THOSE OPPOSING TRIPLE TALAQ BILL: HAVE THEY FORGOTTEN WHAT RAJIV GANDHI’S ILL-CONCEIVED SHAH BANO MOVE DID?

Tamil Nadu’s ruling party AIADMK says it will not support the Triple Talaq Bill brought by the government in its present form.

They are demanding to remove the clause from the bill that criminalises instant triple talaq and has provisioned a jail sentence for three years.

In addition, the proposed bill, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017, also makes the practice of instant triple talaq non-bailable and cognisable offence.

BJD, the ruling party in Odisha, is opposed to the bill as its feels there are several flaws and internal contradictions and needs amendment. The party like many others in the opposition camp including Congress, are questioning the provisions on criminalisation and jail term.

CPI-M says the move by the government is ‘unwarranted and politically motivated.” Its MP Mohammed Salim said, “When the Supreme Court has already banned the triple talaq, there is no need to bring such a law. If divorce has not happened in the first place, where does the need to criminalise the act arise?”

AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi is outrightly dismissive of the bill saying it violates the Fundamental Rights and is also legally inconsistent. He even moved a notice in the Lok Sabha to oppose the bill.

Parties like SP, BSP and RJD are also opposed to the criminalisation provision, a principal demand of Congress, the largest block in the Rajya Sabha, along with the BJP. Both parties have 57 RS MPs each.

And they all are doing so to address their political constituencies. But does it really help? History tells otherwise.

THE SHAH BANO CASE

Shah Bano was 62 when she filed a court petition in Indore in April 1978 demanding maintenance from her divorced husband, a well-to-do lawyer, for herself and her five children, two daughters and three sons. The divorce was not final yet as per Islamic law. Shah Bano demanded her right to alimony, Rs 500 a month, for subsistence under the Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1973 which deals with maintenance issue of wives, children and parents.

Her husband had thrown her out and was staying with his second wife. After he stopped giving the promised monthly maintenance sum of Rs 200, Shah Bano was forced to approach the court in April 1978. Irked by the move, the husband made the talaq irrevocable in November 1978 and claimed he was not liable to pay any monthly subsistence as per the Muslim personal law and what all he owned to Shah Bano was Rs 5400, the amount according to their marriage contract or Mehr.

Shah Bano won, both from the Indore local court in August 1979 and from the Madhya Pradesh High Court in July 1980. After the local court found that a meagre sum of Rs 25 a month was enough for her and her five children, she filed a petition in the high court to revise it. The high court upheld the lower court order and raised the monthly maintenance to Rs 179.20 a month. But it was still a mere pittance, much lower than Rs 500 a month demanded by Shah Bano.

Shah Bano’s husband immediately moved to the Supreme Court against the high court order. The first hearing in the Supreme Court took place in February 1981. They referred the case to a larger bench. Soon the case acquired a much larger social canvas with Muslim bodies like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind joining the case intervenors.

The matter was finally heard by a five judge bench of the Supreme Court. The Justices included India’s 16th Chief Justice Y V Chandrachud, Justice Jangnath Misra, Justice D A Desai, Justice O Chinnappa Reddy and Justice E S Venkataramiah.

They delivered a landmark ruling on 23 April 1985 that not only upheld the high court verdict but also opened the way for awakening among the Muslim women, to raise voice against their commoditization and secondary status, in nuptial agreements, in family and in society. The long fight that has resulted in the Supreme Court banning the practice of instant triple talaq and the government coming up with bill to make it a criminal offence is a testimony of that awakening as the fight was spearheaded by individual Muslim women and Muslim women organizations.

RAJIV GANDHI’S SURRENDER

As was expected to happen, the Supreme Court verdict created a storm. The Muslim clergy vehemently opposed it. They took to streets terming the judgement an encroachment upon their personal laws governed by the Shariat. Political overtones of the protests were so strong that the Rajiv Gandhi Government had to surrender finally. It enacted a law in May 1986 that overturned the Supreme Court decision.

THE PRICE CONGRESS PAID – BUT HAVE OTHERS LEARNT FROM IT?

The way Rajiv Gandhi surrendered before the compulsions of appeasement politics and overturned the Supreme Court ruling on a social malaise that was affecting and afflicting millions of Muslim women, it sent out a message that the government of the day was ready to go to any extent to save its votebanks.

