Breaking the Education BarrierCulture & Education | June 8, 2012
When Barack Obama became the 44th President of the USA,...
While reading the newspapers over the past few months my jaw has dropped low enough to scrape the floor. A division bench of justices P B Majmudar and Anoop Mohta at Bombay High Court urged a reluctant wife to join her husband at his new place of posting, with the admonition that, “A wife should be like goddess Sita who left everything and followed her husband Lord Ram to a forest and stayed there for 14 years.” Hello, modern Indian women must behave like a mythological character? Since the Indian constitution guarantees equality, can we now absolutely insist that modern Indian men behave like mythological characters as well?
More recently, Justice Bhaktavatsala at Karnataka High Court told a victim of domestic violence to get back with her brutish husband, considerately saying, “Women suffer in all marriages. You are married with two children, and know what it means to suffer as a woman. Yesterday, there was a techie couple who reconciled for the sake of their child. Your husband is doing good business, he will take care of you. Why are you still talking about his beatings? I know you have undergone pain. But that is nothing in front of what you undergo as a woman. I have not undergone such pain.” He even playfully ordered the victim to accompany her husband to lunch after his cheerful pronunciation, despite the fact that her husband loves serving knuckle sandwiches. Fortunately, thanks to howls of outrage from activists, including a fiery petition circulated by Kamayani Bali-Mahabal, all family court matters, including child custody and guardianship, have been shifted from Justice Bhaktavatsala. Whew.
And now to a more frivolous case on a Bollywood film. V Shekhar, a senior advocate representing the health ministry, informed the Supreme Court that a notification allowing on-screen smoking with riders would be issued soon. I’m not protesting against that – hey smoking is injurious to health, but what made my blood boil was his unnecessary comment, “Indian tradition doesn’t permit a lady to smoke.” Which means that in his muddled mind, Indian women are governed by tradition and not the constitution – shocking! And he also evidently believes that only Indian men were born with the right to have dirty, disgusting habits. Excuse me, that’s my right too!
I’d like to thank all the judges/advocates I’ve named above with a great deal of warmth. If it wasn’t for their enlightening comments, perhaps I’d never have discovered that my constitutional right to equality, something I was hitherto complacent about, was being ruthlessly trampled upon. I’d also like to thank all the supportive men who expressed outrage on behalf of women on social networking sites – I firmly believe that we don’t need feminists to fight for women’s rights, we need ‘equalitists’ (yes, I made that word up because it’s more inclusive). And finally, I have to say, thank god for the Indian constitution – that’s one big fat book we can safely throw at judges whenever women are treated unfairly. So, equalitists of India unite – we have nothing to lose but regressive judges!
Rupa Gulab is a columnist and the author of Girl Alone, Chip of the Old Blockhead, and The Great Depression of the 40s.
The views expressed above are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of the views of the Mahindra Group.
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