CHENNAI: While speakers blare the need for women’s rights and hundreds march the city roads to spread awareness about breast cancer, a group of around 50 men gather every weekend in a closed hall on Kamarajar Salai to help each other find their voice in an ‘unfair’ society.
The Chennai Chapter of All India Men’s Welfare Association (AIMWA) started in 2007, is for those who have been victimised by the current laws that are biased towards women, according to men’s activist Meiyappan. On International Men’s Day on Wednesday, the association is submitting a memorandum to the government demanding constitution of Men’s Welfare Ministry, National Commission for Men, and making all laws gender neutral.
Meiyappan explains the glitch in the laws to CE, on the sidelines of a press meet on Tuesday. “If a woman gives a complaint, whether it is true or false, the guy gets arrested first and then the case is taken up by the court. In the court, if the woman weeps, whether it is genuine or not, usually the guy is deemed guilty and will have to suffer along with his family. We are not saying that action shouldn’t be taken against criminals, but stereotyping all men as criminals, drunkards and rapists is wrong,” he says. There are no slogans, demonstrations or big banners flagged by the team. It is a platform, which supports men who have been victims of false dowry cases, sexual harassment or rape, among others.
“We are a not-for-profit organisation and there is no membership. Men, who have false charges against them usually do not know where to go, how to speak to lawyers. There is a possibility that they will be cheated. People, who have been through the same, help them by sharing their experiences.
When a man gets arrested, though it might not be his mistake, the family distances itself away from him. We try and get him a bail, or render small help like buying paste and brush for the night,” says Meiyappan, who also has charges pressed against him by his wife’s family — charges that he claims are false.
For men, who have only been striving to earn for their family, getting embroiled in such cases leaves them with no option, he says. “Our little help, we believe, can at least save a life,” he says. According to last year’s National Crime Records Bureau data, out of the 1,35,000 suicides, 90,000 were by men. “That is 71 per cent of the total. One third of that was reported to be due to family issues.
So are they doing anything to stop this? There have been no steps to counsel or even address health issues for men, whose average life span is six years lesser than women, according to studies.
While the government is funding for mammogram tests to stop breast cancer, is the same being done to stop prostate cancer? No,” he says. The association, according to Meiyappan, seems to be the only one besides a dormant club called Aangal Padhukaappu Sangam started by an advocate. AIMWA has chapters in different cities, and aims at emphasising the point that while there is so much being done for women just because they have been submissive for years, making men submissive in the future is not the solution.
“Things are going in such a way that soon men will not have any voice in society,” he says.