The move by Rajiv Gandhi sent a powerful message that the Congress government that was totally appeasement centric and if it could overturn a historic decision of the top court of the land to appease the minorities, it could never be friendly to the interests of the majority. And there were many takers for this perception.

Senior BJP leader L K Advani, deposing before the Liberhan Commission on Babri Mosque demolition, in fact counted the Shah Bano case as one of the three factors that led BJP to launch the movement for Ram Mandir construction in Ayodhya, “If the Shah Bano episode had not taken place, if the Government had not actively participated or facilitated the shilanyas or opened the Ram temple gates, may be this would not have weighed with us when we were thinking of the Ayodhya Resolution in 1989.”

The step that Rajiv Gandhi believed would pay political dividend, in fact, proved a major drag on his legacy and the political dividend instead went to parties like BJP and Shiv Sena. Congress started shrinking and BJP started growing. And the consequences are there for everyone to see today. BJP is now in 19 states while Congress has shrunk to just four and the party has come down to a historical low in its Lok Sabha representation. It could win just 44 seats in the 2015 General Election.

And Rajiv Gandhi did it for a social malaise that that had made lives of Muslim women a hell. 95 per cent of the arbitrarily divorced Muslim women don’t get any compensation or maintenance from their husbands, a survey by the BMMA reveals. The BMMA survey also says 92 per cent Muslim women want triple talaq banned.

The Lok Sabha where BJP and its allies are in absolute majority passed the bill to ban instant triple talaq on 28 December. Now the Rajya Sabha will take it up on 2nd January for discussion and passage. If BJP and Congress can reach to a compromise, then opposition by any other party will not matter.

And history says Congress would not do so, reflecting in the fact that it was, in fact, a poorly calculated decision by Rajiv Gandhi, even if under the pressure of Muslim clerics, that became one of the rallying points for Hindutva politics.

Congress, it seems, has learnt its lessons after paying a heavy price. But can we say that about others?

©SantoshChaubey

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SHAH BANO CASE: WHEN SUPREME COURT RULED THAT RELIGION IS IRRELEVANT IN DIVORCE MAINTENANCE CASES

The proposed bill to outlaw the instant triple talaq (most used way by the Muslim men to divorce their wives by uttering talaq-talaq-talaq in one go), the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017, that was passed by the Lok Sabha yesterday may have unnerved male dominated Muslim organisations, religious scholars and political leaders who are calling it anti-Shariat (hostile to the Muslim personal law) and un-Islamic, the fact is, the country’s apex court, had clearly ruled over three decades ago that religion is irrelevant for practices like divorce and the subsequent issue of maintenance for subsistence.

While delivering a landmark verdict in the Shah Bano case in 1985, Justice Y V Chandrachud, the 16th Chief Justice of India, observed that the Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) 1973 that deals with the issue of subsistence maintenance of wives, children and parents with provision of monthly payment included every wife irrespective of her religion, “Clause (b) of the Explanation to section 125 (1) of the Code, which defines “wife” as including a divorced wife, contains no words of limitation to justify the exclusion of Muslim women from its scope. Wife, means a wife as defined, irrespective of the religion professed by her or by her husband. Therefore, a divorced Muslim woman so long as she has not married, is a wife for the purpose of section 125.”

The former CJI emphasized that such provisions are objective and prophylactic in nature and were enacted to give protective cover to the aggrieved party, “Neglect by a person of sufficient means to maintain these and the inability of these persons to maintain themselves are the objective criteria which determine the applicability of section 125 and therefore such provisions, which are essentially of a prophylactic nature, cut across the barriers of religion.”

Countering the arguments that the verdict encroached upon the Muslim personal law, the former CJI said “true such provisions do not supplant the personal law of the parties but, equally, the religion professed by the parties or the state of the personal law by which they are governed, cannot have any repercussion on the applicability of such laws unless, within the framework of the Constitution, application is restricted to a defined category of religious groups or classes.”

Further elaborating his counter argument, Justice Chandrachud wrote in the landmark verdict, “Whether the spouses are Hindus or Muslims, Christians or Parsis, pagans or heathens is wholly irrelevant in the application of these provisions. The reason for this is axiomatic, in the sense that section 125 is a part of the Code of Criminal Procedure, not of the Civil Laws which define and govern the rights and obligations of the parties belonging to particular, religions like the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, the Shariat or the Parsi Matrimonial Act.”

