It is widely known that sexism against women is deeply embedded in the Indian Culture, with India's preference for son's being a key driver for the discrimination faced by women. Yet some of the equality measures that are put in place to protect women, have put men at a disadvantage. It is a multifaceted issue that concerns both men and women alike, however with that said, as a whole it is women who are disadvantaged in more ways, though the issues that men now face aren't as widely spoken about.
Sexism in the Indian Culture is a topic that I have discussed previously, with the focus on women. As women have faced much hardship throughout history to be seen and treated as equals to their male counterparts. Some of the crimes against women for simply being born a woman is heinous. However gender inequality for men is a topic that came to the forefront once again, while watching, The Lifestyle Channel's 90 Day Fiancé The Other Way. In particular, the issues faced by interracial couple Jenny & Sumit.
For those who don't follow the program here is a little bit of background on the couple and the issue in question. This is most likely old news in America as here in Australia programs are released much later. Jenny is an American woman of 61 and is in an interracial relationship with Sumit, a 32 year old Indian man. They initially met online when Sumit was catfishing Jenny, and he eventually came clean and revealed who he really was. Despite this Jenny gave him the benefit of the doubt and continued their relationship. Jenny, as a foreign woman who is divorced with an adult child, has faced a myriad of discrimination from Sumit's traditionally minded family. Now Sumit is also in the process of divorcing his ex wife and as a result has also faced plenty of discrimination, though from his current in laws.
In particular, Sumit's ex wife alleged that he used to abuse her physically and as such filed domestic violence charges against him. Which is the issue in question that has brought the topic of discrimination against men back to the forefront. Now this is a serious charge to file against any person and will hold many repercussions for Sumit throughout his life, especially since he claimed that the allegations were false.
Unfortunately accusations of domestic violence is a common threat that some, not all, Indian women use as a way to gain the upper hand in divorce proceedings. Particularly as women still to this day can be ostracised from their family and community as a divorced woman, and it is extremely difficult for them to remarry as a result of this. Honour killings, although not as common, still occur in some villages should a woman dishonour their family, and divorce is seen as bringing shame to the family. As a result the community will make a ruling to execute the woman to bring back the family honour and status in their community. However, filing false allegations is not the right way to go about equality and justice, as it only demerits the progress that has been made for women's rights in India.
In the end Sumit's father in law and his ex wife approached him to propose that Sumit make a financial payment of $20,000 USD in exchange for dropping the charges filed against him. Sumit reluctantly agreed given that the alternative would more than likely end with him being found as guilty of all charges made. Having charges dropped by the accuser doesn't necessarily mean that the judge will then also dismiss all charges. Otherwise it would be too easy for an abuser to threaten the abused to drop charges, and continue the cycle of abuse. Luckily for Sumit the judge dismissed the charges after his ex wife withdraw her claim.
Therefore as you can see, these laws that have been put in place to prevent crimes against women, have unfortunately encouraged inequality against men. Given that these laws are deemed to be highly aggressive and unfair towards men, as by default a man is considered to be guilty.
A few years ago men’s rights activists scored a significant victory in India when the Supreme Court essentially identified them as the victims in domestic violence cases. They stated that Indian women were filing inaccurate claims of domestic violence. Prior to such a win, with any crime against a woman, a man was always seen as guilty until proven innocent, with innocence being a very highly unlikely verdict.
Other laws put in place to protect women that cultivate discrimination towards men, are rape laws. Women are recognised by law as victims of rape, however molestation towards a man is not recognised. Children of both sexes are also recognised by law as victims of rape, yet a man is not.
This has only encouraged the negative attitude towards men socially, who are always by default considered to be the culprit of any sexual crime. Even if it was a woman who committed the crime against a man. As you can see it is this attitude that has cultivated the "every man for himself" society. Essentially if a woman is seen to be in distress and needing help, very few, if any, will rush to her aid like you would expect one to do in the western culture.
There is one fundamental factor relating to the problems that men encounter: there is a lack of mainstream acceptance of systemic men’s issues which is compounded by the absence of male advocacy groups with a broad remit to make the case at a political or media level.
This preconceived notion of men being guilty until proven innocent is widely seen throughout society. A great example of this is depicted in a short film released online a few years ago, that promoted awareness of the gender inequality that men faced.
The film portrays a young man standing in the aisle of on an overcrowded bus, behind a young woman. The bus suddenly comes to a grinding halt and he loses his balance and crashes into the back of the young woman. He apologises without any explanation and she simply glares at him. The second time this happens he again apologises however she slaps him in the face. She wrongly assumed he was acting in a sexual manner towards her, rather than the obvious; that the bus came to a sudden stop. The other passengers all assumed the same, and glare at him.
The young man then moves in front of the young woman standing in the aisle of the overcrowded bus and it again comes to a sudden halt as it approaches traffic. This time she loses balance and crashes into the back of him, so he then behaves in the same manner; slapping her in the face. Again all the passengers glare at him, but this time because he slapped a woman. Unfortunately, although the young woman was in the wrong, it was the young man that was found at fault in both instances. This is the new social norm, by default a man will always be seen as the culprit despite the obvious.
It is a combination of these factors and cultural beliefs that has shaped the imbalanced view of both women and men in today's society in India.
What is your take on gender inequality in India?