Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Another shocking judgement on rape by the Indian Supreme Court

All it needs is Rs 50,000 as fine to buy freedom from a prison sentence for gangrape.

Three men were convicted of gangraping a woman and the Punjab and Haryana High Court had upheld their conviction and punishment. The three criminals appealed against their conviction and the Supreme Court of India let them off after (as reported in The Hindustan Times) they agreed to a "compromise formula" of paying Rs 50,000 each to the victim.

Note what has been considered by the court -
1. The rapists had said that "they and the victim were happily married to their spouses".  Consider, if a man can rape a woman, what torture he must be inflicting on his wife? Did the judges talk to the wives? Did they find out what kind of husbands the men were? I think the wives are better off without having to live with such men. The court would have done the three wives a big favour by keeping their men locked up.
I would go so far as to say that the wife or fiancee of a rapist should have the freedom to walk off from the relationship with no legal binding if she so chooses and take the children with her. The man should lose all his rights to his property which should go to the wife and other dependant relatives.

2. The fact that the victim is "happily married" is no credit to the rapists. I would say that the woman's husband has shown maturity and not reacted the way we have known some husbands to behave.

3. The men said "they wanted to live peacefully". It is easy to say that after committing a violent crime. What happened to their desire of living peacefully earlier? The fact that they can attack a woman in this way makes them dangerous criminals. They should be kept behind bars for life. For they spell danger for women. How will the court ensure that they do not repeat their act? It is not only the safety of the victim but other women too in question.

I am happy to see two eminent women advocates Kamini Jaiswal and Pinky Anand crticise the shocking judgement of the highest court in land.

India does treat its women shabbily.

My reaction to the judgement is as an Indian woman. To read what lawyers are saying about the judgement read here.

It was heartening to see the National Commission for Women react to the judgement and prepare to seek a its review.  But I am wondering why there were no protests by Indian women. What has happened to our women's groups? I remember the mid-Seventies and the early-Eighties when as young women we marched to Parliament, held protest marches, organised sit-ins and gheraos on so many issues affecting us - dowry, rape laws, portrayal in the media. The activism helped initiate many changes in the laws and society.

But where are our young firebrand women today? 

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A lesson in living

The following article by me appeared in the Speaking Tree, The Times of India, under the title "Lessons from Ma Ginger"
Behind the trunk

She was a lady of the streets. She lived by her wits and gave us menacing stares. But we were persistent. We looked out for her, knew the time when she would hit the front yard or the back lane. The boys were after her — human as well as feline. For she was a real beauty — a beige cat with brown stripes and the cutest face you ever saw.

I found her one morning in my backyard, looking as if she owned it, and I was the intruder. I raised my arm threateningly. She got up lazily to plonk herself a little distance away. There was some movement behind the steel trunk. She had brought her day-old kittens — three ginger like her, and two black and white after the father. We knew him. He would stretch out in the park, his black coat striking against the monsoon grass.

One could not possibly drive away a mother and her babies, and so she stayed. You could catch her most of the time feeding and tending litter, taking short breaks for herself, when she ensured the kitties were securely behind the trunk. She suffered our presence silently, kept a suspicious eye on us, inflicting us with steely glares and an occasional snarl.

One night we woke up to much whining and crying. We ran out to see Ma sitting on her haunches guarding her brood from a big brown cat on the boundary wall with the meanest face you ever saw. Seeing us, Meanie slunk off, and we got back into bed only to be woken up moments later by feline cries.

This time we picked up a walking stick, feeling very sorry for the family and hoping to teach him a lesson. Ma had moved back many paces while Meanie was now on the ground ready for attack. Seeing us, he jumped back up on the wall and Ma picked up courage to give a chase. The kitties were quivering in fear. We left the stick out hoping it would instil fear in Meanie.

Suddenly, there was much snarling and whining. We dashed out to discover he had killed a kitty. Meanie jumped up the wall and vanished into the dark. A lifeless kitten lay there, while its siblings and mother gathered around it. It was a deeply moving moment. Sorrow hung visibly over the little family that had frolicked during the day. Ma did not bother about us, so great was her grief.

As the early morning sun rose, I saw Ma on the boundary wall. The kitties had gone, even the dead one. Ma had probably found a safer place. The family emerged a week later. The kitties were bigger and Ma had brought them to our front lawn. They tumbled about in the pots. But by the end of the day, the family had moved again. We were horrified to learn that she had moved next door, probably thinking the overgrown bushes would provide the much-needed cover. But she had not contended with two little horrors who lived there. We knew they had spotted the kitties, for we heard their squeals and that of their little sister. What would Ma do now?

That night we found a dead kitty on the compound wall. The next night, we heard a lot of screeching and whining and knew Ma was in trouble again. Sure enough, a third kitty was dead in the flower bed. Ma was down to two kitties. We watched out for her anxiously. We do not know whether she moved house again, but she preferred the quiet of our garden for her late evening feeding session.

Once again, the family disappeared, only to reappear a few days later. Ma’s beautiful face had a wound. We knew Meanie was on her trail. Sure enough, there was only one kitty and she was back living with us. She hid it sometimes behind the garbage bin, or under the staircase, even under the stationary car before she took off for a break. It has now been a week, but we have not seen the pair. I used to think life was hard and unfair.

I used to crib about small things. But seeing the way Ma fought a battle for survival every minute of the day, with no support system or friends, humbled me. She faced life as best as she could… against great odds, never quitting. Ma taught me a lesson in living.

Scurrying for cover
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