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BENGALURU: Helpline for harassed husbands in the city is receiving at least 10 desperate calls from men seeking respite and solutions from their wives targeting them. Not just the helpline, even the city police are receiving complaints by the droves, even as gender-biased attitudes towards these victimised men reduces the seriousness of their problems faced from their spouses in the eyes of the enforcement agencies.
K Ajay Kumar, assistant commissioner of police, Control Room, Bengaluru City Police (BCP), confirmed to City Express that they received complaint calls from distressed husbands, suffering at the hands of their spouses and in-laws.
"We have come across cases where the husband was beaten up with a rolling pin, stabbed with a knife, had hot water or food poured on their hands. At times, women approach us with complaints of dowry harassment. When we investigate, we find that it is a false charge and she was, in fact, caught having an affair by her husband," he says, adding that greed for property is also often a motive.
"Fathers and husbands have come and cried in front of us, saying they want to commit suicide, unable to bear the harassment and torture at home. When there are visible injuries, we register a medico-legal case, but there is no legal provision for domestic abuse where men are victims. Even culturally, people are not ready to accept that women beat men. They ask, ‘How strong can she possibly be?’," he says, adding that courts too tend to lean towards the mother for child custody rights.
Founder of city-based NGO Child Rights and Shared Parenting (CRISP), Kumar Jahgirdar, says, “Our helpline gets a minimum of 10 calls from husbands being harassed by their wives in the city. Totally, we get 25 calls from all over India. Men who approach the police are laughed at when they complain of physical, emotional, financial harassment or being threatened with false charges.”
He adds: “While police ridicule male victims, they also say there is no provision to register a case if a man is being physically abused at home. This is true as our laws are gender-biased. We are not against women, we are just saying that men are human beings with feelings too. We want to be with our children as well,” Kumar adds.
‘We also dream of having a loving spouse and child’
In the cases of harassed husbands Chaitanya NC Gowda and Neeraj Shanthakumar (see cases, page 3) both were forced to quit their jobs because no company was willing to take on an employee who required a week off every month to attend court proceedings. In addition, the psychological well-being of them and their children has taken a beating.
“I was on the verge of committing suicide. We also dream of having a loving spouse and children, but those hopes are shattered. I am a dead person on the inside now. No one can harass me any more,” says Chaitanya, who started an NGO called Mitra to support other men in similar situations.
Neeraj terms his ordeal an “emotional hell”. He lost his job, earnings and savings.
“I remember how she never let me give toys to my son, even in court. He was helpless too. I feel, no matter what happens between a couple, the child should not be affected. They suffer more than us. When he came back to live with me recently, he weighed only 26 kg. He is insecure and wants all the love and affection,” shares Neeraj, who has now put his son through counselling to undo the emotional damage.
“He still wants to be cuddled, holds my hand, sits on my lap and tells me he feels warm when he does so. I missed out on bonding with him at an early age and I spend all my time making up for it. His mental health is my priority now,” he Neeraj says.
On Friday, Chaitanya NC Gowda’s daughter celebrated her 10th birthday. In the last eight years, he has missed out on this milestone only because, even though the court has granted him permission to meet his daughter, his former wife hasn’t.
“I spend seven to eight days a month waiting in court like a culprit. My ex-wife who has filed several false cases against me — domestic abuse, dowry harassment, kidnapping, lack of divorce maintenance — has not shown up for a single court proceeding in the past decade,” he says. Chaitanya vows to keep fighting the legal battle, hoping that one day he would be able to reunite with his child. “My wife accused me of beating her, locking her up, asking for money, and not letting her go to office. Upon investigation, the domestic abuse charges were found to be false, but the dowry case remains,” he narrates.
When he found out about her affair, he filed a case of adultery. But police, he says, were unhelpful. “They asked me, ‘Are you a man? Can’t you just hit her or kill her?’ I even found evidence of her affair, she was sexually harassing a junior colleague, threatening him to be with her or get him fired,” he says.
Neeraj Shanthakumar believes he is one of the luckier fathers because the court lets him meet his son on school vacations. In March this year, his 12-year-old insisted on staying with him instead of his mother. Neeraj didn’t waste a minute, especially the three-year period when he was not allowed to speak with his child. “My estranged wife wanted my mother to will her property to her. She used our child as a tool, claiming that our son should inherit it. When we refused, she filed many cases. One alleged that I harassed her for `14 lakh and 1 kg of gold. Another alleged that I threatened her with a belt and acid,” recalls Neeraj, who says he was arrested without a warrant.
The seven-year-long battle is not over as his wife never came to testify in court. But the worst period was a difficult 42 months when his former wife got his bank accounts frozen, claiming dowry harassment.“I was tied down financially. I sold my investments and mutual funds. I approached the Karnataka Human Rights Commission and they got the police to un-freeze my accounts,” he adds.
BAIL TO PREVENT MISUSE OF LAW
A Supreme Court ruling on Friday says dowry harassment cases (498A) now allows bail to prevent misuse of the law. It also said that bail petitions will be heard on the same day as the complaint is filed. “This is a small step which will help harassed husbands to an extent. The threat of being thrown into jails is not much and there is scope for anticipatory bail. However, we still need men to be included under the domestic violence act,” says Kumar.