Saturday, September 12, 2015

I'm Sorry that I'm Scared

Here’s something that I’ve wanted to write about for the past two years, but haven’t found the courage to. I have tried putting my thoughts to words on a number of occasions, but given up mid-way, fearing the backlash they may get; or the disbelief that any story of a man’s vulnerability may invite.

I think I am more scared of the women around me than they are of the men that surround them.

While I feel proud that the people of my country are now becoming brave enough to stand up for any kind of mistreatment or violence against women, I feel scared to know that a woman holds the power to falsely accuse me of a crime that I may have not committed. I am terrified of the idea that while on the one hand, my family could, some day, be making efforts to make a new member of the household feel welcomed and loved, the new lady of the house could be devising ways to cry wolf and threaten her in-laws with false accusations of domestic violence and dowry demands unless they give into her demands of share in moveable and immovable property.

The thought may seem silly to most, or to those more medically inclined, as a symptom of paranoia or mental imbalance. I mean, doesn’t this fear seem unjustified? It’s probably as silly as constantly living in the fear that you might get murdered some day.

However, would you say that it is silly when a woman confesses of her everyday fear of being raped, especially at a place like Delhi? You wouldn’t because you know that rape is a big problem in Delhi. We know that women fear going out alone at night. We know that rape happens, and it gets talked and written about. The crime has found a voice in the past few years when society has gradually progressed on the path away from victim shaming.

As we see India progress in support of the victim, strengthening laws for protection of women in the country, we probably don’t see the regression that is silently gnawing us under the covers. Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code provides protection to women from domestic violence. It pertains to a non-bailable and non-compoundable offence, whereby the accused and his family members are put behind bars even before they are proven guilty, only on the basis of a complaint. The law has been misused terribly in the past few years, taking more the form of a weapon than a shield.

The reason any such information does not carry with itself the potential to give goosebumps is because a vast majority is still unaware of this practice. Where any mistreatment of a man, when admitted to, is seen as emasculation in our society, how is this any different from victim shaming? Families that have faced these problems in the past few years sit silently, trying not to worsen the consequences of a false accusation that has already marred their reputation in society. They refuse to open up and talk about it because it would show how “less of a man” the son of the family was to have been taken for a ride by a “girl”. They further know that the media promotes stories of women fighting against injustice. And who would believe their innocence anyway? While stories of revolt against traditionally unspoken issues are glorified without checking for their authenticity, the rising concerns leading to another unspoken issue are pushed under the rug.

Out of the over 2.3 million people accused under Section 498A of the IPC since 1998, only about 0.26 million have been convicted. While those on one side may perceive it as an evidence of loss of faith in the functioning of the judiciary, which seems to have acquitted almost 85% of those accused; the other side may be yearning for a simpler look at the statistics, for sometimes, it is most objective to not over-analyze.

The Delhi Commission for Women has officially stated that 53% of all cases for domestic violence filed between April, 2013 and July, 2014 were false. The Delhi Commission for Women, mind you! There is no such official “Commission for Men” in the country because who thought men could be victims too.

In the case of Mr. Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India, the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed, “Many instances have come to light where the complaints are not bona fide and have filed with oblique motive. In such cases acquittal of the accused does not in all cases wipe out the ignominy suffered during and prior to trial. Sometimes adverse media coverage adds to the misery. The question, therefore, is what remedial measures can be taken to prevent abuse of the well-intentioned provision. Merely because the provision is constitutional and intra vires, does not give a license to unscrupulous persons to wreck personal vendetta or unleash harassment. It may, therefore, become necessary for the legislature to find out ways how the makers of frivolous complaints or allegations can be appropriately dealt with. Till then the Courts have to take care of the situation within the existing framework. As noted, the object is to strike at the roots of dowry menace. But by misuse of the provision, a new legal terrorism can be unleashed. The provision is intended to be used a shield and not assassin’s weapon. If cry of ‘wolf’ is made too often as a prank, assistance and protection may not be available when the actual ‘wolf’ appears.

Being a Chartered Accountant in practice, I have clients coming to our firm to obtain certificates of income and net worth regularly. While these certificates were taken with the objective to contest in business bids till a few years ago, over 80% of such certificates issued now pertain to cases of domestic violence and dowry demands being contested in the courts of law. We have observed families, who my parents have personally known for over 30 years, break down before us. We have attended their weddings, been part of their celebrations and closely known their family dynamics as confidantes and well wishers for years. It pains us to see how such cases permeate beyond the boundaries of religion, social status and financial strength.

