Amit Deshpande – The Warrior Within

I recently came upon an opportunity to interview Amit Deshpande, a social worker, working towards equal human rights for both the genders. This selfless gentleman worked for a social cause without expecting anything in return. Certain excerpts from my interview with him are given below:   Tell us briefly about yourself?

Amit-Deshpande

Amit Deshpande

Amit: I am 34 years old and an engineer by profession, born and brought up in Mumbai, in a simple middle class family. I have two sisters and my parents, though from a humble background, always made sure we have real equality within the household, both in terms of rights and responsibilities among all three of us siblings. I was always socially aware and was perturbed with the facts that the men’s rights activist groups had put across. I had briefly stayed in Bangalore and had used RTI (Right to Information) to get a chemist booked by the Sales Tax Department in Bangalore who was selling psycho-active drugs without prescription which is illegal. He was doing this with impunity without even holding a licence to sell (News report can be found here). Further, the Anna-andolan inspired me to be more active socially. One of my articles had even made it to the print edition of the newspaper ‘dna’.   Generally it is seen that people join the MRA movement after some experience. Can you share the same with us? Amit: I got married in 2008 and had visited the MRA meeting in Mulund, Mumbai out of curiosity for a personal issue. After visiting the MRA meetings, I learnt about the suicide stats of men which is that every 8 minutes a married man commits suicide in India and about the rampant misuse of Sec 498A of IPC, where more than 90% of the cases are found to be frivolous. I decided to work against the human rights violation that is happening to innocent people and joined the men’s rights movement. Suicides by Married Men and Women As can be seen above about 2 times more married men commit suicide as compared to married women which shows the social pressure that they are facing. 498A Incidents   Could you please elaborate on the said misuse of 498A? Amit: 498A is the provision under IPC which deals with husband and his family subjecting wife to cruelty for dowry. It is a cognizable, non-bailable and a non-compoundable offense. We have got cases where the entire family of the husband such as his mother, sisters, bhabhis, other female relatives, ailing parents were booked under this section and were arrested. Even people who came to help the victim were booked. There have been cases where a dog’s name has been put in the complaint and even a 2 month old baby got an anticipatory bail under this section. In the past the Supreme Court had raised concerns on the misuse of this section and had told the government to amend it. A short 5 minute documentary on the said misuse on 498A is given below: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFZyCCfoes8   What do you think are the problems faced by the Indian men these days and why is it difficult to come out of these toxic relationships? Amit: Men have the biggest problem of proving their ‘manhood’ for acceptance. On the other hand, the concept of ‘real men’ in our society has put a huge pressure on all men. There is a lack of positive spaces for men where they can come out and share their issues. More men are dying by committing suicides. More men are dying due to stress related diseases. Men face a lot of misandry in all spheres of life. Men can be framed in a false case of rape or molestation or domestic violence or dowry harassment. Men have to face toxic relationships and they cannot even complain or come out of it unscathed and the society doesn’t allow them freedom from such toxic relationships.   You say society is forcing them into these toxic relations. How is that so. Are we not living in a patriarchal society which benefits men? Amit: The problem is the social setup we have termed as patriarchy; which doesn’t respect a vulnerable man, so we have men always trying to cloak themselves as macho and strong when actually they might be facing a complete breakdown from inside. It is patriarchy which puts all responsibilities and liabilities on men and bestows rights on the fairer sex. Such a social construct keeps men in a bondage in these toxic relations. When the despair and indignation becomes unbearable some men are driven to suicide.   You mean to say women get more benefit than men in Patriarchy. Could you please elaborate? Amit: Patriarchy has traditionally given the role of protectors/ providers to men. So men are judged by how well they play these roles. Patriarchy gives economic power to men, but gives emotional power to women. Men in a patriarchal set up are pitted against each other. The society progresses by the competition amongst men. Men lay down their lives for all others especially women and children. While women have to be the caretakers, their only issue is to find a good protector/provider. Let’s do a reality check; against whom are the most violent crimes taking place in the society or who dies the most due to diseases or which gender has the most casualties during war. Burt: We did check out these details, and Men had the most incidents of violent crimes against them, maximum number of deaths due to diseases were for men and also most troop casualties during war were male. A detailed article on the same can be found here.   If men cannot discuss their pain in a social construct that patriarchy has created for them. What options do they have for support? Amit: We are trying to address this issue in our own small way by holding weekly meetings. We have a network of over 40 NGOs all over India which conduct weekly meetings in over 20 cities. We try to create a positive space for men where they can be heard without being judged. Save Indian Family, the umbrella foundation, has started an all India helpline for men in distress. Its numbers are given below. SIF Numbers You mentioned that you have also started an NGO for specifically helping men in trouble. Could you please discuss a little bit on it? Vaastav LogoAmit: We have founded an NGO in Mumbai, Vaastav Foundation which will work exclusively to highlight the issues of men. The foundation regularly conducts meetings at Veer Saavarkar Udyan, Borivali-W from 11 am to 2 pm and at Chintamani Deshmukh Garden, Mulund-E between 5pm to 7 pm every Sunday to help men in distress. Any one can attend these meetings. A person may also call us on the helpline numbers given above.   How do you get funding for conducting these activities? Amit: We have been running the NGO and the movement completely out of our pockets. We have registered the NGO and are looking for donations.   How do you see the men’s issues movement shaping up in the future? Amit: Mens movement will grow further as more and more men will get aware that they are being discriminated against. We have started seeing young men being aware of their rights and the sensing the discrimination. It is about time when people will start opting for the red pill (with a reference to the red pill of matrix). Burt: Thanks Amit it was great talking with you and all the best for your NGO Vaastav and hope it shows us the reality.   You can listen to Amit talk about the Marriage Law Amendment Bill on a news debate, the link of which is given below: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAzVwu1oBXM   As we can see Amit is a person fighting for true gender equality and human rights with a selfless and altruistic motive. No wonder he is a role model for me and many other people providing them with the much required ‘red pill’. I am writing about #MyRoleModel as a part of the activity by Gillette India in association with BlogAdda.com. Let us all support Amit in his endeavour and Stand up for a Cause… ——– Date Sources for Graphs: NCRB Software for analysis Crime Info and ADSI Info.

