Domestic Violence Against Men
This article is the work of Anamta Khan, a student of National Law University, Delhi. This article highlights the contradictory application of the right to equality and dignity in cases of domestic violence against men. This article criticizes the conventional approach of society about men subjected to domestic violence. It additionally discusses various forms of domestic violence existing in society. It also explores the underlying reasons that why cases of domestic violence against men largely go unreported.
It also discusses various socio-legal issues pertaining to this issue. Substantively this article tries to answer why there have been gender-specific laws and how it has been misused largely. Additionally, this article also presents preventive mechanism which could be effective in combating violence against men while upholding constitutional values of equality and dignity.
The term ‘domestic violence’ is not just limited to physical violence; it covers a varied range of acts committed by a family member against another. It includes verbal, psychological, and sexual, and economic abuse as well. It is an extremely traumatic experience for any individual to go through. It is just not the health of the victim who is affected but also the overall social-economic well-being of a person.
The relationship which the victim has with the person who is inflicting violence against him is the distinguishing factor between other assault crimes and domestic violence. This offense is a violation of basic human rights guaranteed by the constitution. The most pertinent question which is left to answer is that when rights given in the Indian constitution are gender-neutral then why its application by the state is largely gender-specific.
“[Prejudice] it’s like a hair across your cheek. You can’t see it, you can’t find it with your fingers, but you keep brushing at it because the feel of it is irritating.”
To discuss domestic violence against men is considered to be so unreasonable and absurd.
The evil of domestic violence is always discussed in the context of females and the male is usually regarded as the perpetrator. But in recent times, the family structure is influenced by various socio-economic factors, due to which domestic violence is just not restricted to females only. Sadly Indian society pays scant attention to the other side of the coin and still believes that man can never be a victim of domestic violence.
Though there is no debate on the fact that most females are the victims of this heinous offense but this cannot act as a justification to exclude male victims only on account of their gender. Domestic violence against men as a concept that exists is too hard to believe by Indian society or for that matter Indian judiciary also.
Due to the hackneyed image of a male, society especially Indian society is hardly ready to accept that men could also be the victim of this offense. Stereotypes associated with their gender coupled with ignorance of their legal rights make it hard for them to report such offenses.
Cases of domestic violence against men largely airbrushed aside or go unreported due to many reasons. Some of them are discussed below-
Gender stereotypes refer to clichés which a male or female is supposed to do or be like: These roles are not natural to them but they are gradually learned and imposed by social conditions of society. India is a male-dominated society and it is assumed that it is quite shameful for a man to be beaten by a woman. In a male-dominated society, women across the country are considered to be weak, inferior, and smothered. Likewise, males are stereotyped to be strong, self-seeker, and insensitive.
Men usually feel uncomfortable in opening up about the viciousness they face since they feel embarrassed that they will be judged and will be named as weak and feminine. They assume that their battle against violence will go to no end due to gender-specific laws in place. There is the societal stigma attached that any male who admits that he is being subjected to domestic violence is perceived to be weak and feminine.
There is a general perception that males can never be subject to the heinous offense of domestic violence, consequently, there is hardly any remedy available. The stereotypical roles and societal stigma attached to gender have nurtured various gender-specific legislation that hardly provides any remedy in case the victim is male.
There are numerous organizations and institutions which are battling for female privileges, yet there is hardly any such organization battling for male’s rights. There is institutional prejudice against males that proscribe them from lodging complaints against domestic violence.
Males living in the state of denial-
Gender stereotypes coupled with gender-specific laws make most of them believe that abusive behavior at home can just happen to a lady. This perception makes even a male believe that he could never be a victim of this offense. So even if they are at the receiving end, hardly they understand that they are being subjected to domestic violence.
Furthermore, there is a problematic misconception of Indian society that domestic violence is only limited to physical violence. So if a man is going through economic, sexual, and emotional abuse, he hardly understands that he is being abused and continues to live in a state of denial.
Gender-specific legislations –
Gender biases and stereotypical notions have nurtured many gender-specific laws. Gender-specific laws are those laws that are limited in nature and can be evoked by only one particular type of gender. As per article 15 (3) of the constitution, the state can make laws with respect to the empowerment of women or children. Section 498A of IPC is one such special provision. Section 4898A was inserted in IPC by the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983. As per section 498A of the Indian penal code, a male is liable for cruelty to his wife.
There is hardly any such provision stated in the Indian penal statute which makes females also liable if she commits cruelty to her husband. The fundamental assumption underlying this section is that offense of cruelty to another partner in wedlock could only be committed by males and not by the female. Such assumptions strike the very core principles of our constitution of upholding the equality and dignity of individuals.
As a result of the one-sided provisions in the Indian Penal Statute and various laws that favor ladies, there are plenty of bogus situations where ladies dishonestly asserted a man for assault or for aggressive behavior at home, and interestingly, these one-sided laws naturally accept that a man can never be the victim
Recently, there has been a surge in false cases where these legal provisions are misused to falsely implicate males or their family members on account of personal vendetta or ulterior motives. In Sushil Kumar v. Union of India the supreme court observed the section 498A was inserted to be used as a shield to protect females from domestic violence and it shouldn’t be used as a sword to harass males or to wreck personal vendetta.
The judiciary went further to observe that misuse of 498A is ‘legal terrorism’. In the case of Rajesh Sharma and Ors. v. The territory of UP and Anr the court passed a mandate to the police officials that they won’t right away arrest the accused under this section if any allegation is made against them. It would be the duty of the officials to first ascertain the veracity of the allegations.
Though in few cases as discussed above judiciary has taken a progressive stance but there is still more to be done. Indian constitution provides as such no prejudice between males and females, it keeps both the binaries at the same pedestal. It grants equal rights and freedom to every citizen of the country. Then where is the mismatch, is it in the letter or in the spirit of the constitution.
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Domestic Violence Against Men
image credits- www.domesticshelters.org
Cases of domestic violence against men only underpin the fact that India needs de-facto equality, entanglement from gender-stereotypical roles, denunciation of anachronistic conservatism traditions which are in their entirety at contradiction to constitutional values. Gender-neutral laws are the need of the hour because they uphold constitutional values of equality and dignity.
Misuse of gender-specific laws is not just injustice done to males but also harms our constitutional values. There is an urgent need for society to come out of its cocoon of the conventional perspective of gender understanding. Violence can happen in any form and any individual can be subjected to it. And the most important fact that any individual is capable of being an abuser be it a man or a woman. Consistent subjection to viciousness can cause numerous physical and mental illnesses, for example, depression, self-destructive inclinations, and chronic disorders.
Domestic violence against men is often overlooked and not much discussed. It is high time now the government should address this issue and enact laws that penalize the offense of domestic violence irrespective of which gender commits it.
The offense of domestic violence can be addressed by bringing requisite changes in existing legislation, spreading awareness, and dismantling stereotypes and societal stigma attached to this offense. This problematic growing culture should be addressed as it is hampering Indian constitutional values. This could be addressed by gender-neutral laws upholding constitutional values of equality and dignity of individuals and above all striving to make India a better place and safer place for all genders to live in.