As Renuka fights for women, men allege torture

June 25th, 2008 - 10:02 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 25 (IANS) A meeting called Wednesday by Women and Child Minister Development Renuka Chowdhury to discuss the law relating to the harassment of women over dowry turned acrimonious after some 50 men and their families barged into the venue, alleging the law was blind to their torture at the hands of women. The high drama lasted over one hour at the India Islamic Cultural Centre here, with the minister initially refusing to talk to the men when they barged in. She asked them to withdraw from the small hall packed with women delegates, including experts, psychiatrists and psychologists.

The men trooped out shouting slogans. As they gathered outside the venue, the police were called to maintain order. Chowdhury shouted back at them and told them they would have to maintain peace if they wanted to be heard.

After a while Chowdhury spoke to the men’s group, representing the Gender Human Rights Society, and listened to their problems.

Chowdhury, who was chairing the round table on building partnership with men towards women’s empowerment and gender equality, said the government planned to review the law as complaints have been heard about violence against men.

“It is wrong to say that domestic violence is only seen among poor families. Educated men also are not afraid of hitting a woman. Laws are there for protection and not against or in favour of anyone,” the minister said.

One of the protesters was Neeraj Aggarwal, the executive member of the Gender Human Rights Society, who said they had received a number of complaints from elderly couples about how their daughters-in-law had forced them out of their homes.

“We see men who have been beaten up very badly. As the laws favour the women, they register case against the husband and his entire family. Even those who are not involved are charged and arrested,” he said.

Most of these men were protesting against section 498 (A) of the Indian Penal Code, under which the husband or relative of the husband of a woman subjected to cruelty can be imprisoned for three years and also fined.

Some of the protesters carried banners saying that radical feminists supported the section. Most of the men also wore black badges in protest.

“We want the law to be redrafted so that men are not victimised,” said society president Sandeep Bhartia.

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