Activist)? When did you feel the need to fight for men’s rights?
The term MRA has become very fashionable these days. Any man trapped in matrimonial dispute calls himself an MRA. But it takes a lot of training to understand men’s issues in order to become a men’s rights activist. So, I have come up with a new term for myself and it is men’s wellness expert.
In 2012, my brother got trapped in false cases of dowry harassment. We lost him just after the case was filed. But still we had to go for bail and trials. While I was given the benefit of being a woman in the courtroom, my husband and father were treated as criminals. I was already angry at the false allegations, and the way my husband and father were treated made me even angrier. And that’s when I started studying men’s issues and felt the need to fight for men in 2012.
Q. How prevalent is the domestic abuse of men? Share some statistics?
Domestic abuse on men is frequent and the worst part is that they do not have any place to report. There’s no law to protect them and there is no mechanism which at least can provide statistics about domestic violence on men. When I say no mechanism, it means no ministry, no commission to keep a record. I get at least 5 calls a day and most of the cases from them are of abuse by wives.
Abuse by parents, brothers or sisters and partners are also very frequent.
Q. What type of cases do you come across frequently? How do you tackle such cases?
As I mentioned above that there are all types of cases. But frequent cases are of abuse by wives. Abuse can be verbal, emotional, sexual or violent. If the abuse is violent in nature, we ask the man to leave the house, so that further violence can be avoided. Every case is different, so counselling is also different.
Q. Did you ever feel such cases are over-exaggerated? Any case that eventually had no substance?
Yes, the cases are indeed over-exaggerated. Sometimes, there is a simple problem but a criminal case is filed on that. There are many such cases but I will cite one case as an example:
The wife of a businessman from Agra, did not want to live with in-laws. Soon, the couple moved to another place. But the woman also wanted him to end all relations with his parents. As he did not agree to it, she left him after an argument and went to her place in Ahmadabad. She also aborted the baby she was carrying.
He tried hard to save the relationship, so he brought her back. Soon, they were blessed with a child. However, the problem persisted in the relationship. She then filed a FIR of dowry and the man was arrested. He came out of prison just to realize that his wife left his house, leaving behind his little son. Police, in a final report, said that they did not find any harassment but the case is non-bailable, so it is still on.
Q. Is it easy for men to seek help or approach help centres? If not, what bothers them usually?
No, it is not easy for men to seek help. First of all, there is not much help available and then there is a taboo that how can a man be abused? Recently, a man told me that when he went to the police station to file a complaint against his wife as she attacked him with a knife, the police ridiculed him. They laughed at him saying, he is not man enough as his wife has beaten him up. Also, there is no law available under which a complaint can be filed against the wife. So how will they seek help?
Q. What are the common marital issues that a couple faces in contemporary society? What remains the area of conflict in general? Give some real life examples you have come across.
Basically, there are no issues, and if you call them issues then they are same in every relationship. It is just that courts have given women absolute power to use as they want in a marital relationship. Marriages are breaking because expectations from men have skyrocketed.
There is zero acceptance for men and no social structure to define the responsibility of women in marriage. Courts are granting exorbitant amounts under the ‘cute name’ of maintenance merely because marriage happened. Why would not a woman break the marriage? Courts are incentivizing breaking of marriage. Take the case of a banker from Bangalore.
HIs wife did not want to live with him so she created drama and filed a case. He tried to save his marriage, so compromised in the police station and brought his wife back. They started living together again, but of course were not happy. They were soon blessed with a son.
But the wife started creating problems again and instead of ending marriage gracefully, she again opened the complaint against his and his family. This time she left the house with the seven month-old baby boy and filed three cases in Delhi. He had a hard time fighting dowry, domestic violence, as well as maintenance cases. Despite earning well, the wife demanded a large amount from the court and the court granted her.
There’s another case from Coimbatore.
His wife did not want to live with him, but he wanted to save the relationship as he loved her. They were blessed with a baby girl but after a year and half his wife left home and filed a divorce case on the basis of mental cruelty. Presently, he is struggling with huge alimony demands and trying to get a glimpse of his daughter.
Q. Do you think the anti-dowry law is being misused? Are there any changes you would like to suggest?
The anti-dowry law is grossly misused to settle the personal scores. Even the Supreme Court had called it legal terrorism and several rulings came to control the ill-effects of it. But the rulings are of no use; this law is loosely drafted and any woman can misuse it at any time.