These cases and their first hand narration traumatize my parents, who are worried about having a son that they may have to get married in a few years. The same fear, I naturally inherit.

I fear being in a relationship, where the woman may hold the power to accuse me of rape in case the companionship may not progress as she may have planned. Or more simply, I fear giving a genuine compliment to a lady lest I may be accused of being a superficial prick, who has tried to “make a move” on her. I fear cracking a joke that may be labeled as “sexist”, and not an exaggeration of gender stereotypes that could be innocently intentioned to not be taken seriously. I also fear letting my fears known because they may “seem” to be against the interests of women.

I think of myself as a man respectful of women. But I may be wrong, for what is right or wrong still seems subjective in this age of online public shaming. A respectable and well intentioned lady like Charlotte Proudman may not agree with a respectable and well intentioned man like Alexander Carter-Silk. I probably have no right to comment on the matter. Neither do I have the right to comment on the Rohtak brave-hearts case or the recent Jasleen Kaur - Sarvjeet Singh episode. However, I think I may have the right to speak about a fear that I strongly feel.

I may not fully understand the terms “feminism” or “misogyny”. I may be uneducated in these areas and may be publicly shamed for being so. But I understand “fear”, a feeling that I do not need an education to feel, and an emotion that is not the prerogative of a specific gender.

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Another version of this article has also been published on Youth Ki Awaaz. You can read it here.

23 comments:

  1. I echo your thoughts bro. This is the bitter reality of today's society, glad you wrote this.

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    1. Had to talk about something a lot of us men have been discussing these days, but do not openly share on social media in a fear of being misunderstood.

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  2. Good food for thought. I'm a women and a mother of two. But trust me, I educate my son more on the social behaviour than my daughter on how to be safe. I belong to a generation one up and I was happy being born at that time. These kind of issue were either unheard of or were not present. There was a mutual respect. I was friends with both boys n girls and being an entrepreneur, even now I'm equally friendly with both sexes. But I can observe a change in men's behaviour now. I see a constant fear in most of them of being friendly with mingling easily unless you know her too well. Getting a daughter in law is a tough multi level screening process now. Bcis as u correctly pointed out, you never know what claims they may end up with. Rightly echoed. As a women, my advise to other women is...not all men are bad. Maintain your dignity and understand and appreciate too.

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    1. Thank you for reading, Mrs. Duvvuri. A comment from someone with experience was much needed.

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    2. All women are not goddess and not all men are devil. Respect is give and take. Today women are misusing the laws to extort money and fulfill there unvested interest. If this prevails one day no men will help a real victim.

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  3. I read your posts in bits and pieces..I am a woman but still I hate the pseudo-feminism going around. Yes, in some ways, I too have similar fears and I have seen women like that as well.

    BTW, I did vote for you in BA awards. As I love reading your blogs. keep writing, fearlessly.

    www.numerounity.com
    www.hautekutir.com

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    1. Thank you, Ekta. The blog made it to the Top 5. The final results are awaited, but thank you for getting it into the final round :)

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  4. I had seen the same video before and agree with every word said here! Our deviated version of feminism might as well sow the seeds of male suppression if not kept in check! What's more, you always say the right and nice things, bravo!
    @@@@@ for the wonderful initiative and writing toh aapke baaye haat ka khel hai!

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    1. Primarily meri chaar ungliyon ka khel hai. Makes me realize how much I need to practice typing using at least 8 fingers. Just imagine the efficiency. Would probably be churning out four posts a month then :D

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  5. First, a technical note:
    If I randomly drop a coconut on a gathering, the probability of hitting a specified person is very low. However, the probability that someone gets hit is quite high.

    So to say, that it is pointless for any individual to entertain such fear. "Rape" is a different matter because you know when you are out alone in the dark, lower forms of sexual harrasment, ex. verbal harrasment is likely. Simply because its easy. Such accusations as you have pointed out are not. Even the offender has to bear suspicion, and even her marital alliance (which may never happen again).

    That said, your concern is very real for the society as a whole, again because we know that sometime, someone will fall down the ditch.

    Very real! @@@@@

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    1. Killed it with your coconut analogy, good sire! :)

      Point very well taken and applauded.

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  6. Rape can be medically proved. Police too works with evidence. But nobody can escape the karmic hand. If it's in your karma to meet such a woman,you'll be disarmed against your own better sense.

