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Gee! It's harassed men's turn to come crying

Bhopal, Sept. 11: The Madhya Pradesh women's commission is flooded with complaints from men.

Panel member Rajo Malviya said she is 'sympathetic' to the complainants and willing to hear them out. But since the commission is only empowered to seek justice on gender lines, she is unable to fight for them.

Member-secretary Shail Srivastava read out several complaints of men protesting against harassment, denial of conjugal and property rights and 'false' dowry cases. Some of the complainants were men from the weaker sections who had married upper-caste women, Srivastava said.

Govind, a Dalit who married a Jain girl, turned to the commission after the marriage soured. In his plea, the man said he was harassed by his wife's family and was 'tired of doing household chores'. He had found no support within his community, having married an outsider.

Ramesh, a journalist with a Hindi daily in Jabalpur, had fallen in love with a girl and eloped with her. But within days, the girl's family took her away. She was married off in the neighbouring town of Katni but failed to adjust with her husband and in-laws. Harassment and abuses followed. Unable to bear it, the girl returned to her parents. Ramesh has filed a complaint with the women's commission and is fighting her case. The hearing is on.

Meena aka Mehroonnisa is fighting for her child's right to his father's property, in accordance with Islamic law. Meena had married a Muslim man, who abandoned her and their child who has now grown up. But the commission is unable to help her because the child is male. The matter is likely to be referred to the Bhopal qazi.

Scores of complaints have come from the state's tribal regions where women have traditionally had an upper hand. Among many tribes, there is no child marriage and no stigma on widowhood. Tribal women generally enjoy the right to decide on marriage and can divorce and remarry easily. Instead of dowry, there is bride price. Often, the women are economically independent.

According to the commission's records, several tribal men are now complaining about women's promiscuity and high bride price and are fighting for child custody.

Srivastava said: 'As we are not empowered to solve their problems, we try to give sympathetic hearing, prepare their case file and send them to other forums like the human rights commission and the schedule caste-scheduled tribe commission.'

The commission also tries to help the men by counselling women. 'Discrimination in any form or shape is reprehensible,' Srivastava said. 'During our sessions and tours, we impress upon women to be just to all.'

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