And ruled that “the liability imposed by section 125 to maintain close relatives who are indigent is founded upon the individuals’ obligation to the society to prevent vagrancy and destitution” is the moral edict of the law and morality cannot be clubbed with religion.

Shah Bano was 62, with five children to look after, when she filed a court case for maintenance from her divorced husband in 1978. In 1985, after seven years of struggles, the Supreme Court finally upheld the verdict of the high court, recognizing her right to alimony irrespective of her being a Muslim womam as the Muslim personal law doesn’t provide for a maintenance post divorce. Instead, what it provisions is sort of one time package that the husband needs to pay for “Iddat” or the waiting period before the woman can remarry again, usually a period of three months in divorce cases.

The verdict created social storm in the Muslim community and political storm in the country. Muslim clerics were dead against it and their pressure worked when the Rajiv Gandhi government brought in the Muslim Women (Protection on Divorce Act), 1986 next year to overturn the Supreme Court ruling. The bill, though claimed to protect the Muslim women in divorce cases, let erring Muslim husbands go scot-free again. Primacy of the ‘Iddat’ period and thus the superiority of the Muslim men were restored. And instead of giving any direct remedy to the aggrieved woman, she was forced to take a circuitous route, from her close relatives to the Waqf Board to beg for subsistence maintenance.

©SantoshChaubey

TRIPLE TALAQ BILL PASSED: WHY INDIA NEEDED TO GET RID OF THIS SOCIAL MALAISE

The article originally appeared on India Today.

If Muslim countries including Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Egypt have banned the practice of triple talaq, then how is banning triple talaq in India an anti-Shariat and un-Islamic activity?

The Triple Talaq Bill or the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 that was passed in the Lok Sabha has divided the political class and Muslim organisations, even if the legal fight against it was spearheaded by many aggrieved Muslim women and their organisations like the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA).

The proposed bill aims to outlaw the practice of Talaq-e-biddat or instant triple talaq and criminalises the practice, making it a non-bailable and cognizable offence and inviting a jail term of three years for erring husbands. This provision has been objected by many parties and they are demanding its removal.

The government says, doing so was necessary as even after the landmark Supreme Court verdict on August 22, 2017 that banned instant triple talaq, the social malaise continued unabated. The top court in its verdict had put a six month ban on the practice and had asked the government to frame a law on it.

If we see available data, the government stand looks logical, the data which says the Supreme Court ruling has failed to deter the erring Muslim husbands from divorcing their wives by saying ‘talaq-talaq-talaq’ in one go.

Before the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court in August, 177 triple talaq cases were registered, i.e., 22 cases a month.

The situation has become worse since then. As Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad revealed in the Parliament today, around 100 triple talaq cases have been registered since the Supreme Court verdict, i.e., 25 cases a month.

POOR LITERACY LEVELS, NEGLIGIBLE WORKFORCE PARTICIPATION

Data show Muslim women are worst of all social groupings of women in India.

According to the Census 2011, Muslim women at 52 per cent are least educated among the women in India. Among those who are educated, only very few reach the graduation level as the overall share of the Muslim community among graduate students is just 2.75 per cent.

Something that reflects in poor representation of Muslim women in workforce. In 2001, there were just 14.1 per cent Muslim women doing some kind of job which only marginally rose to 14.8 per cent in the Census 2011.

A study by the Indian Institute of Public Administration quoting 2007-08 NSSO data found that there were just 1.5 per cent Muslim women who possessed qualification above higher secondary while majority of them were educated till the upper primary level (around 42 per cent).

UNDERAGE MARRIAGES AND INSTANT DIVORCE: TRIPLE TALAQ IS A SOCIAL MALAISE

Census 2011 also reveals that 13.5 per cent of Muslim women are married before 15 years of age and 49 per cent between 14 to 19 years.

Overall, around 80 per cent of Muslim women are married by the age of 21 and most of them are either illiterate or barely literate to build independent careers.

Also, Census data shows we are staring at a social anathema where more than 50 per cent Muslim girls are forced in underage marriages. It seems as if they are raised only for this exclusive purpose, i.e., get married, become a housewife and spend the whole life under the threat of a husband who can divorce you at his mere whim.

Almost 80 per cent divorced among the Indian Muslims are women, i.e., four divorced Muslim women for every divorced Muslim man, IndiaSpend reports.

Most of them were divorced orally, an instant ‘talaq-talaq-talaq’ was spoken to almost 66 per cent of them.