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  7. Well, all the things that you mentioned, are indeed horrifying, you do nothing but have to go through the horrors of being framed by a girl. Every single person's life is important, every single one. Although, just for a second, think about the number of times that happens as compared to what happens with the women in this country. Have you ever been to a village to know what really harassment is and how they are treated no more than a cattle. There are thousands and thousands of those cases(and just the numbers, not the real ones, maybe million, am pretty sure about that). And then you say that you are scared of making a sexist joke. Well if you are around a feminist, then hell yeah, it is really wrong because if girls don't start taking these things up and nip it in the bud, then those cases will still continue to grow. And those girls that you talking about, they are misandrist. So I don't think that it's right of you to say that girls can do this and girls can do that and this "I think I am more scared of the women around me than they are of the men that surround them"!!!, this made me right this comment, else I completely agree with what you said. Because crimes against men do happen, and they really need to be taken up just like how much importance is given to a girl's case. I am not saying that "I don't give a shit to what happens to men", I am just saying that both the things 'Feminism' and 'Meninism' , should be equally advocated. So you comparing this that men are more scared of women than the women are of men, is completely wrong.

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    1. I speak of my own fears and not collectively for all men. A number of my male friends relate to the fear, and I know of it only because they have explicitly mentioned it to me. I, along with a few of these friends, present a very miniscule proportion of the total population, so it would not be right for me to generalize the opinion or fear as something shared by all men (as I have already tried not to), and nor would I want it to be so misinterpreted. I only present a few facts backed by official statistics.

      A lot of a human's fears may be uncalled for. They primarily need to be dealt with by the individual himself. If expressing his vulnerability is one medium, then why not?

      I agree with your comment and wouldn't dispute it. Your opinion has been welcomed with open arms; it has been taken, has shaken, yet has not stirred.

      P.S. *self five* for shaken not stirred reference.

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    2. Yeah, well it was just that a lot of people have started misinterpreting things like who the hell do these( and they mean all the girls by that) girls are and why do they stand up for their rights if they only want to frame guys in crimes they've not even committed, all this on Quora and who knows where and your's is a really famous blog. So my comment was just in that regard. That aside, as I said( wrote! ) earlier, I agree with all the things that you wrote there. And as for the jalebis, I totally forgot them the previous time. @@@@

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    3. Thank you. Hope you'll be back for more :)

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  8. I have no clue why you waited so long..! This is one the best articles you've written till date. This one here wasn't written to make me smile and so it didn't unlike all your other posts. I felt weird after reading this. Like..you know..weird. So ya! Bull's eye.
    @@@@@ Way to go dude.

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    1. Thank you. I'm glad I know a few women who don't shy away from acknowledging this issue :)

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  9. Hit the nail on the head, you did, sir. I consider myself a feminist, but I am not foolish enough to believe all women are victims, and all men perpetrators. Yes, rape is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with a heavy hand, but there are two sides to every coin. And this is the other side. No person deserves to be harrassed or mistreated in an emotional, physical, or any other way, whether they are a man, a woman, or anything in between. The fact that sexual and other physical abuse are the worse horrors a person can face doesn't make all other issues negligible. It cannot possibly be less than horribly scarring to be falsely accused of domestic abuse. So, yeah. I understand your fear. And I don't think anyone should be afraid or ashamed of voicing their fears. You did a good thing, Sarthak. I tip my virtual hat to you.

    But, don't lose hope. There are ways to counter the abuse of this law, and those ways will be found, in time. The Indian judiciary has scarcely done anything to make us comfortable in putting our faith in it, but I do have faith in the people of this country. I think, if we keep looking, we can definitely find a point of balance that endangers neither of the sexes. And for that, raising awareness is of utmost importance, which is what you are doing here. So, keep it up. And have your jalebis. @@@@@

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    1. Thanks, Bub! I would love to discuss the issue with people and be a part of a deliberation to find ways in which this matter could be dealt with. It calls for some serious policy making and law drafting amendments.

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  10. I think its one of the most well written articles I've come across. No one has the right to mistreat or falsely accuse someone because it sounds/seems believable and obvious. While there is more and more awareness, we still have a long way to go! But as is said, little drops of water make the mighty ocean. Cheers to this huge drop.

    Happy blogging :)

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    1. Thank you. I'm glad you support the cause. I got a lot of hate mail over this.

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If you had 5 Jalebis, how many would you give me for writing this post?

None = You don't deserve any >:O
@ = Soggy and stale! :(
@@ = Stale! :|
@@@ = I'll need a samosa to digest this with! :P
@@@@ = Sweet and Crisp! :)
@@@@@ = I'm opening you a Halwai Shop! :D