Written by: SMIW Editorial | Image: DNA India
This post is a part of our weekly roundup series. Every week, we will take a look-back at sexual harassment, gender violence and related incidents in India and beyond. Readers can submit their suggestions, comments and opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What a week the last one has been! There were not one, not two, but THREE historic judgments by the country’s courts in one single week!
The week ended with a CBI Court in Sirsa pronouncing self-styled guru Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh guilty on charges of raping two women followers in his Dera.
Let’s see why these are important.
While we have always known and believed that right to privacy is a basic and fundamental right that we ought to have as humans and citizens (duh!), it’s an aspect that’s always been murky in our legal system till recently. Of course, the recent SC order only opens up doors for many more questions.
How will this ruling impact our interactions with government bodies and for-profit businesses? Will this help in curbing data theft and unethical practices in dealing within the Aadhaar system? How will they make necessary modifications? What is the impact for seeking essential government services? Beyond Aadhaar and all its suspense ridden confusion (rolls eyes), a major question is also around this ruling’s implications for our LGBTQ community.
Confused? Here’s how:
Remember the 2013 sanskari, savarna appeasing Supreme Court statement which held that since LGBTQ people are a minuscule portion of the population, its kinda okay to not give them rights?
Well, with the SC’s new stance on Right to Privacy, our sexually different bhai-behens can potentially have a renewed fighting chance now to take back their dignity that many hetero, otherwise known as ‘normal’ (ugh) people take for granted.
LGBTQ aage badho, (hum aur) Right to Privacy tumhare saath hai!!
Coming to Triple Talaq, it’s of course good news that men won’t be able to divorce and disown their wives from a social and financial partnership by merely uttering three squalid words on an impulse, but the fact is that the practice of Triple Talaq in itself has not banned, only its instant, on-the-spot variety is.
A Muslim man can still verbally divorce his wife by uttering the word talaq thrice over a period of time without the intervention of a lawyer, any discussion of alimony and any say of the wife in the matter.
Also, the ban is only for six months (for now) and the Supreme Court has directed the government to figure out the way ahead post the completion of that period.
One can only hope that it doesn’t come back with a clean chit, the same way instant noodles and Narendra Modi did.
It’s also disappointing that the theory behind this ban seems to be solely that this practice is anti-Quranic and not anti-women’s rights as well. Well, maybe it’s OK for the time being. As long as we are taking baby steps ahead.
The judgment does raises other non-legal but pertinent questions though.
Why are whimsical husbands divorcing their wives in such a manner? At times, even over Whatsapp messages. Why is there such a big amount of social stigma attached with divorce, especially for women? Stigma, which forces women to stay in oppressive, abusive and violent marriages. In many cases, financial dependence on the husband is a factor, which opens up a whole other debate on how much longer before we start raising our daughters in the same way that we raise our sons? So that they can become independent individuals before they enter into a matrimonial partnership and parenthood?
However, even when a woman is financially independent, patriarchal conditioning ensures that in a divorce, it is she who ends up the more stigmatized one (and in may cases, the bearer of blame for failure of the marriage). Most importantly, why do we still, as a society, place so much emphasis on marriage and its proverbial success? Maybe because we still largely look at marriage as a means of procreation and not a way for personal and societal development?
Interestingly, as we all were cheering the instant ban on instant-talaq with hashtags and retweets, a reporter was mobbed and heckled by an unruly crowd as she (yes, it’s almost always a woman) tried to capture the mood and opinions of Muslim women from Aligarh Muslim University on the judgement.
Now, workplace harassment is a serious business and we should not ignore how women are stopped and heckled while they are simply doing their jobs. Just like this reporter was. This sickening video is full of the reporter’s requests to be allowed to do her job as the many men, mobbed and harassed her for shooting without ‘permission’.
Of course, ‘permission’ is just an excuse. To clarify, shooting out on the street, and not inside a campus, does not require permission. As for interviewing students, they are consenting adults who very well know what they are doing and definitely don’t need a nod from their institutes to speak out their mind. But perhaps, it is this very autonomy that our society (hint, men!) fear? Perhaps, the assertion of this autonomy, (which we NGO waale call ‘agency’), fueled by the ban on instant talaq, is what ‘provoked’ these men into heckling a single woman? (so machismo, yaaaa!).
Sadly, these sort of backlashes are by-now expected. So much so, that feminists are almost immune to them, as we are to personal attacks and character assassinations.
Tum kitni aurat maaroge? har ghar se aurat jaage gi! har ghar se aurat nikle gi!
Translation: how many women would you kill? A woman would wake up and emerge from every home
Of course, how can the subject of unruly crowds be complete without the third significant judgement of last week, which concluded with a CBI Court convicting Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh of Dera Sacha Sauda for rape of two women in 2002. Subsequently, Singh was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment for this crimes, earlier this week.
Hopefully, the jail term should give everyone a reprieve from any more of his films. But more seriously (and concerningly) the guilty verdict gave us a horrific glimpse of how Ram Rahim’s megalomania is ingrained into the minds of his followers.
While it’s a matter of choice for an individual to throng to a cinema hall to watch a trilogy of the absolute worst in the history of movie making, it’s another thing all together to not just disrupt, but destroy public property and endanger lives in protest to a guilty rape verdict.
As it turned out though, the moment the guilty verdict came out, Ram Rahim’s followers spread around, wreaking havoc, torching vehicles, vandalising public property and in some cases, entering private housing and damaging personal property too.
Ram Rahim’s followers went on a rampage as soon as his guilty verdict came out. Video: India Today.
The day before the judgment, State governments in Punjab and Haryana scrambled to take precautions and advised people to be safe in their houses. Just like how they ask women to stay back in their cage-of-a-house after dark, to be safe from ‘miscreants’ out on the streets. Honestly, this sort of demand is acceptable only when we are under an attack from the Army of The Dead.
Isn’t it a better idea to ensure that there are ample steps taken in advance to prevent miscreants from creating mayhem? Just like it’s better to stop sexual harassers from harassing women?
By the way, clearly, these folks had full faith in their guru and were completely sure the verdict will be favourable to him.
On that note, why don’t these holy figures ask their followers to maintain decency and decorum while supporting them? Recently, a journalist became the target of a massive online mob attack. Her crime? She said that she didn’t like a film featuring a revered (apparently) male actor.
What’s worse, the actor in question proceeded to do his best Modi-after a mob-lynching impersonation and spoke out only after there was wide criticism of his sustained silence and calls for him to break it.
Is it a sin for a woman to have an independent thought that does not appreciate a man?
The self-styled upholders of our beautiful ‘fabric of society’ certainly think so. Wish they would take off their saffron-tinted glasses and see the world which they have perpetuated in its stark, cruel and naked form. The sooner they do so, the better it would be for us non-males, non-MRAs, non-savarnas and non-heterosexuals.
Also, while this last week has re-affirmed some of our faith in the judicial system, one sure hopes that it remains the same way. Because, all sorts of ‘good’ and ‘progressive’ judgments will fall to the wayside if our lower judicial bodies keep ordering rape survivors to marry their rapists and High Courts smell ‘Love Jehad’ if a woman chooses to marry a man from another religious community.
This dangerous trend, which ever-so-often seeps into the country’s judiciary is because our current society seeks to control our fertility, sexuality and labor. We Spoilt Modern Indian Women, of course, seek to destroy this system, also known as patriarchy.