7.6 per cent were sent letters by their husbands proclaiming divorce while 3.4 per cent were given the shock of their life over phone, the data available shows.

Around 1 per cent of Muslim men also used SMS and email to reveal their designs.

95 per cent of these arbitrarily divorced women don’t get any compensation or maintenance from their husbands, a survey by the BMMA reveals. The BMMA survey also says 92 per cent Muslim women want triple talaq banned.

The Supreme Court, while delivering its landmark decision in the Shah Bano case in 1985, that recognised a Muslim woman’s right to alimony, had commented, “Whether the spouses are Hindus or Muslims, Christians or Parsis, pagans or heathens, is wholly irrelevant in the application of the provisions on maintenance given to wife who is unable to maintain herself.”

Though the Supreme Court decision was overturned by the Rajiv Gandhi government within a year by enacting he Muslim Women (Protection on Divorce Act), 1986, the case became a rallying point for women voices from within the Muslim community for their rights.

©SantoshChaubey

INSTANT TRIPLE TALAQ BAN IS A WELCOME MOVE BUT IT CANNOT HELP MUCH..

The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, banned instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat terming it unconstitutional. It’s a big step given the menace the instant practice of triple talaq had become. If we see the suppoting data divorce trend in the Muslim community, we can see the overarching shadow of instant triple talaq.

Almost 80 per cent divorced among the Indian Muslims are women, i.e., four divorced Muslim women for every divorced Muslim man, IndiaSpend reports. And most of them were divorced orally – almost 66 per cent of them. 7.6 per cent were sent letters by their husbands proclaiming divorce while 3.4 per cent were given the shock of their life over phone, the data available shows. Around 1 per cent of Muslim men also used SMS and email to reveal their designs.

And 95 per cent of these arbitrarily divorced women don’t get any compensation or maintenance from their husbands, a survey by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) reveals. Though some reports have questioned contradictions in different BMMA studies, the cause of triple talaq is genuine one and we can quote BMMA reports to support arguments here.

But even if the SC decision banning instant triple talaq is historical and precedent setting, it will not help Muslim women much till their pathetic condition in the Muslim community is addressed; till triple talaq is totally abolished and like other religious communities, the Muslim divorce is also subjected mandatorily to the laws of the land; and till polygamy in the Muslim community is banned and it is placed under the Uniform Civil Code not allowing more than one marriage.

According to the Census 2011, almost 81 per cent of Muslim women are married by 21. So most of them are devoid of higher education that can ensure independent, professional career. If we split this 81 per cent further, it reveals a scenario that is even more horrible – 62.5 per cent of Muslim women are married by the age of 19 – an age-group for school goers mostly.

With 13.5 per cent Muslim girls married before 15, we are staring at a social anathema where more than 50 per cent Muslim girls are forced in under-age marriages, as if they are raised only for this exclusive purpose, i.e., get married, become a house wife and spend the whole life under the threat of a husband who can divorce you at mere his whim. The whole Muslim community is responsible for systematically killing aspirations of Muslim women through this vicious cycle.

Something, that reflects in poor representation of Muslim women in workforce. In 2001, there were just 14.1 per cent Muslim women doing some kind of job which only marginally rose to 14.8 per cent in the Census 2011.

And why it would not be so. Almost half of Muslim women are still illiterate. A study by the Indian Institute of Public Administration quoting 2007-08 NSSO data found that there were just 1.5 per cent Muslim women who possessed qualification above higher secondary while majority of them were upper primary educated (around 42 per cent). And there is not much to console even after a decade of this data.

So, they are methodically made handicapped so that they cannot make their life and career on their own and when this discrimination meets the archaic, exploitative mindset of the Patriarchal Muslim community which prides in nurturing anti women practices like triple talaq, they are finally pushed to a life of no existence.

The apex court has banned instant triple talaq but Muslim man can still say talaq, talaq, talaq spread over three months and his wife cannot go to a court against it. The prevailing Muslim law doesn’t allow her. Banning instant triple talaq may help in cases of impulsive decisions but what about decisions that reek of designs in making?

Muslim men, free from the fear of legal tentacles, will still use their arbitrary might in throwing Muslim women out of their lives if they have decided. The only solution to this is the legal dissolution of Muslim marriages with court driven legal mandates, like happens in other communities.

Polygamy in the Muslim community adds another worrying dimension to it. Suppose the community, through social interventions and pressure, reforms it to the extent that Muslim men start avoiding divorcing their wives through the triple talaq route.

