29th Mar, 2012
Centre for Men’s Rights (http://menrights.org) aims to promote men’s welfare and their human rights and prevent abuse of men’s rights. We aim to reduce suicide rate of men and create more acceptability and choices for men in society.
Centre for Men’s Rights strongly condemn approval by union cabinet recently to changes in Hindu Marriage Act under “Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2010”.
It is to be noted that while some provisions like “cooling off” period being left to discretion of courts are gender neutral, there are other provisions in the bill which are patently anti-men and absurd to the point of being without logic and common sense:
The bill aims to give married women rights in husbands’ property in case of a divorce, and quantum of share is left to discretion of courts on a case-by-case basis. Of course, there is no mention of the case if the wife also has property and she is the one who initiates divorce. Irrespective of the fact who owns more property and who initiates divorce, the wife is supposed to have rights whereas the husband has none! The gender bias against men is evident from the start.
The government clearly is not concerned about the justification of how to give property rights to a woman who probably did not even stay at husband’s house and filed for divorce after 3 years, vis a vis a woman married for 20 years with the couple having children.
The most damning evidence of anti-men bias in the bill is that in spite of the fact that 80-85% of divorces are initiated by women(source: http://www.tehelka.com/story_main43.asp?filename=hub311009the_rearranged.asp), the bill aims to ’empower’ wives to veto any divorce filed by husbands on grounds of ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ while the husbands who want to save marriage will not be allowed to oppose similar petition by their wives. There is a hidden presumption that married women are always with good intentions whereas married men are basically villains.
There are already provisions in Hindu Marriage Act Section 27 wherein the property jointly acquired after marriage can be disposed off by the courts between the divorcing couple. So it is inexplicable as to what need was there to put additional provisions in Hindu Marriage Act that the courts would now need to decide on women’s share in the matrimonial property at the time of divorce, to which they have contributed during the marriage. Such provisions are already covered under both HMA as well as under Transfer of Property Act.
Men’s rights organisations from across India had made representations about the loopholes in the amendments in front of the parliamentary standing committee, but the government has proceeded ahead with approval of amendments making mockery of public voices of dissent.
Important points not considered in the bill
A hoax being perpetrated behind these amendments is that poor and destitute women are left without home and property after divorce. Has the government conducted a single survey on the topic of the social and economic status of the couples who file for divorce? If it was done, it will be known publicly that divorce in India is predominantly a middle and upper class phenomenon, and 80-85% of divorces are initiated by women.
The division of matrimonial property in case of divorce is left to discretion of courts. It is of course an interesting point that if the courts take 7-10 years to exercise discretion as of now in matrimonial cases, how many years will be added in disposing of the cases by the additional opportunities of discretion being given to courts? Who will benefit in the end – the divorcing women, or the legal divorce industry and the unscrupulous women who will use these provisions as a tool to walk out of marriage claiming the riches.
Has the government taken into consideration the suicide rates of married men which have been consistently increasing since last 10 years whereas the suicide rate for married women has stayed the same?
The government prefers to keep its eyes closed to the fact that lot of cases filed against men in matrimonial matters including under IPC 498a, DV Act, maintenance laws being contain false allegations by wives, solely to extract leverage and advantage in property and financial settlement. At the end of long trial, the courts simply pronounce the judgment that there was no evidence found to support wives’ allegations. If there were not enough laws already to incentivize victimization of married men, the government seems to think it has unfinished business here.
Concerns of men ignored in the proposed amendments
Ignoring men’s extended family’s responsibilities: The married men of working age are expected to undertake financial obligations of whole family which in Indian context means their parents and even dependent brothers and sisters. But the proposed amendments ignores the rights of husband’s parents and siblings and is solely concerned with giving property rights to women at time of divorce irrespective of duration of marriage.
Gender neutrality ignored in favour of 16th century mind-set: Most democratic countries have laws related to family, divorce, domestic violence, and sexual harassment which treat men and women equally in all these areas. However India is unique in its approach in formulating laws ignoring the equality of sexes granted under the constitution. A few examples are:
In most countries including Pakistan, domestic violence complaints can be filed by either partner. In India, under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA 2005), domestic violence is considered to be solely perpetrated by married men (and their relatives) over the hapless wives!
In most countries, matrimonial property sharing at time of divorce results in equitable sharing of both assets and liabilities earned by both spouses during the marriage duration. However in India, the proposed bill aims to give property rights to women only at time of divorce. Even if a woman has more property than husband, the law will probably allow woman to lay claim over man’s property. The duration of marriage be it 1 day or 20 years is of no concern, and the property sharing is left to discretion of the courts.
Sexual harassment complaints can be filed by either sex in most countries. However in India, in the proposed Sexual Harassment at Workplace bill, the proposal to include men as complainants has been completely ignored so far in spite of many representations made to government and lawmakers by men’s rights groups.
Divorce rights and obligations are gender neutral in most countries. But in India, the proposed amendments will allow a wife to block husband’s divorce petition moved on grounds of “Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage” but a husband will not be allowed to do the same if wife moves a divorce petition on same grounds. Evidently, the government believes that all Indian wives are like Mother Teresas and all Indian husbands are devils incarnate!
Adultery is a crime which can be committed only by men and not by women under Indian Penal Code (IPC).
India has probably the dubious distinction of being the only large democratic country where in all above areas the existing or proposed laws give relief only to wives/women and exclude men completely from their ambit except treating them as providers or perpetrators! Is India moving towards 21st century or moving back to 16th century?
The law talks only about wives’ rights and has no mention of their responsibilities as wives. These amendments are in continuation of the trend evident in Hindu Marriage laws which seek to define only obligations of married men and only rights of married women.
The proposed amendments if accepted will reduce men to status of slavery in marriage. These so called attempts to achieve equality for women are nothing but attempts to create feminocracy in families and ultimately reduce men to second class citizens. If marriage for men meant being hopeful about future, with proposed amendments it could only mean being brave about future!
Centre for Men’s Rights urges the lawmakers that they not pass the bill in its present form and instead modify all laws to make them gender neutral where the word ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ is replaced by the word ‘spouse’.