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For the uninitiated, Deepika started her career as a software engineer in Infosys but soon switched to media. After a personal battle with false accusation, she decided to become a men’s rights activist.
On International Men’s Day Deepansh Duggal of ET Online caught up with Deepika to know her thoughts on the #MenToo movement and what drives her to fight for men’s rights so passionately.
Deepansh Duggal: Your documentary, ‘Martyrs of Marriage’, chronicles the cases of misuse of India’s anti-dowry act, Section 498A. Do you think the documentary has had an impact on changing the people’s mindset towards false accusations?
Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj: In the last three years since the documentary released, I have received endless messages expressing gratitude and appreciation for the same. If anyone has to explain what misuse of [this] law is all about, they ask people to watch this documentary. My aim behind making this film was to spread awareness, tell people they are not alone and that they can fight.
Apart from this, I think the films screenings in Australia brought about a monumental change. When Australia was about to pass a law like 498A, people told the government about its flip side which eventually led the government there to apply the brakes on a special law.
I think that was a huge thing.
DD: The #MeToo movement, where a large number of women shared their stories of sexual abuse, started last year with accusations against people in power across Bollywood, India Inc and other domains. ,A few months later, there evolved a #MenToo movement where men started sharing their stories where they had been being falsely accused and implicated. Do you think such a movement will be effective in bringing justice to men who are victims of false accusations?
DNB: The sheer enormity of what #MeToo stood against was alarming indeed. Sexual harassment at workplace is real, absolutely condemnable and that’s why the movement became so big.
While this was happening, men too wanted a space to be heard, they wanted an outlet for their woes and the injustice they go through. There are so many men who experience the worst form of abuse, harassment and violence and do not even get a hearing.
I am not sure if the movement will be successful in bringing justice to men who are victims but I am a believer that every action makes a difference. Every word that goes out there, makes an impact that men, too, suffer, they are discriminated against and we need to address that if we talk about eradication of discrimination and violence.
DD: Does there exist a stereotype in the mind of the police force that it is always the man who is at fault?
DNB: In matrimonial cases, the usual mindset is that the husband must be wrong and wife must be right.
Things have changed a bit now since Supreme Court has issued various guidelines against the misuse of dowry and domestic violence law. Now, the police doesn’t immediately arrest the husband and his family, but there is a lot of harassment if the husband doesn’t bow down to wife’s demands.
I have had several police officers tell me that even though they know that the man is being falsely implicated, they are bound by the law to register a case and immediately arrest the accused. They know how damaging such a charge can be for a man if he is innocent but they can’t do anything. They are scared of the pressure.
DD: Is the battle for men’s rights a personal one for you? Has someone you know, or someone close to you been implicated in one of the cases?
DNB: In the year 2011, my family became a victim of false accusations of dowry and domestic violence. Even though no case was filed against us because we settled the matter, albeit on our terms, succumbing to the blackmail due to fear left a huge impact on my mind and my life because I saw my most loved ones suffer.
People whom we usually believe uphold the law and protect people from injustice – police, lawyers, judges – each and everyone told me there’s nothing for a man. No matter how innocent he is, the laws are stacked against him and it takes years and years to prove one’s innocence despite the evidence. It was not just the pain and the trauma but absolute disbelief and shock seeing the system being taken advantage of blatantly by women, that made me so passionate about the work I do.
DD: Have you ever landed in trouble (legal or otherwise) for having the kind of opinions that you do?
DNB: I had an FIR registered against me by a man’s wife in Lucknow, because I asked this guy to take action against her as she had morphed his father’s photo on a dog and posted it on Facebook. I had tagged that man publicly on Facebook and I guess his wife saw it and felt enraged.
Many people don’t know but I have a defamation case against me in Delhi High Court by another man who was accused of sexual harassment by several women during the #MeToo movement, for standing up for women in this case.
DD: Does the hate you receive from feminists and trolls have an effect on your mental and emotional health? If yes, how do you deal with it?
DNB: The day I started in this space, I knew I was doing something which was politically incorrect, risky, unpopular and looked down upon. I started my journey in a year when the entire country was boiling because of brutal assault and rape of a young woman. Who on earth would think of talking about men in those circumstances? But I did because it was necessary.
So I sort of expected this backlash. But what I was not prepared for was extreme form of bringing down of me as a human being just because of my work. I am projected as a woman hater, anti-woman, misogynist person who I am not in any way.
This humiliation and abuse used to affect me earlier but I have grown a thick skin against it now. I am a very confident and a strong person, so it’s not so easy to break me down. All that I am bothered about is always being true to my conscience.
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8 Comments on this Story
Jassim M299 days ago
The men are grateful for someone standing up for our rights and abuse of them by some unsucrupulous people . KUDOS and hars off to Deepika.
Gautam R337 days ago
Indian men are in very very serious trouble and are a joke now!!!! And to top it all they are not even aware of it! All men are living in cocoons and a utopia thinking nothing will happen to them and that it is a male dominated society. Society was never male dominated. Never! Men need to unite and take the law into their own hands now.
realdeshbhakt 338 days ago
Not only 498,but there are DV act,crpc 125,crpc 625,marital rape act.Indian family courts never give any decision against women..The judges are very corrupt,lawyers are just dalals.Their strategy is to drag cases for yrs and force men to pay.It is not authorised by parliament but our esteemed judges do it anyway.Similarly,supreme court frame laws about live in relationship by itself.I wonder who gave these morons right to decide what people do.DO we have right to arrest and confiscate wealth of these judges?No.Someday,there will be justice and they will definitely pay.Hell,even mughals-muslims-english got payback in india.Indian judiciary should not consider itself above retribution by men.In case of emergency,no police or no army is going to save judges because 99% of these men are harassed by women through courts