But what about the inherent countermove it involves. As a Muslim man is allowed to practice polygamy, i.e., having more than one wife, he will simply ignore the wife whom he wanted to divorce through triple talaq and can very well go his other wife (wives) that will make the life of the woman even more miserable.

She cannot go to social institutions. She cannot go to courts. And as she has not been divorced yet by her husband, even if her married life has already been broken, she will find it difficult to reach out even to her immediate family.

©SantoshChaubey

ACTIVIST LOUJAIN AL-HATHLOUL WHO DEFIED SAUDI ARABIA’S WOMEN DRIVING BAN ARRESTED AGAIN

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Amnesty International has said Saudi Arabia’s women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul has been arrested again. The Amnesty release said that no reason was given for her arrest and she was not allowed to contact her lawyer and family but added that it might be due to her rights activism.

Loujain al-Hathloul, 27, is one of few women voices in a conservative country with one of the most regressive societies for women where they are cursed to live a life of second class citizens.

They are not allowed to travel alone. They are not allowed to drive and they were now allowed to vote and stand in elections until the local polls of December 2015.

They survive under the strict glare of male guardianship and before last month, they were not allowed even to go to a doctor or have their studies without the approval of their male guardians. An order by Saudi Arabian king Salman last month gave them limited freedom to access education and healthcare on their own.

There has been a growing voice against these atrocities but treatment meted out to Loujain says nothing much has changed. Amnesty International’s Campaign Director in the Middle-East Samah Hadid said Loujain was arrested on June 4 at King Fahad International Airport in Dammam in Saudi Arabia and she is due for interrogation in Riyadh by the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution.

Before it, Loujain was arrested on November 30, 2014 for violating Saudi Arabia’s driving ban imposed on women and was in jail in 73 days. To further choke women voices and probably to make her case an example to deter others, her case was transferred to a terrorism court. Loujain has a wide following on Twitter and the Saudi government found her social media posts dangerous enough to crack down.

According to a Washington Post report, she holds a driving license that allows her to drive in every other country of the Arabian Peninsula and when she was arrested in November 2014, she was trying to enter Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates. Since then, she has not tried driving.

Loujain also stood in 2015 civic polls but Saudi authorities didn’t allow her name on the ballot papers. The pain of being treated like second class citizens with borrowed lives echoes in Loujain’s words.

Last month, US President Donald Trump was in Saudi Arabia along with his daughter Ivanka Trump who found Saudi Arabia’s progress on women’s rights encouraging but Loujain questions such events involving a close circle of influential Saudi women who trace their success thanks to their male guardians. She questions the system where the success achieved by a handful of Saudi women is not theirs but due to the opportunities provided by men.

©SantoshChaubey

GOD DIDN’T SAY YOU ARE A WOMAN AND THEREFORE DON’T COME TO ME. WE DID.

God is for everyone. God is of everyone. That is the ideal position but something that has been a deep rooted ‘glass ceiling’ phenomenon universally, in almost every religion with different hues, in every society, in every country, including India.

We worship women. In Hinduism, Goddess Shakti is revered like the supreme deity. And it doesn’t end here. I am sure every religion has its own female deities. Yet we deny women the basic right – the right to equality in the places of worship.

And that’s why the court decisions like the one on the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai yesterday or the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmadnagar in April this year allowing women’s entry in the inner sanctum, so far barred for women, are important – away from the debates of such demands being being a mere publicity stunt – like we saw in Trupti Desai led movement that resulted in Shani Shingnapur verdict – or away from the political lethargy we see when the political class refuses to budge from its position keeping equations of the votebank politics in mind and it ultimately comes to the courts, the top custodian of our Constitution.

Court verdicts like these pull our attention to this very important discrimination prevailing in our society that we have so subtly legitimized – again in the name of religion – and have efficiently co-opted women to perpetuate such practices – out of fear psychosis – or emotional bondage – or cultural blackmail. You will find a major cross section of women advocating the women entry ban, be it Shani Shingnapur or Haji Ali. When women activists were planning to storm the Shani Shingnapur temple, women of the Shingnapur village and the nearby villages were preparing to stop them and a multi-layered security around the sanctum sanctorum.

