Bengaluru: While a platform for male survivors of sexual crime is not a bad idea, ‘Men Too’ seems to be quite confused about what it wants to do.
Around noon on Saturday, about 15 people (most of the men and a few women) gathered in Cubbon Park holding up placards that read “Men Too”. No, it wasn’t a typo for ‘Me Too’, but a protest against it.
The group was protesting several things – the Me Too movement, ‘false’ 498A cases, the suffering of children whose parents have separated… quite a mixed bag. The protest was organised by the NGO CRISP (Children’s’ Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting), and also in attendance was Pascal Mazurier, a former French diplomat accused of sexually abusing his daughter in 2014, and later acquitted by a Bengaluru court in 2017.
‘Men Too’ seems to be quite confused about what it wants to do. The agenda, on the surface, seemed to be rather simple – the ‘MeToo’ movement not being inclusive of male survivors of abuse and harassment. And while that is true to an extent, it has more to do with the patriarchal mindset which does not believe that a man can be a victim of abuse, forcing male victims into silence.
While a platform for male survivors of sexual crime is not a bad idea, the stories that ‘Men Too’ wants to tell seem to be of the anti-498A lobby, of destroyed ‘reputations’ (which could be built on years of silencing victims) and sweeping generalisations about children who grow up without their fathers.
One of the participants, innovator and relationship coach Harsha Swaroop, says that he is a victim of a false dowry case. “Ours was a love marriage, how can there be dowry!” he questioned. However, it has been seen that love marriage is not a shield against seeking or giving dowry. He claimed that a majority of cases filed under section 498A (woman subjected to cruelty by husband or husband’s relative) are false.
Kumar V Jahgirdar, National President, CRISP, told TNM that the ‘MeToo’ movement had resulted in ruining decades worth of reputations of many men. When asked if the allegations about men, against whom multiple women had spoken up, were also false, he said, “That I can’t say. But if women don’t have the courage to go and file a complaint, they shouldn’t just put it on social media,” he argued.
Dr Sangeetha Amarnath, a handwriting analyst and counsellor who was present in support of ‘Men Too, said, “If you are hungry, you will eat the food immediately. You will not come 10 years later and say oh, I missed that one meal. Haven’t you moved on? Do you have the same intensity of pain even now?” she questioned.
Displayed at this event was a rather acute ignorance of how male privilege works.
The countless ‘MeToo’ stories on social media have proved that it is this very privilege that has silenced women for years and also enabled some men to be serial offenders. And as to why women don’t speak up sooner, here’s a TNM explainer.
And here’s another eloquent column by The Ladies Finger editor Nisha Susan, which captures how women do not get support even from their own parents and families if they do speak up.
At the press conference that followed the protest, Pascal Mazurier spoke about how a generation of children is being made to grow up without their fathers. Where his case presently stands, Pascal’s wife has filed an appeal against the Bengaluru court verdict at the Karnataka High Court and has custody of their three children.
Dr Sangeetha added that women need to think about children when they talk about any sexual harassment or assault they have faced. When asked if it was not contradictory to her earlier statement about how women should be speaking up about sexual violence against them, she said, “Yes of course, it will tell children that they should also speak up if they face anything. But if you are raising your voice, are you thinking about how it will affect the child?”
What Dr Sangeetha is missing is that these are the very questions due to which women do stay quiet about the abuse they face. “The socio-cultural norms are such that for women survivors, the burden of the family name, children’s well-being if they have any, societal stigma and consequential denial of opportunities end up further silencing them,” Gajalakshmi, a Chennai-based clinical psychologist had told TNM.
The organisers of ‘Men Too’ said that they will be starting a social media campaign in the same vein next week.
The News Minute
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