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Men wail on Renuka's shoulders

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CHARU SUDAN KASTURI   |   Delhi   |   Published 20.06.08, 12:00 AM

New Delhi, June 20: Women and child development minister Renuka Chowdhary has called a first-of-its-kind-meeting with male activists demanding modifications to laws that they claim are flawed and biased against men.

Top ministry officials said they do not expect Chowdhary to yield to the demand from male groups for “gender-equal” laws, though some of their proposals may be considered. Instead, the minister could use the forum to try and explain to men “the need for laws favouring women”.

The groups argue that the laws against dowry and domestic violence against women as well as the proposed “sexual harassment at the workplace” legislation are discriminatory against men and open to misuse.

The meeting, scheduled for June 25, will be held at the India Islamic Cultural Centre in Delhi. Over a hundred male activists have been invited, ministry sources said.

In the past seven months, the ministry has thrice drawn up plans to organise the meeting, but these were cancelled by Chowdhary. Though the official reason given was that unplanned commitments had cropped up, sources close to the minister said she wanted to be “fully prepared” with legal advice.

“Now that the minister is ready, we are hosting the meeting at a public location where the media will be allowed, because we have nothing to shy away from,” an official said.

Swarup Sarkar, the co-ordinator of Save Family Foundation, an umbrella group of men’s organisations that works in cohesion with similar groups abroad, said he had not received an invite.

“This is a landmark meeting, and the minister, on earlier occasions, had promised us she would invite us. An official from the ministry has informed us about the meeting, but we have not received any official invitation,” he said.

An office-bearer of Rakshak Foundation — a group of NRI men from across the world campaigning against India’s dowry law — said they had not received an invitation either.

The concept note for the June 25 meet lists some of the key changes that the men’s groups want. The words “woman” and “man” should be replaced with “person” in the proposed law against harassment at work. Similarly, “victim” and “accused” should replace “wife” and “husband” in the domestic violence law, they have demanded.

The anti-dowry law is frequently misused, the men say. At present, it is mandatory for police to arrest all the accused named by the woman or her family before even starting investigations. The men’s groups want either prima facie evidence to be made necessary for any arrests or a provision to punish the complainant if the charges are found mala fide.


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