Who Moved My Sleaze?

I speak for the majority of Indian husbands – which, if we are to believe the statistics, means more than seventy percent of us who wallop our women regularly. The government of India seems to hold some sort of grudge against us. They say they have placed a new ‘tool’ in the hands of our women, and they even seem to be proud of what they have done! As if our women needed another tool to terrorize us. Weren’t their Rolling Pins and Tongue Fu enough already? The new tool is called the Domestic Violence Act, and with it they hope to protect women from violence at home; but if you ask me, the ones who really need protection now are us, from this act falling like a sledgehammer on our already violated egos. The new act takes away some of our most basic rights of indulging our base instincts that we had enjoyed hitherto. Starting from October 26, 2006, we could be fined and put in prison for doing something as routine as beating our wives. The act defines ‘violence’ and ‘abuse’ so broadly that now we need to think twice before we embark on even the mildest of our sadistic pleasures like pushing, kicking, slapping, or hitting. We can no longer yell at her or even threaten her in any way. They have taken away our bite as well as our bark. What will happen, I wonder, to our revered institution of marriage; the institution that we men had preserved so well so far by keeping our women in strict control. Marriage, dear friends, will henceforth be as appealing as an ice cream without the ice or the cream. The more imaginative ones among us will have begun repainting the future scenario, thinking that wives will be out, and girlfriends will be in. But I must warn you brothers, the law not only protects wives but also protects live-in girlfriends. There is just no way out for us. They not just moved our sleaze; they just stole it from right under our nose, leaving nothing behind. Gone are the good old days when we could harass our wives by continuously demanding bigger dowries. The wife who delayed the dowry could be conveniently got rid of in a ‘kitchen accident’ and another one easily found. In those days, we could even hide behind our mothers while they badgered our wives as only mothers-in-law could do. Not any more: the span of this new law extends far enough to include our mothers, fathers, siblings, and other distant family members as well. To relieve our frustration in not being allowed to harm her physically, we could have resorted to verbal abuse by name-calling and insulting her. But we are denied even this, as the law also covers ‘emotional abuse’ in its broadest sense. Being such ‘demanding’ husbands, we are used to instant gratification of our food on demand, tea on demand, laundry on demand, even sleeping with her on demand. None of these will be possible in the coming days. She may avoid you with the standard lame excuse of a ‘headache’, but you would have to accept it at face value. Do not even think of ‘getting her in the mood’ by forcing her to look at obscene pictures. The law specifically prohibits this, and you might end up being forced to stare at the blank walls of a prison cell.

Economic mistreatment is another point covered by the new act. We cannot force our wives to take up employment, nor can we have any rights over the salary they earn. On the other hand, we cannot stop them from taking up a job, if they so choose of their own free will. We are to lose all control over them. They will no longer be puppets on our strings. How frustrating is that! If our wives feel threatened, they could now file a complaint directly with a judge. They would not have to go to the police, whom we men have taught over the years not to interfere in our private affairs. When they return home after filing complaints against us, we cannot extract revenge, or attempt to teach them a lesson, by throwing them out of our houses. The law provides for their secure housing in the same, shared household. The abused and the accused must now learn to coexist until a judgment is passed. The onus will be on us to prove our innocence. This is going to be tough. We never thought it would come to this; we are used to bashing them so brazenly that any pretense of innocence would now be difficult. The new act enjoins us to treat our women more humanely, but it has chosen to ignore our own needs and wants. We need to have our daily dose of wife bashing, which we collectively make happen once every nine minutes in India. Deprived of our daily dose, we may suffer withdrawal symptoms and even depression. Our only comforting thought is that none of our laws can be made to prevail upon India’s social taboos and its primitive mind-set. Over the centuries, we Indian men have cleverly perpetuated the idea that it is unthinkable for a woman to challenge or accuse her husband. We have even managed to convince a few of them, the hopelessly romantic types, that our occasional thrashing is nothing but an expression of our deep love for them! Remember that there have been cases where the woman, unable to bear her husband’s torture anymore, has left her husband and gone to live with her parents, only to be promptly forced by her parents to go back to her husband. Rarely do such women find financial security and acceptance from their own family members, thanks to their phobia of social ostracism. Fortunately for us, India, with all its economic progress, is a huge country rampant with ancient beliefs and regressive customs. These values are not going to change any sooner. Unless there is a major change in the prevailing attitudes, not all women will have the freedom to learn and educate themselves, or to pursue a career of their choice, or to have full control over their income, or to choose whether to get married or not, or to choose whether to bear a child or not. Until such time, let us rejoice and think pleasurable thoughts of new methods to bully our women. There is nothing in the new act against entertaining sleazy thoughts.

© 2006 K. Y. Philip K. Y. Philip is a Mechanical Engineer (IIT-Bombay) based in Riyadh.