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‘Harassed’ hubbies bank on single PM

New Delhi, June 11: Come Sunday, a group of fathers will appeal to Narendra Modi for deliverance.

Sunday is Father’s Day, and the activist-fathers plan to appeal to the Prime Minister to amend what they call anti-men laws that brand them guilty before trial.

“Modi comes with a strong pro-Hinduism stand, which promotes consolidation of marriage and family life. He is the right man to amend or repeal laws that break up families. He is married, but has remained ‘single’ for a cause. Yet, even after all these years, he hasn’t divorced his wife,” said Kumar Jahgirdar, founder, Children’s Rights Initiative For Shared Parenting, an organisation that fights for the rights of men accused in false matrimonial cases.

The demands include a separate Union ministry for children, de-linking it from the Women and Child Development ministry, and replacing the “no-fault divorce law” in the Marriage Law (amendment) Bill, 2010, pending in the Lok Sabha, with a family welfare bill.

Activists say there are mainly six laws in India that need to be reviewed, including the IPC Section 498 (A), known as the dowry act.

“The previous government favoured women. They introduced the ‘no-fault divorce law’ which assumes men to be guilty. Then they passed the sexual harassment at workplace act, which again presumes men to be at fault. Then they have amended the rape law, which has made men more vulnerable. With a new government, we hope they will at least assure equality in the eyes of the law,” said Jahgirdar.

According to the crime records bureau, only about a fifth of those arrested under Section 498 (A), a non-bailable provision, get convicted.

Dilip Bakshi, an engineer with a reputable firm in Delhi, spent seven days in jail after he was arrested and charged under Section 498 (A) in 2007. He was later acquitted, but lost the custody battle for his eight-year-old child.

“I spent five years of my life fighting for my child, but the court seems to assume that only a mother can keep her child happy and safe. Modi has shown through his devotion to his mother that he values family and thus believes in its sanctity, he will listen to our appeal.”

The other demand of the “harassed” fathers include:

Equal rights to both parents for childcare, making co-parenting mandatory;

Evening and weekend courts to speed up such cases;

Punish people who misuse matrimonial laws; and

Due consideration for both sets of grandparents.

Lawyers say the burden of fighting multiple cases against them at the same time makes it difficult for a man to fight custody battles. “The law makes it easy for a woman to file multiple cases based on the same facts in such cases. For example, if a woman files a case under 498 (A), the facts she has mentioned in her FIR can be used to file a case under the domestic violence act,” said lawyer Mahesh Tewari.

Jahgirdar blamed society, too. “The society views a separated or divorced father as an ATM machine. The child becomes a bargaining tool for wives to extort money and property,” he said.