Our scriptures say God is for everyone. They say He knows what is in our conscious and He comes to everyone. They say our faith is as important for God as God is for us. The Bombay High Court while delivering the order observed, “It cannot be said that the said prohibition `is an essential and integral part of Islam’ and fundamental to follow the religious belief; and if taking away that part of the practice, would result in a fundamental change in the character of that religion or its belief.” The High Court further summed up the spirit in its verdict, “There is nothing in any of the verses which shows, that Islam does not permit entry of women at all, into a Dargah/Mosque and that their entry was sinful in Islam.” (From the BombayHigh Court’s verdict)

When we worship our deities of both genders with equal faith and devotion, why do we discriminate between their devotees based on their genders? Why men fear women presence in innermost religious circles? That brings us to this point that religion is one of the most primitive tools to maintain male domination/hegemony in the society.

The court’s verdict on Shani Shingnapur was a slap in the face of orthodox Hinduism the same way as the yesterday’s is on Muslim fundamentalists, especially when women were allowed entry in Haji Ali’s inner sanctum till 2011-12. Haji Ali or Shani Shingnapur, they say the practice to deny women their basic rights in the religious places is not restricted to any particular religion. In fact, women have been historically denied their religious rights – and the problem is acute in religions like Islam or Hinduism or in different tribal sects. There are many taboos humiliating and restricting women rights in our society and this is one of them – a practice that has been made socially acceptable even if it is fundamentally wrong.

©SantoshChaubey

GOD IS OF EVERYONE. GOD IS FOR EVERYONE.

Yes, that is ideally the ideal position – but something that has been a deep rooted ‘glass ceiling’ phenomenon universally – in almost every religion with different hues – in every society – and in every country – including India.

We worship women. In Hinduism, Goddess Shakti is revered like anything. And it doesn’t end here. And I am sure every religion has its own female deities.

Yet we deny women the basic right – the right to the equality in the places of worship.

And that’s why the Shani Shingnapur protest by a group of women activists demanding their right to worship in the innermost sanctum of the temple, barred for women, is important – away from the debates of being politically motivated or being a mere publicity stunt.

Because they pull our attention to this very important discrimination prevailing in our society that we have so subtly legitimized – again in the name of religion – and have efficiently co-opted women to perpetuate such practices – out of fear psychosis – or emotional bondage – or cultural blackmail.

Well, our scriptures say God is for everyone. They say he knows what is in our conscious and he comes to everyone. They say our faith is as important for God as God is for us.

And when we worship our deities of both genders with equal faith and devotion, why do we discriminate between their devotees based on their genders?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

JUVENILE JUSTICE BILL 2015 IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE..

We may endlessly debate on ‘lowering’ or ‘not lowering’ the age of juvenile accused in heinous crimes (here we define them as murder, rape and arson) but we all would concur to this point – that unless and until our policymakers are forced by intense public pressure, they don’t believe in doing something unorthodox – that they don’t want to disturb the status-quo.

And it takes a massive public expression of anger that ‘disturbs’ their ‘this’ attitude.

As it happened in the case of passing amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act in the Parliament to promulgate a stricter law.

Though we cannot say what the proposed amendments will achieve, something that is time (and tide) dependent, we can say it has been a logical step on a tedious journey that should have begun much earlier than December 16, 2012 when the Delhi gang rape took place. Rape and other criminal incidents against women had become social evils and horrible curses much before it in our patriarchal society.

Rape and other crimes against women are a mindset problem and we cannot expect to control them by merely passing a law.

It needs mindset change.

And that requires time and consistency in efforts.

Tougher laws like the one passed in the Rajya Sabha today or in the wake of the national outrage after the December 16 gang rape, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 (or Nirbhaya Act), put into effect in April 2013, are vital reflections on how we are progressing.

Such steps, whenever they arrive, irrespective of what they can or cannot do, give a sense of satisfaction that the society has advanced one step ahead in this mindset change battle.

Because this is a tough battle to win – with loads of frustrating moments.

This very case is a burning example.

Somehow, our conscious was stirred to the level that the brutal gang rape of a paramedic student on December 16 in 2012 became precursor to a national outrage and global headlines. We can say the political attitude was not well received initially with brutal crackdown by the Delhi Police on protesters. But later on, intense public pressure and media scrutiny caused some sense to prevail and we saw the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act coming into force in just four months of the incident.

And though politicians had promised a very swift, ‘within months judgement’ (some say even two or three months), the nation accepted the judgement delivered by the lower court in September 2013 – in the 10th month after the incident.

