Battered Balkan men struggle to overcome social stigma

10 per cent of Serbian men were exposed to either physical or mental abuse at home

Cuprija, Serbia: “I must be the first man in the Balkans to admit that I have been battered by my wife,” Dusan Stojkovic said with a wry smile, speaking from Serbia’s first safe house for battered men. It took a lot for the man who is in his fifties to reach out and get help, breaking a taboo in a country where men still cling to a fierce macho image. Stojkovic has been in the safe house for abused men in central Cuprija, the first in Serbia, since it was founded in July 2009 by the Safety for Men non-governmental organisation. “My wife and her daughters (from another marriage) hit me with baseball bats,” he said, thumbing through his thick legal file. After the beatings, Stojkovic said, his wife accused him of battering her, saying she fought back in self-defence. He assumed this was his spouse’s way to get her hands on his assets: the house and his dog breeding business.

The hardest part for Stojkovic was to convince people that, actually, he is the victim. He was jailed for two months following his wife’s accusations, and when he was released he was ordered to stay away from his own home. His wife has kept his house, his assets and his business. “All this is the result of the court’s denial that men can also be victims of domestic abuse,” said Verica Zivanovic, a lawyer who volunteers for Safety for Men. The organisation’s founder Dusan Trifunovic, a former mayor of Cuprija, explained that many men were having trouble getting justice in abusive situations. “Even if they get a court ruling in their favour it is almost impossible to enforce,” he complained. Stereotypes run deep in Serbia’s still very traditional society. Even Zivanovic admitted that she suppressed a snigger when she first heard of Safety for Men but said she was stunned by the number of cases similar to Stojkovic’s. According to the group around a thousand men have contacted the NGO since the safe house opened, most of them following an appearance by one of its residents in a popular talk show. “There is a lot of interest but our capacity is limited. We can take in only urgent cases,” said Stojkovic, who has become a co-ordinator for the NGO. Safety for Men founder Trifunovic said between seven and 10 per cent of Serbian men were exposed to either physical or mental abuse at home. AFP

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One thought on “Battered Balkan men struggle to overcome social stigma

  1. Another classical example of the gross misuse of Dowry Act (498A) back in India is the case of television celebrity, Suhaib Ilyasi. India’s Most Wanted television host was in controversy after the dispute over his daughter Aaliya’s custody rose soon after Ilyasi’s wife Anju committed suicide on January 10, 2000 in Delhi. While his mother–in-law, Rukma Singh wanted custody of the child on the ground that she had the right under Muslim law, Suhaib Ilyasi had taken the plea that his marriage with Anju was not solemnized as per the Muslim law but had been a civil affair. His sister-in-law Rashmi Singh came from Canada after six months of her sister’s death and filed a complaint with the police against Ilyasi, alleging that he used to torture his wife Anju for dowry.

    The case took bizarre turn when Anju’s brother Prashant Singh and father Prof K P Singh took a diametrically opposite stand and described the allegations against Ilyasi as “rubbish.” Prashant told Express Newsline:`whatever my mother and sister Rashmi are stating against Suhaib Ilyasi is a lot of rubbish. There is no truth in their statement or in the charges filed by the police against Suhaib Ilyasi. If you are holding Suhaib responsible for Anju’s suicide, then my mother and sister are also to blame, as they unduly interfered in their family matters.

    K P Singh, a retired IIT professor, agreed with Prashant. “My wife and daughter are breaking up my family”. Both Anju’s father and brother allege that Rukma and Rashmi have given statements against Suhaib Ilyasi as `they wanted custody of baby Aaliya. When Suhaib Ilyasi delayed that, they put him in trouble.’

    Anju’s mother Rukma Singh had changed her earlier statement given in January, 2000, in which she had stated that she did not suspect any foul play by Suhaib Ilyasi. However when Ilyasi refused to give custody of his daughter, she change her statement and alleged dowry harassment against Ilyasi.

    It has been alleged for long that Dowry Act (498a) in India is being consistently misused by clever women for extortion and blackmailing. The NCRB records suggest that during 2005-2006, 94% of the 498A, 304B cases filed by women or by her relatives were primarily to settle scores.

    Section 498A in itself is, however, not meant to deal specifically with dowry — it is commonly considered to be a ‘dowry law’ because domestic violence against a wife related to dowry demands is considered to be within the scope of ‘cruelty’ envisaged by the Section.

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