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Women’s Reservation in the Parliament

In the recent past there have been a lot of debate on the reservation of women in the Parliament and a bill on Women’s Reservation has been promulgated in the parliament. There have been many reasons advanced for passing the bill such as:

  • 50% of the population are women, hence reservation should be there in the Parliament: As per Aristotle, democracy is akin to freedom, a freedom to rule and be ruled. “But one factor of liberty is to govern and be governed in turn; for the popular principle of justice is to have equality according to number, not worth, … And one is for a man to live as he likes; for they say that this is the function of liberty, inasmuch as to live not as one likes is the life of a man that is a slave.” In essence, freedom to be elected is an important canon of democracy and reserving seats in the parliament is a blow to this canon and counterproductive to democracy. Reasons such as 50% of the population are women is not a correct way of looking at it. In India, there are no restriction on women to contest elections and canvassing for the same. As democracy is based on the concept of liberty and choice, let the people choose whosoever they feel are the best candidates to represent them.

Having a reservation, takes away the liberty of choice from the people and also the liberty to be elected to represent the public, which is against the philosophy of democracy.

On another note, taking the above reasoning further, as 25% of the Indian population are children, why should we not reserve seats for them in the parliament?

  • There is no political representation of women in the parliament: India being an indirect democracy, has elected representatives who control the law making process. The elected representatives need to do as directed by the electorate as they are representing them. In case of India, over the last few elections, the percentage votes of men and women are:

 

General Election Year

Men (% votes)

Women (% votes)

1999

40.01%

59.99%

2004

41.93%

58.07%

2009

45.8%

54.2%

 

The dominant group from the above data is clearly the women of India, as they are nearly 60% of the voters, and not the men. Hence, women exercise more political representation than men as is evident from the voter data above. Women have themselves elected their representatives to the parliament and stating that they donot have an equal representation is incorrect as it is primarily their representatives in the parliament.

  • Women own just 1% assets of the world: How is owning just 1% assets a proof of ability to be elected to the parliament? Further, this number is used in many places but no source for the same is ever given. As per an estimate, the consumption of assets (real estate and jewellery) per year between men and women in India is about US$ 40.8 bn for men and US$ 58.5 bn for women. If they consume more assets than men then how come they hold only 1% of the assets? Further, this reasoning does not have any bearing on the discussion at hand.
  • Women’s voice is not heard: Again this is a misplaced argument. The government has special ministry just for Women’s Welfare and also many NGOs are funded for the development of women and to hear their voice. The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) has been formed by the government of India. As per the website of MoWCD “the broad mandate of the Ministry is to have holistic development of Women and Children. As a nodal Ministry for the advancement of women and children, the Ministry formulates plans, policies and programmes; enacts/ amends legislation, guides and coordinates the efforts of both governmental and non-governmental organisations working in the field of Women and Child Development”. Another statutory organization working for women development is The National Commission for Women (NCW) whose mandate includes, “review the Constitutional and Legal safeguards for women, recommend remedial legislative measures, facilitate redressal of grievances and advise the Government on all policy matters affecting women”. Therefore, stating that women’s voice is not heard is an incorrect reasoning as there are ample constitutional machineries for the same.
  • Reserving seats in the parliament is a tool for women empowerment and upliftment: India has about 11% women in the parliament. Pakistan has a reservation in its parliament for women and has a 17.5% women representation. Do let me know if Pakistan’s ranking in women empowerment and freedom is higher than India. United States does not have any reservations for women in their house of representatives, do women there have no empowerment and freedom?

Reservation in the parliament is not a method and correct way to improve women empowerment and freedom. These objectives are best achieved by way of primary, secondary and tertiary education. India is already focused on education for both the genders, you may refer to the article Higher Education: Gender Biasness Myth for a further discussion.

 

One of the noteable feature of the Indian Constitution as compared with the Government of India Act, 1935 (which was passed by the British) was the abolition of communal elctorates, which the British had incorporated in the 1935 Act. Our forefathers adopted the ideology of no voting on communal lines in the Indian Constitution in the interest of national fraternity and solidarity. The vice of communal voting and reservations was abolished with the Indian Constitution. Therefore adding reservation based on gender in the parliament not only vitiates the ideology of our founding forefathers, which they had for independent India, but also infringes upon the liberty of the Indian people. Such a reservation, in essence, is a step backwards in democracy and against the vision of our learned forefathers. Reservations may also cause a deterioration in the quality of leaders/representatives as then the electorate may have to choose between sub-optimal candidates.

Let us all Stand Up for a Cause…

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