The law is non-bailable, meaning only court can grant bail; cognizable, which means on verbal complaint this case can be filed; non-compoundable, which means once a FIR is filed, it cannot be taken back and only a court can quash it; and if a complaint is closed in a Mahila thana (women’s police station), it can be opened anytime. Almost all the cases of dowry law are settled with money and the motive of the women is to scare the man and his family.
The law should be amended straight away or at least a parliamentary committee should be formed to have a debate on it.
Q. There are claims that divorce and child custody laws are biased against men. Do you agree? If yes, what according to you is a problem area?
Yes, this is true that divorce and child custody laws are highly against men. If a man seeks a divorce, his wife will file at least three cases against him and the court will not see that the wife has filed the cases in retaliation and the poor man will be trapped. Besides, there’s no law to punish an adulterous wife while adultery is punishable for a man.
The father rarely gets custody of his kids. Forget custody, he does not even get visitation rights. In a matrimonial dispute, children are used as an extortion tool too. In some cases, mothers do not follow court instructions to give visitation rights to a father and there is no punishment for such mothers. There is no shared parenting concept in India. There are no studies made on father’s alienation.
Q. Is it right that a lot of cases go unreported as men feel too ashamed to report abuse, or fear false accusations against them in reprisal?
Unreported? Where will they report and on what basis? There is nothing available for men so men cannot report abuse against them.
Q. Some men’s rights activists consider rape reporting laws and sexual harassment laws in India to be unfair to men. What’s your take on it?
It is indeed unfair. After the amendments made in the year 2012, the rape law has become another tool to extort men. If you observe the news of rapes reported in detail, it will be either sexual harassment or molestation.
Most of the ‘live-in-relationships’ cases that went wrong, were reported as rape. It means sexual relationship on the pretext of marriage is made into rape in most of the cases. We have dealt with such cases where the girl finally settles (the case) for money.
Q. Being a woman, how did you come up with the idea to fight for men’s rights when the violence against women is already so prevalent?
I do not agree with the idea that violence against women is prevalent. Yes, violence is prevalent against everyone. When someone says, violence against women should be curbed; it clearly means that violence against men, children, elders, and LGBTs is acceptable to them. It also means that theft is alright, murder is okay, and only violence against women should be treated.
That cannot happen. We have to think of the whole society and men are lagging behind. The violence against men is also prevalent, but nobody talks about it. Some fudged and biased statistics are thrown towards society and everyone believes in lies.
Coming back to the question that being a woman how it came in my mind, I would say one personal tragedy just made me taste the red pill. My brother’s death affected me so much that I started watching things in a completely different and politically incorrect manner.
Q. There’s a notion that MRAs hate women. How true is it?
As you said, it is a pre-conceived notion, there’s nothing true about it. I did a lot of work in MRM (Men’s Right Movement) and nobody hated me. I am 100% woman (laughs).
By the way, I believe nobody hates women, everyone loves them. People hate men in general and this hatred is called misandry and is prevalent.
Q. Share a success story of someone your organization has counselled?
There are many. But this is a case of Himanshu Daksh, a mechanical engineer by profession from Lucknow. His wife left him after two years of marriage, threatening him with dire consequences. He approached us with his ailing father. He was quite depressed and confused.
We started his counselling by making him feel okay about the relationship being broken. Divorce is a big taboo in India so, for a person to accept this, is a big challenge even today. There was no case when he came to us, but threats were coming over calls and emails.
Finally, after six months, his wife filed a complaint of dowry harassment. Himanshu was by then prepared about what cases can be filed against him and how to deal with them. But the only allegation that hurt him and his father was the allegation of voyeurism against his father.
Himanshu lost his job as he had to go on mediation dates regularly. Mediation is a big harassment for men as they do not listen to their part. But as he got guidance from us, he handled the things well.
Despite losing the job, he was comfortable. Finally, after much mediation, his wife agreed to mutual divorce and Himanshu’s achievement was zero alimony. This is one classic case of Confidare where the man came very depressed and left smiling.
He got another job and these days is also pursuing his passion of photography, and also made a video for Confidare.
(Started in Bangalore in 2007 and in Delhi-NCR in 2014, Confidare community centre is being headed by Virag Dhulia and Jyoti Tiwari. The organizations are open on weekends as men are mostly free during those days and work on a membership basis.
The centre counsels and trains men to fight back, not only cases but also the tough situations in life. They have training programmes for bachelors, corporates, married people etc. “Our society does not give community to men apart from marriage. So, this is the new community. We are giving them a new kind of family. A group of men can also be a family. We do not judge, we do not question, we listen and guide,” says Jyoti)