September 25, 1997

India's wives settling scores with their husbands
By Rahul Bedhi,Special to The Star, Toronto Star

NEW DELHI - Armed with a slipper or using hired thugs, an increasing number of wives in India's capital are using force to settle scores with their husbands..
"The harassment is no longer one-sided," says one officer. "The only difference now is the steadily increasing number of complaining husbands."
Of the 9,000-odd cases of marital disturbances registered by the Crimes Against Women unit during the past year, 10 to 15 per cent of the complaints were of women harassing and beating up their husbands.. And the numbers are growing..
In one incident, a wife whipped off her slipper and gave her husband a severe beating in front of several officers at police headquarters..
Another woman was recently arrested on charges of employing goons to beat up her husband the day after her marriage, before making off with all the wedding gifts and jewelry the couple was given..
Besides physical abuse, one police officer says a growing number of wives are involved in cases of marital discord, including false accusations against their spouses, which normally take years to sort out in court proceedings..
Some wives have exaggerated trivial issues out of all proportion, frequently encouraged by their parents into initiating lengthy and debilitating divorce proceedings, according to one lawyer who asked not to be identified..
Feminists, however, disagree and say the concept of "husband beating" has little to do with reality and many of the cases are exaggerated by the male-dominated police force..
"A wife retaliating when she is being thrashed by her husband does not amount to husband beating," says one feminist. It's merely looking at the issue from a man's viewpoint..
But a leading lawyer in New Delhi has established the All-India Front Against Atrocities By Wives to take up the cause of harassed husbands and is demanding tougher laws against mistreatment of men..
Feminists say many cases are exaggerated by the police

Ram Prasad Chugh, the group's founder, claims to have a membership of about 40,000 maltreated husbands in some 400 branches across India. He says members include senior civil servants, police officers and even some judges..
Some members also blame the media for providing women with a forum to attack their husbands..
Critics dismiss the organization as chauvinistic, charging that some of its members have been involved in serious domestic squabbles..
Meanwhile, an air of prudery is being forced on India, the land of the Kama Sutra, by officials striving to morally re-arm the country through a gospel of denial and abstinence..
Prohibition was introduced into the hard-drinking northern state of Haryana and more than 10,000 bar maids and cabaret artists in the western city of Bombay have threatened to solicit customers on the street if the state government implements a 41-year-old law requiring all bars to close by 8:30 p.m..
The arbitrary decision to close the bars, which cater mostly to industrial workers, would deprive them of any income and might even lead the unemployed women to prostitution, she says..
Since taking power two years ago, the Hindu fundamentalist coalition government of the Shiv Sena and the BJP has been trying to "purify" and morally re-arm Bombay, a vibrant city with a bustling red light district and late-night bars and restaurants..

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