Haryana woman's film lends voice to harassed married men
Born and brought up in Haryana districts notorious for crimes against women, Deepika Narayan Bharadwaj, 31, chose to lend support to harassed men instead. Her documentary, titled Martyrs of Marriage, traces the cases where Section 498A (cruelty by husband or his relatives) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)— or widely termed as the ‘anti-dowry law’— has been grossly misused by women for their spite. It is for this work that she has been featured in BBC series of “Asian women likely to make news in 2017.”
An incident in her own family triggered the idea, shared Deepika, who was born in Rohtak and went on to spend initial years in Jind, Bhiwani, Jhajjar, and is now settled in Gurgaon. “A cousin’s wife wanted to end marriage because of her extra-marital affair, but chose to file an FIR under Section 498A against him. During that time I saw this law closely; it was bizarre how my cousin was assumed guilty just due to her wild allegations, and the entire burden to prove his innocence rested on us.”
Using the first person account, the documentary lists chilling stories of harassment faced by men and their families after their wives filed false 498A cases against them. It lists the story of Syed Ahmad Maqdhoom, who recorded a video minutes before he committed suicide, sharing the plight of dealing with harassment after his wife took away his only child and slapped a 498A case against him and his family after her failed extortion bid.
The story of Hussein Ali, who lost his banking job and now is unemployed after going through seven-year trial because he refused to be a ‘ghar-jamai’ and move in with his wife to her mother’s place. The story, where a woman called it mental harassment for being removed from a WhatsApp group by her in-laws, or the story where a two-month old child was named in the FIR for domestic violence, are all depicted in the documentary.
“At a time when there is a movement of feminism in the country, through my film I wanted to question why men’s rights were being ignored. It is not that women don’t suffer, but when they do, they get support from the law and the police. However, when men suffer, they are belittled and laughed at,” said Deepika. “Most of them end up paying a fortune of their incomes to their wives to save themselves and their families from endless court trials, while some others, like Maqdhoom, find the extreme step as their only option.”
Having screened the film at Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata in the past two months, Deepika is set to premier it in Chandigarh at Tagore Auditorium on Sunday, January 22 at 11am. Her film has been felicitated at Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra state judicial academies. “The lawyers have opened up of how women come to them and ask for implicating their husbands. The judges have agreed the law needs amendment, while some others want it completely scrapped for it is being misused more than being of any real help,” she said.
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