BREAK THE SILENCE ON MEN’S VIOLENCE by Samika Panchouly

In a traditionally patriarchal society, most of the movements by activists are centred on women’s rights and safety. Considering the fact that India has been a male dominated society since a long time, people find it quite hard to believe that violence against men exists. But the harsh reality is, not only does it exist but is also prevalent all over the country. Masculinity consists of a number of traits, according to the social perception, such as courage, power, dominance and independence. Men are considered to be the stronger gender and are expected to be able to defend themselves at all costs. The idea that ‘Mardkodardnahihota’ i.e. men do not feel pain has been glorified, especially by the Bollywood movies and boys from a young age start feeling a certain kind of pressure regarding this notion. They are expected to be emotionally numb, physically strong and to tolerate abuse. Thus, the knowledge of the existence of the fact that men suffer abuse, especially in the India society, is almost non-existent.

Gender roles play a huge role in determining the justice that the public receives from the State. A number of mythologies, books and movies denote men to be the dominant ones, the oppressors and the ones that have the actual power. Women are shown to be at the receiving end of this, with them being denoted as the weak sufferers. It is somewhat unthinkable that a female could even be dominant enough to abuse her male counterpart, be it physical, emotional, sexual or economic. It is even more unthinkable that a man would let a woman abuse him. Hence, it is believed that women cannot be perpetrators since they are the oppressed gender and men cannot be the victims because of the social positions assigned to each gender in the society. Gender roles continuously evolve with time, along with norms and morals in the society. A few decades ago violence against men would not have been a subject even worth discussing, but with the increasing use of social media and evolution of the education system, awareness about the prevalence of abuse faced by males has been raised.

Men’s own feelings also play a huge role in the awareness raised about violence against them. A number of men do not report the abuse they face since it would be harmful to their masculinity. Men are expected to withhold their feelings and have a ‘manly’ conduct which basically indicates that they have to be strong and dominant, both physically and mentally. According to a lot of males, disclosing their sufferings in public will lead to people not taking them seriously or thinking that they are the weakest out of the lot and a man who lets emotions get to him should be ashamed of himself. There are a number of other reasons why men do not report violence against them. One of them is the failure to accept the fact that they have been abused. Men in the society are trained to be emotionally unavailable and distant, and to not allow feelings to get to them. Another reason is pressure from the man’s family. Indian society will judge the male to be powerless and thus the family discourages the man from reporting the abuse, since they believe word will get out somehow leading to lowering of the reputation. Fear of embarrassment too is a major cause that prevents men from taking any steps. The fear of judgement from peers and taunts about being weak result in men dismissing the abuse they faced instead of taking it seriously and approaching the police.

All humans are somewhat violent and aggressive. Numerous studies have shown that women can be equally violent as men, especially in relationships. Murray Straus reports that half of the domestic violence occurs with both the partners abusing each other, 25% of it having men abuse women and the rest 25% having women abuse their male partners. A study by Save Family Foundation, where 1650 males between the ages of fifteen and forty nine were interviewed reported that economic violence was the most common, 38.2%, followed by physical violence, 25.2%, emotional violence, 22.2% and sexual violence, 17.7%. The study also shows that domestic violence has far reaching effects than just the abuse faced. Mental stress and psychological disorders faced by people who experience abuse is a common phenomenon, especially for men who cannot even approach the authorities since they do not even have a law protecting them from domestic violence.

The Domestic Violence Act (2005) covers broad area and includes physical, emotional/verbal, sexual and economic abuse, but only against women. It mentions ‘aggrieved individuals’ which is defined as ‘any woman who is..’. Thus, this law attempts to say that only women can be the victims of domestic violence. This is one of the major reasons which discourages men from reporting violence against them to the authorities. It is believed that women are the ones who need protection and men can protect themselves. According to this act, men are not subjected to physical,
emotional, sexual or economic abuse at all in the country. The fact that India has almost four thousand acts at present which focus on a wide range of matters such as sexual abuse, psychological oppression, relation between the State and Centre and so on, but not one of these acts guarantees protection to men against domestic violence indicates grave injustice towards one specific gender. This in turn promotes inequality and increases the differences in justice provided to men and women in India.

Men at times tolerate the violence they face to keep the family together. They are expected to be the heads of their families, thus the family is bound around them. The belief that it will get better and there is no need to report the violence that they face, is a sad reality that exists in the country. They supress their emotions in order to
protect their social position and respect. The fear of the marriage falling apart and all the blame falling on them since they could not handle a few issues discourages them even more from opening up and reporting the abuse.

The patriarchal mind set cannot persist for long and the concept of equality has to be advertised, be it by feministsor by people fighting for men’s rights. Men need to be able to be given the freedom to express their emotions. The idea that a man is mentally and physically strong, and violence or abuse will not affect him is one of the most harmful notions which exist in the Indian society. It is the need of the hour that laws in India start to be gender neutral to prevent the gross injustice faced by males, especially when it comes to violence against them. Men can and men do feel pain. Agony is not a sign of weakness and neither is speaking out against the subjection of agony. The outlook of the society when it comes to the position of men in terms of power, dominance and emotions need to change drastically. Men and women need to brought on an equal pedestal and the silence on men’s violence needs to be broken.

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