Sunday, March 9, 2008

Here's to male empowerment

March 2, 2008

H/l: Wife harassing you? Join the rally now
Intro: Men who are victims of legal misuse are rallying to fight for their rights
Vrushali Lad

Mumbai/Pune: Amitabh Dasgupta runs a BPO in Pune and has a stable business. But very few are aware of Dasgupta’s other surprising occupation – he counsels men and families who are victims of women misusing the laws meant to help them. “I am a volunteer who is fighting with over 5,000 others in the country against ‘legal terrorism’,” he says.

Dasgupta is part of a band of 50-odd volunteers in Pune, who are waging a war against legal loopholes that allow married women to land their husbands and in-laws in jail after a single complaint of harassment. “I operate a 24x7 helpline for people seeking legal help in case of a police complaint made against them, in cases where women have alleged mental or physical harassment towards some ulterior motives,” he says.

The volunteers are part of the Save Indian Family group and the MyNation website started in Mumbai in 2005, for men and women who become targets of the dreaded 498(A) section of the IPC. The section deals with ‘Husband or relative or husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty’. Today, there are over 175 volunteers operating in Mumbai.

“Not all women are manipulative and not all men are innocent, and vice versa. There are scores of women being harassed daily by their husbands and in-laws. But there are also cases where women are harassing their husbands by filing police complaints because of some selfish motive as getting a divorce, taking over the husband’s property, or getting the aged in-laws out of the house,” says Dasgupta.

He tells this reporter of one such case in Pune. “A man living in Bhandarkar road had a flat in his mother’s name. After marriage, his wife moved her own parents into the house. Slowly, they started interfering in the marriage and one day, there was a big fight after which the man moved out of his own house with his parents.” The woman later filed for divorce, but continues living in the house to this day. “She wants the house and stated ‘mental cruelty’ as the grounds for divorce. Is this fair to the husband?” Dasgupta asks.

He adds that interfering parents and high personal ambitions sow most reasons for such discord. “We have seen women filing wrong police complaints after their husbands did not fall in with their every wish. Sadly, most women who are abused daily by their husbands are not aware of the laws meant to protect them, while educated women who know the laws end up misusing them.”

Save the Indian Family, largely comprised of such victims themselves, believes that ‘the laws are good, but have not been framed properly.’ Says Dasgupta, “Every day, we are receiving an increasing number of distress calls from people in Pune, who have been convicted of cruelty. We sometimes accompany the person to the police station, examine the entire case thoroughly and offer the person legal advice if the case is genuine.”

Getting clawed? Get help
The group holds weekly meetings at Koregaon Park every Sunday, and is holding a rally in front of the family court, opposite Alka Talkies on March 29. Call Amitabh Dasgupta on 9225620460 for details and counselling. The first session on appointment with a legal expert is free.

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