A parallel track to this was the demand for comprehensive amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act because one of the accused, who was also the most brutal one, was a minor (17+ but not yet 18) and was sentenced to just three years in a correctional home. So while four others were sentenced to death (the main accused committed suicide in jail), the minor accused, who was most brutal in committing this crime, was just sentenced to three years and was to get his records expunged after his three years were over.

After December 16 incident in 2016, we saw spurt in rapes and other crimes against women but it was basically because the heightened sense of insecurity and the increased access to information sources led more cases to be reported. We also saw a spurt in reporting of such heinous crimes by juveniles, especially in 16-18 age-group.

So, this parallel track of demand for stricter laws for juveniles in 16-18 age-group was a legitimate one – apt for the senses prevailing in the society. And the demand never died down.

The ‘unnecessarily delayed’ Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015 that was passed today showed us that again. Our political class took three years after the December 2012 incident to pass the Bill and that too came after a trigger that again generated intense sentiment mobilization and could well herald a new mass movement if the Bill was delayed further. The Nirbhaya Act was promulgated in April 2013 but then politicians failed to reach on any conclusion on the Juvenile Justice Act for the next 30 months.

The trigger this time obviously was the release of the minor rapist in the case who walked free on December 20 after completing his three years in a correctional home in Delhi. Public opinion had started galvanizing much before it with themed media campaigns.

And the political class when saw this, it had no other option but to bow to the incoming public outrage. Yes, the fear of another massive public outrage forced them to pass the Bill this time with the ‘juvenile convict release’ trigger. What else can we say about their sensitivities and priorities again given the fact the Lok Sabha had passed the Bill in May 2015 but it took another six months for the Rajya Sabha to act on it.

Passage of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015 is important for this reason – that will of public prevailed over the policymaking class. What qualitative changes this amendment can bring is something that only future will tell.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

OUTRAGE? WHERE IS IT?

There was a rightly placed outrage today on Mumbai Police brutality. The incident where cops in Andheri Police Station in Mumbai badly roughed up an ‘allegedly quarrelling and drunk’ couple was caught on camera and the video clip went viral. Though the Mumbai Police, like in a trademark way by the type of generic reputation associated with the Indian police, downplayed the incident and tried to defend its men, the issue dominated the airwaves.

Now consider this.

A poor, minor girl is raped by a hooligan, who comes from a family of strongmen of the locality. She is forced to remain silent. The matter comes to light when the pregnancy matures to an advanced state to be terminated. Last month, the girl delivered a baby girl. The family is so poor that it has refused to take responsibility of the infant. The girl says she wants the child to hand over some ‘adoption centre’ as it would be impossible to raise her with the attached stigma of ‘being an illegitimate child from a rape incident’. Yesterday, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court ruled that the ‘illegitimate’ baby girl had ‘inheritance rights’ on ‘rapist’s’ property in this case – as long as she is not adopted by someone.

Now, that is a real tragic incident, something to be outraged at – though the issue didn’t become a rallying point.

The court stopped short of setting any precedent and left the matter for legislation to decide and settle on. The bench observed – it may not be possible to judicially lay down any norm or principle for inheritance by a minor who is born as a result of rape. Such attempt by the court would amount to legislation by judicial pronouncement and would operate as precedent in times to come. “It would not, therefore, be desirable to venture into this field and accordingly we leave it open for the appropriate legislature to deal with this complex social issue.”

And it is an issue that is quite pandemic – a simple Google search shows. I googled with the key phrase ‘ raped girl delivers baby + India’ and I what I came across was shocking – even if I know perverts in the society are touching new lows every day. See this, the first page on Google search:

12-year-old delivers baby, says stepfather raped her – Mumbai Mirror

Class 6 girl, gang-raped by two, delivers baby girl in Madhya Pradesh – Times of India

Raped by step-father, 12-year-old Mumbai girl delivers boy – IBN Live

Teenage Pregnancy: Mehsana rape victim wants to deliver, says cops – Indian Express

‘Bravely Go Ahead, Have the Baby,’ Court Tells Gang-Rape Survivor Who Wanted Abortion – NDTV

These are just some of the headlines from the past three months – and mind you, these are from reported cases. Countless such cases go unreported. Yet, we haven’t seen a national outrage or any outrage on any such case that can push our policymakers to legislate on this sensitive or the ‘complex social issue’ as the Allahabad High Court says.

