The battle of the sexes gets a new focus with an organisation working to save men from victimisation

Having lost an arm-wrestling challenge to a female friend who swings 20-kg kettlebells and has blown a fortune in gym memberships, I don’t subscribe to the extreme view that men have the upper hand in every battle of the sexes. Therefore, when I learn about the Association for Protection of Men, Tamil Nadu (APM-TN) from recent newspaper reports about their campaign against an actress who allegedly ‘denigrated’ man-kind, I am more curious than amused. On the eve of International Men’s Day (November 19), I visit their office, a small space on a crowded street in Triplicane. Fat law tomes on a shelf and a board that screams a roll-call of advocates in bold letters make it evident that the office doubles as a law firm.

“When Arul Thumilan and I founded this organisation in 2007, our primary objective was to prevent innocent men from being victimised by laws that unduly favour women. From our law practice, we noticed that men were more often than not victims in family cases. From statistics about dowry cases from 2003 to 2007 provided by the National Crime Records Bureau, we learnt that around 85 per cent of the cases resulted in acquittals. But, before justice prevailed, these men and their families must have gone through public disgrace and intense mental trauma,” says S. Madhusudanan, general secretary, APM-TN.

When the two floated the idea of an organisation that would safeguard men against the misuse of acts pertaining to domestic violence, dowry prohibition and harassment of women, reactions lay somewhere between shock and ridicule. “But today, our organisation has around 10,000 members across the State with 19 branches functioning in the districts,” says Madhusudanan.

While pointing out the reasons for its popularity, he says: “When a harassed man who can’t afford the lawyer’s fees approaches us, we don’t turn him away. We fight his case for free. The only condition is that he has to be innocent — which we will find out in no time.”

Its goals (look up however show that APM-TN goes beyond extricating men from legal tangles, and that it seeks to be their protector in many other ways. The organisation seeks a National Commission for Men, a separate Ministry committed to the upliftment of men, a special Government unit to protect men harassed by women and to punish women criminals, special criminal laws to bring to book married women who force their husbands to break away from joint families and those who “cheat men in the name of love”.

Asked about the reactions their strong stand on gender issues draws, especially from women’s groups, Madhusudanan says: “Members of these groups call us and heap curses on us. They ask us, ‘Don’t you have sisters?’ We tell them we are not against women, only against a system that enables men to be easily victimised.”

APM-TN also engages in hand-holding exercises, which include legal camps aimed at helping men save themselves from hostile laws, rehabilitating men battling a dependence on addictive substances, and counselling programmes for men going through a rough patch.