This morning, the Supreme Court in India ruled in favor of a dead woman by sentencing her husband to a seven-years-jail term for torturing and driving her to suicide.
In an article titled, “Daughter-in-law be treated as family member, not housemaid: Supreme Court”, published in the Times of India, the judge urged family members, including the husband to treat daughters-in-law as human beings with the love and respect they deserve, and not as personal slaves.
While this comes as a ray of hope for many tormented women/daughters-in-law in India, there are two facts in this case/article that are highly disturbing:
a) A seven years jail sentence does not do any justice to a woman who suffered physical and mental torture for years and had to take her own life to get out of it. Nor does a small sentence like this one make for a good lesson for the families out there who still do not believe that their daughters and daughters-in-law are worthy of decent living conditions.
b) What kind of Indian culture are we boasting about, if in this day and age, a Supreme Court judge has to order people to treat their daughters-in-law with love and respect? What does the much preserved and celebrated cultural heritage teach us, if for starters we cannot even treat our own family members as human beings?
If this case wasn’t enough, skim through a Times of India. I obviously read the poorly designed app, which I think aptly fits as an example of the way media is trying to restrict our worldview by cutting off our access to real news. But, moving on, there were two other rather overwhelming reports that caught my attention. I don’t consider myself a feminist. Neither am I an expert on woman’s social conditions in India. But I do fear for my country’s extreme backwardness and absolute stubbornness towards change.
In two separate incidences, in different parts of India, village elders made decisions for two young brides, without so much as asking for their consent or giving them a choice. And as outrageous as this may sound, this is perfectly fine in India (even in major cities), where a woman’s opinion is barely heard. Hardly matters.
So what were their stories?
Well, bride A would not have in her entire young life imagined that she would be divorced the same day as her marriage on the whims and fancies of the village panchayat. A fight that broke out during the wedding ceremony between distant relatives of both the wedding parties, cost this young girl her marriage. An issue that did not concern the bride or the groom, was considered so important as to separate them even before they began their lives together. And honestly, this isn’t the worst thing to happen to her, because this her real misery begins now. Barely married, divorced and unwanted. She has quite a life ahead.
Bride B’s wedding had a ‘happy non-consensual’ ending. Because, nobody really knows if she is happy with the choice that was made for her. A wedding that went haywire after her would-be husband turned out to be married, this young bride was married off to the first person her father found amongst the guest present at the venue. Fearing societal humiliation, the brides family did not even consider asking her consent, but made a choice on her behalf. Because after what is she? Just a woman, unfortunate enough to be married to a man who she barely knows of.
Is it just a coincidence that these three cases however different in nature speak of the same suppressed state of women in India? We might not have definite answers to a lot of questions here, but one thing we most obviously know is that this demands immediate attention.