And it is not about minor rape victims only. With more and more perverts and mentally sick people on the prowl, a legal measure becomes a must to deal with ‘upbringing related issues’ of every newborn born out of a rape assault. The legislator, in fact, must go a step ahead (from what the Allahabad High Court has done), and must legally make the child natural ‘inheritor’ of rapist’s property, and this ‘punitive’ action must be made independent of conditions like ‘future adoptions’. And this clause must be introduced in addition to the other regular criminal acts that apply on such criminals.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

FEMALE STERILIZATION DEATHS: SOCIAL MALAISE MADE PERMANENT BY TENTACLES OF A PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY

A Supreme Court ruling says there cannot be more than 30 female sterilization surgeries by a team of doctors in a day. The ruling also says a doctor cannot perform more than 10 such surgeries in a day. The convention also says such surgeries can only be performed in a government run facility.

The doctor in question, rewarded by the state health minister of Chhattisgarh for scoring the 50,000 mark of such surgeries and arrested now, performed 83 surgeries in five hours in a private hospital that was not in operation for months.

13 of these women died after developing complications. Many are still serious and in hospitals. And there are reports of hospitalization from some other camps as well.

And ‘such’ deaths make for regular news flow. What happened in Chhattisgarh is not a standalone incident. Yes, but the way it happened pulled the global attention. A Google survey will return with reports in almost every language.

Every human life lost owing to such misplaced and ill-conceived human priorities is an utter shame but we are living in an age of lost priorities.

Smaller number of deaths don’t figure at all beyond the local news coverage. Even this huge calamity was not potent enough to storm a national outrage and serious debate. No social media campaign was launched. No ‘such’ self-proclaimed advocates came forward. It did not trend beyond the realm of news making machinery.

And ‘such’ deaths just didn’t happen now. They have had a long history, dotting the timeline of the independent India.

Female sterilization surgery has been in regular use. Earlier, it was a state policy tool, with targets explicitly fixed. In fact, it was a state policy forcefully implemented during the Emergency years. Later, to make it look more progressive and inclusive, the process was made voluntary with more emphasis on educating the participants on family planning practices.

But most of it remained on papers, especially in small town, rural and hinterland India. Targets were fixed unofficially. Targets are still fixed unofficially. And ‘such’ surgeries have continued with their botched-up legacy.

Statistical reports say 12 women die every day in India owing to the botched sterilization surgeries or complications arising after the surgeries. Official figures say over 1400 people died in ‘such’ surgeries between 2003 and 2012, almost of them being women, and the statistical history dates deep back in time.

Now, India is a vast country when we map it in terms of its population. Around 1.25 billion people, distributed mostly across the small town or rural India, and most of the them just somehow surviving their living conditions. Enough is a word seldom arrived in their lives on their day-to-day requirements.

Hunger, healthcare, education and shelter are chronic issues still affecting the large swaths of Indian demographic landscape and the ‘subjects’ of most such female sterilization camps come from these population realms.

According to the reports, the governments offers monetary and other incentives to the ‘subjects’. Yes ‘subjects’ because the conceiver and developers of such plans don’t see them beyond this as revealed by the continuance of such target driven practices.

The reports say the monetary reward for women (tubectomy) is Rs. 1000 while the monetary compensation for men (vasectomy) is Rs. 2000. Why this gap? This is when tubectomy has greater complications than vasectomy. Some other reports say the incentive is Rs. 1400 adding that the National Population Policy discourages it. At the same time, the local health workers and doctors are also provided with incentives to bring more and more women to the sterilization surgery camps, like this Chhattisgarh doctor was awarded by the state government.

It is by now a deeply entrenched social malaise made permanent by the tentacles of a patriarchal society. Women are still considered secondary or inferior family members in social formations that make for most of the ‘subjects’ of ‘such’ female sterilization camps. The extreme position it has taken should become clear from the fact that we never discuss ‘male sterilization camps’ or ‘male sterilization deaths’.

And all for Rs. 1000 or Rs. 1400 or so! From an urban, metro middle-class lifestyle, that doesn’t make anything.

But for poor families dotting the Indian population across its geographical formations, it is a great sum that they rarely find in their possession in one go. And crushed by the conceited male egos and libidos, they choose or are coaxed to opt for or are forced to go for that ‘elusive stash of cash’, never thinking or questioning that their husbands doing so would be easier and probably more lucrative.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/