Married Men Cry For Help

The horrific details of Chef Kunal Kapoor’s abusive marriage and divorce have highlighted the plight of men who are stuck in an abusive marriage or live-in relationship, it’s high time we as a society address male domestic abuse

Update: 2024-04-06 19:21 GMT

Domestic abuse is domestic abuse, irrespective of the gender of the victim caught in an abusive marriage. In a world where male victimisation by partners in an abusive marriage or relationship is often ignored by social norms, the recent news of Chef Kunal Kapoor’s struggle sheds light on the silent suffering endured by men in abusive marriages or live-in relationships.

Despite societal pressure to maintain a facade of strength, Chef Kunal’s journey from culinary stardom to personal turmoil reveals the harrowing reality of male victims caught in an abusive marriage or relationship. Kunal’s tumultuous marriage, marred by emotional abuse and physical violence, culminated in a significant verdict. Initially denied by the lower court, Kunal’s plea for divorce on grounds of cruelty was finally validated by the Delhi High Court, highlighting the urgent need to recognise and address such issues within the legal framework.

The number of cases where wives and girlfriends have assaulted their partners physically has reached a new high. Small wonder that cases of male victims seeking divorce on grounds of cruelty are increasingly coming to light as seen by celebrity Chef Kunal Kapoor, cricketer Shikhar Dhawan, and Hollywood actor Johnny Depp to name a few. Let us look at a few cases and what professionals say about these issues, and evaluate some of the legal implications that surround this.

Master Chef’s Misery

Kunal recently made headlines, not for his culinary prowess, but for finally obtaining a divorce from his former wife, Ekta Kapur, on the grounds of cruelty.

The Delhi High Court granted Chef Kunal Kapoor a divorce, highlighting the lack of respect and empathy exhibited by his former wife. Their marriage, once promising, descended into a nightmare of emotional torment and physical abuse. From the onset of their union, Ekta’s demeaning taunts about Kunal’s financial status and incessant mockery of his achievements created an atmosphere of hostility. Despite Kunal’s efforts to salvage their relationship, including seeking counselling and attempting reconciliation, the situation only worsened with time.

The pinnacle of their tumultuous marriage came when Kunal gained recognition as a Master Chef, a milestone met with threats of false accusations and physical assault from Ekta. Incidents of police intervention, threats of legal action, and instances of physical violence painted a bleak picture of their relationship, culminating in Kunal’s decision to seek divorce in 2015. Despite facing vehement denials and fabricated accusations from Ekta, Kunal’s plea for divorce was validated by the Delhi High Court, marking a significant victory in his battle for justice and recognition of male victimisation in abusive relationships.

Marriage Troubles

Indian cricketer Shikhar Dhawan’s marriage with his former wife Aesha Mukherjee was fraught with difficulties. After more than a decade of marriage, in 2023, Shikhar Dhawan was granted a divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty by a Delhi Court. Reports suggest that Dhawan cited mental cruelty, alleging that his former wife kept him away from their son Zoraver for extended periods by residing in Australia, thus creating a “long distance marriage” scenario. With Aesha not contesting the case, the Court accepted Dhawan’s allegations against her. Hollywood actor Johnny Depp’s series of lawsuits for physical abuse charges were associated with Amber Heard’s name before the public eyes within their matrimonial union. The contradictory stories told by both parties demonstrate the complexities involved in intimate partner violence.

Men Don’t Cry

Dr Diana Monteiro, a counselling psychologist and director at The Hyderabad Academy of Psychology, provides a nuanced understanding of the underreported nature of male abuse in relationships. She emphasises that while women are more likely to be victims of abuse, a significant number of men also experience abuse by their female partners. Dr Monteiro highlights the stigma surrounding male victimisation, driven by gender stereotypes and societal perceptions. Men often face challenges in acknowledging their abuse due to fears of ridicule, being labelled as “unmanly,” or not being believed. This stigma further perpetuates the underreporting of male abuse, leading to significant psychological and emotional trauma for survivors. Dr Monteiro stresses the importance of recognising and addressing male victimisation to ensure holistic support for all survivors of abuse.

Gender Stereotypes

Clinical psychologist Dr Savita Date Menon delves into the societal pressures and gender stereotypes that inhibit men from reporting abuse. She underscores the pervasive belief in male superiority and the societal expectation for men to endure suffering silently. Dr Menon discusses the detrimental impact of these pressures on men’s mental health, emphasising the internalised shame and guilt experienced by male survivors of abuse. Additionally, she highlights the challenges men face in seeking help due to the lack of support systems and resources tailored to their needs. Dr Menon calls for a shift in societal attitudes towards male victimisation, advocating for destigmatization and the creation of safe spaces for men to seek support and healing.

LEGAL Implications

The legal landscape surrounding divorce in India is multifaceted, encompassing protections for both women and men. Advocate B.V. Seshagiri, practicing advocate, High Court and various courts across Telangana, shares that the divorce proceedings are typically prolonged unless mutual consent is achieved, women possess the unilateral right to file for divorce under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, citing grounds like infidelity and cruelty. Gender-specific legislation, including IPC 498-A and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, addresses issues like dowry harassment and domestic violence against women. However, it’s essential to acknowledge that men can also be victims of abuse, and their protection is increasingly recognised within legal frameworks. Collaborative efforts between law and society are imperative, with legal reforms influencing societal norms and vice versa, ensuring meaningful progress towards safeguarding the rights of all individuals, regardless of gender.

Summing up

The narratives of Chef Kunal Kapoor, Shikhar Dhawan and Johnny Depp, underscore the multifaceted nature of abuse in romantic relationships and the imperative of recognising male victimisation. Expert insights shed light on the stigma, societal pressures, and legal challenges faced by male survivors of abuse, highlighting the need for holistic support and systemic change.Men often face challenges in acknowledging their abuse due to fears of ridicule, being labelled as ‘unmanly’, or not being believed.” — Dr Diana Monteiro, counselling psychologist, director, The Hyderabad Academy of Psychology

Societal pressure and gender stereotypes inhibit men from reporting abuse.” — Dr Savita Date Menon, Clinical psychologist

Divorce proceedings are typically prolonged unless mutual consent is achieved, women possess the unilateral right to file for divorce under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, citing grounds like infidelity and cruelty.” — B.V. Seshagiri, Practicing Advocate, High Court, Telangana

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