“We receive around 1,000-1,200 calls from Delhi-NCR every month”, says Amit Lakhani, president of Men Welfare Trust, an NGO of the Save Indian Family group.
Started in 2014, the helpline caters to the male population regarding the many problems they face in their personal lives. The helpline is functional across the country, with various extensions covering major cities.
The NGO often receives requests from people who wish to volunteer – often working after office hours – on their personal and professional contacts.
“The volunteers are victims who have gone through various issues such as matrimonial disputes or misuse of gender-based laws at some point of time. They were helped by other volunteers and this has led them to participate in the cause”, explains Lakhani.
Saurabh Singh, one of the volunteers at the organisation, says that his prime responsibility as an advisor is to listen to the caller patiently and assure him that they have the support and trust they need.
“We ask him to attend the weekly meetings where other victims are present, and then counsel him thoroughly. This also helps in building brotherhood in the community”, he adds.
Usually, if somebody from Delhi-NCR makes a call and wishes to talk to someone from the region, the call is forwarded to the volunteers available. When one of them answers the call, it stops ringing for other volunteers. “This is the round robin queue system”, Lakhani explains.
“Matrimonial issues are the most common”, says Kumar S Ratan, founder of Men Helpline.Org, a similar organisation that started during the lockdown. The problems that arise from live-in relationships are other common complaints, he adds.
“As an organisation, we help them draft complaints and provide mental help as well”, he says.
Marriage issues that involve a potential divorce, fights on child custody, men suffering domestic violence – both emotional and physical – and fake charges are the most common complaints they deal with.
“We get calls from men who are divorced after 15-20 years of marriage, which shows that society is now changing. And we need to be accommodating of such problems in society”, he continues.
Ratan says that the organisation also receives calls regarding fake rape cases and kidnapping threats from girls’ families after love marriages.
“Unfortunately, in India, marriages between individuals also involve families. So when the dispute happens, the entire family is roped in”, he adds.
The helplines are commonly used by men in the 28-40 age group, the NGO observed.
“According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the number of suicides by men have increased and we as an organistaion help individuals to prevent this”, Ratan elaborates.
A lot of men resort to these helplines because of their inability to share their problems with people close to them. According to Ratan, this is because of society’s general perception of how one should ‘Be a man’.
“Where do we go?”, he asks. “There is no support from the judiciary or government to male victims.”
Often, trauma and depression follow these incidents. In most cases, Ratan says, the victims do not understand why they are being arrested when the female counterpart files a complaint.
“According to the procedure, a notice has to be issued before arresting or taking the suspect to the police station, but it doesn’t happen. There are cases of custodial violence against the victims as well”, he adds.
Ratan gives examples of such legal cases where the victim was harassed without any official hearing. One such case he speaks about is Amandeep Singh Johar V. State of NCT Delhi (2018) where the victim, along with his parents and relatives, faced proceedings before the Crime Against Women Cell, Nanakpura at the instance of the victim’s wife.
“Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal observed that there was no evidence that he joined the investigation as there was no proper notice provided by the police officers”, he says.
While talking about the method of operation, Lakhani says, “We hear them out patiently again and in detail. What are the sections in the FIR? What are their worries? How should their case be taken lawfully? In this way, we help them in legal counselling along with psychological counselling.”
They also conduct weekly meetings, seminars, awareness campaigns and outreach programmes. “According to the organisation, no individual should go through false charges irrespective of their gender or should be denied rights based on their gender”, Lakhani elaborates.
“In a country where people are trying to be more open about their sexuality and gender, why isn’t there a provision for male victims?” he asks.
The organisations demand that the laws should be gender neutral and use the terminology of a ‘person’ instead – ‘spouse’ instead of husband and wife. Another emphasis of the community is the stringent punishment for anybody who misuses a law to frame somebody in a false case, which often destroys lives.
These helplines also act as suicide prevention cells, as they get a number of calls from those contemplating ending their lives.
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