After the phenomenal #MeToo movement that had women across professions come out of their long-held silence even as they battled sexual exploits by men only in their minds and felt inhibited to raise their voice, it seems it is now the turn of men at the other end – men who have been falsely framed by women on charges ranging from dowry harassment to domestic violence to rape. Interestingly, most of the cases relate to consensual sex-turned-rape allegations. Vaastav Foundation, set up by Amit Deshpande (himself a victim of false allegations), is in the forefront of this new men-centric drive. In a metropolitan daily report on Sunday, he has cited the case of a yoga instructor who was dragged into a case lasting three years after which he was acquitted. This happened after a lady, who was in a live-in relationship, made sexual advances towards him and had him live through a consensual sexual relationship with her, only to slam rape charges against him after he thought of marrying someone else because their sexual relationship (and it was nothing more than that) was going nowhere and he wanted to get settled in life. He was jailed for a week. As his case dragged on for three years, he also lost his job and friends, his reputation having suffered an irreparable loss.
Vaastav Foundation’s main job is to set the stage “for preserving and protecting men’s rights”. The ilk of Amit Deshpande, who set up the foundation in 2014 following his personal battle against a “false litigation of domestic violence” that he fought and won, feel the need for “gender neutrality” to what they feel are “gender-biased” laws of the land. “Most of the times these cases become extortion tools, and although the acquittal rate in rape cases is 74%, stretched litigation destroys a man’s reputation,” Deshpande has been quoted as saying. He also runs a suicide helpline for men in distress. The new men’s rights movement in India draws strength from what activists feel: that though instances of men being harassed may be few, but when such cases emerge, they are rarely treated with the seriousness the cases deserve, and that there is also absence of emotional and legal support, especially when it comes to Section 354 (outraging the modesty of a woman) and Section 376 (rape) of the IPC. Even Section 498A, relating to dowry harassment, is being misused, the activists feel.
All said and done, what is imperative is gender-neutrality. For, when it comes to justice, truth must prevail, whatever the allegations are. And one must remember that in such cases when one’s reputation is smeared, it is virtually impossible to redeem it. How far can the so-called #MenToo movement go?