Suffering in silence: When men fall victim to domestic violence

Dr Smitha Shine
Violence can be experienced by any human being without age, gender, status and it is one of the epidemics that doesn’t respect limits or borders. We can find many types of violence globally. The most familiar among them is domestic violence which occurs across the world irrespective of gender, religion, culture, society, educational and economic status. When we hear the word domestic violence we only think about women as the victim. This belief is rooted in everyone’s mind. However, contrary to this common belief, the number of men subjected to harassment and face psychological as well as physical abuse by women are rising day by day. Male victims are keeping silence even though many countries address domestic violence against men.
Studies have proved that violence and aggression are the traits of human beings. Women are not an exception to it. Research in the field of domestic violence has shown that men and women act violently in relationships at about the same rate. Moreover, men and women are equally provoking violence against one another as about half of all the domestic violence occurs with both partners abusing each other. The male experiencing abuse mainly in the form of non-physical like financial & emotional torture, threats, indecent exposure and stalking. The most recent Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that around 7 lakh men experienced domestic abuse in 2018 yet more cases have to report as the belief system in our society stops men to coming forward.
India is not far behind the scenario. There is no systematic study or record on domestic violence against men in India, it is generally estimated that in 100 cases of domestic violence, approximately 40 cases involve violence against men. In 2016 India witnessed 1.31 lakh suicides due to family problems and illness together accounting for 46.3%. Of this, 68.4% of the men who committed suicide were married. In 2019, the suicide rate of divorced men is so alarmingly high but the actual numbers are not yet revealed. National Crime Records Bureau figures announced that for every married woman committing suicide, three to four married men are committing suicide. But no one talks about suicide by married men. Every year lot of husbands end their life due to false dowry disputes and other threats. Some women use the Section 498A (states “Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine”) as a potent tool for subjugation and oppression of husband . India's Supreme Court has said that women are increasingly misusing the tough anti-dowry law to harass their husbands and in-laws. The court has now ordered the police to follow a nine-point checklist before arresting anyone on a dowry complaint.
Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi had last year said she had been receiving an increasing number of complaints from men regarding false complaints against them, and had asked the National Commission for Women to "provide a window to such men" in the online complaint system of the women's panel. Harassment and torture of husbands are not merely physical or financial. A lot of fathers committing suicide because they are not allowed to meet their children. Our country has become commonplace for child custody battles. Under Indian law, maximum importance is given to the best interests of the child and so either parent does not have a clear primacy to be granted the custody of the child. However, most of the children wanted to go with their mother and these mothers later create obstacles for fathers to meet their children. Since India has been a patriarchal society it is hard to believe that male can be a victim and female a perpetrator. However, these tortured men and men right activists scored a significant victory in India recently when the supreme court essentially identified men as the victims of domestic violence cases. The judges weren’t making the law gender-neutral, however, they stated that Indian women were filing inaccurate claims of domestic violence.
Domestic violence is a public health issue with far-reaching health consequences, such as mental illness and stress disorders, that need to be addressed irrespective of gender. Men are subjected to more mental,verbal, emotional violence than physical violence by women. Psychological experts say that the majority of men are oversensitive to psychological abuse than physical abuse where women are more expert in doing mental and emotional abuse.In India, violence against men is not considered serious. The society laughs if a man says he has been harassed. People judge it as his weakness and failure because of the stereotype of Indian men as the head of the family, a breadwinner, a great father, overall perceived as the role model of the whole family. Most abused men prefer to keep silence as they feel the fear of losing social respect and position. Apart from this, they are afraid that if things fall apart, they will be blamed. Moreover, they want to protect their children and family.
It is high time to address the issues face by men in India and recognize their problems as a social issue and develop appropriate solutions as more men started to reporting violence by women. It is remarkable that NGOs like Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) , All India Men's Welfare Association(AIMWA) assists men who are experiencing domestic violence shows a kind gesture in terms of gender equality and empathy in the country.