Agra: A two-day national conference of men`s rights activists representing more than 100 groups across India has demanded a separate ministry for men`s welfare, a welfare commission for them, scrapping of section 492 of the IPC and gender-neutral laws.
The conference was attended by 140 activists which included five women.
Talking to IANS, Kumar Jahgirdar, one of the key organisers of the Save the Family movement, said, "Time has come for gender-neutral legal framework. The primary agenda of the conference was to find out ways and suggest steps to cleanse the entire system of anti-male bias and pressurise the government to enact gender-neutral laws. The activists have warned the government that trampling the rights of men under the guise of positive discrimination towards women will not be tolerated now."
Barkha Trehan, a spokesperson for the conference told IANS, "This was the sixth conference in a row. The next one will be in Mumbai. We now have more than 40,000 activists all over India. We believe the laws are gender biased. The present legal apparatus is heavily tilted in favour of girls who are increasingly misusing the provisions to extort money, and are ruining the whole family through false allegations.People living abroad are pointlessly implicated in cases. Old people 80 to 90 years of age have been arrested and humiliated. Today we have a plethora of family-breaking laws in the country. NCRB`s own data suggests that more than 80 percent cases are false. We therefore demand inclusive policies for both genders."
Niladri Shekhar Das, secretary of Gender Human Rights Society, said the time had come to protect men from domestic violence not involving physical suffering but psychological and emotional "atyachaar" which causes a lot of tension and stress for the family members whose health and productivity decline.
Kumar Jahgirdar said that a delegation of activists had met senior BJP leaders in Delhi and demanded enactment of SMITA (Saving Man from Intimate Terror) law.
The laws as they exist today give no protection to mothers-in-law and other women of the family, all of whom could be put behind bars and publicly defamed before justice is meted out, which itself is a long and tedious affair in our country, Jahgirdar said.
The number of those arrested in 2013 for cruelty towards daughters-in-law stood at 8,33,454 in 2013 of which 17542 i.e. 16 percent were convicted.
"What then is the point in punishing 84 percent people, ruining their lives, peace and reputation," asked Niladri.
The government should conduct proper scientific studies into suicides by men to assess social pressures and crimes against them, he added.
Data suggests that one man commits suicide every nine minutes, which is almost double the rate among women.
"We therefore request the central government to review the laws and create an exclusive men`s welfare ministry," the delegates said adding that thousands of fathers are not allowed to meet their children who become bargaining tools.
Barkha Trehan said family courts were generally biased against fathers and demanded the Domestic Violence Act of 2005 be made gender neutral, so that harassed husbands too get an opportunity for judicial remedy.
She also said that laws should be amended so that there are "no automatic arrests" in harassment-for-dowry cases in the light of the latest Supreme Court directions and added that the role of police in handling family disputes must be minimised.
The two-day conference demanded punishment for those who misuse the provisions of family laws.
"Educated class in urban areas mostly used these laws for harassment of male spouses," a speaker said.
Kumar Jahgirdar, national president of Children`s Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting, said pre-marital counselling should be made compulsory for couples, and parents who force their children into marriage should be punished since the cost of a failed marriage was too high both on individuals and society.