Tales of rudeness, shouting and violent outbursts are more in the news. Recently, two Iranian women in Bangalore beat up a traffic cop; almost a week later, a drunk woman in Bangalore hit an auto-rickshaw driver.
Take this: Men are getting punched, boxed, kicked with pointed stilettos, and even having hot coffee thrown on their faces. As women initiate assault in an intimate relationship, men become the silent victims. Says Swaroop Sarkar, co-founder of the Battered Men helpline in Delhi, “I was a victim and on the brink of committing suicide. There were days that I wouldn’t get out of bed. I almost lost my job.” But Sarkar didn’t give up. He started a helpline in Delhi, “We get 20 troubled men who come to us for help every week in Delhi itself. They just need our gentleness,” adds Sarkar, who is a textile engineer.
The stories are stark but real. There’s Ravi in Bangalore, all of 31, who studied at IIT, Delhi, and he narrates how he was traumatised by his wife after she discovered he had one kidney. “She threw me out of my own house. Men in our country don’t cry and certainly never get beaten,” says the engineer, who works for an MNC in Bangalore.
These are educated, well-settled and independent men. Says Kiran Bedi, former police commissioner, “These cases are not any different from what causes violence in men against women. For an aggressive woman, it’s determined by the environment she grows up in. She is an equal now. In the beginning, it may be a gradual slip. Or one she feels powerless to resist.”
Every Sunday in Bangalore, Mithun Kumar, another man “abused” by his wife physically and verbally, counsels battered men. “We get five to six men every week coming to us for help. Men are petrified someone will ask, ‘Did you provoke your wife by doing something wrong?’” says Kumar, an IT professional.
Adds Sarkar, “Men don’t hit back because they’re scared. Most are afraid the woman will call the police and the law will side with her.”
Is it the Bobbitisation of Indian society? We all remember the story of Lorena Bobbitt, who became known as the woman who cut off her husband’s penis with a carving knife. Says Uma Challa, president of All India Men’s Welfare Association in Hyderabad, “In our research, married men commit more suicides in India. We found that 65.35 per cent men end their lives, while only 34.65 per cent married women commit suicide.”
Tejinder Luthra, additional commissioner of police says, “We get allegations where the woman is the aggressor. The men are ashamed to talk about it.”
But what makes women the perpetrators of domestic violence? Today’s woman is fighting on so many fronts — at office, she has to be a know-it-all and as good as the guys if not better and fight twice as hard to prove it; while socialising, she has to be modern and with it and then with in-laws and family she has to meet the role of traditional bahu and homemaker. So, the pressure cooker is bound to burst… and it does!
Some nagging wives have problems in other relationships as well. Adds Kumar, “The children of these women don’t want to be with them as they live in dread of physical assault. But some women are only on a short fuse with their husbands.”
It’s a challenge to preconceived ideas of gender roles where it was virtually impossible for a woman to physically abuse a man. Says Suman Nalwa, ACP, Special Police Unit for Women: “The men who report abuse are few. When we get men who are booked under the Dowry Act, they plead that they’re being harassed by their wives.”
Men are confused. It’s put their identity in a crisis. Says Pinky Anand, lawyer: “As women grow financially, they want to control men. Recently, a wife slapped her husband at a party in a posh hotel in front of his friends.”
The stories told by battered men are no less horrifying than those told by women. According to psychiatrist Dr Avdesh Sharma, “The tipping point comes when the women can’t be in control. Alcohol is making women aggressive. Some women remain tomboys.”
It’s time men come out of the closet and get help. Simply say goodbye to shame and guilt!