This article has been written by Mrinal Datiwal, a student at
Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab
Realising that women is a human first and wife, mother or sister afterwards took us 150 years, treating them as property is in no way morally justifiable. Hence, decriminalization of section 497 of IPC was ordered by apex court. Women are subjected to numerous discriminating and inhuman situations throughout their lives worst of them is the crime against their body, violating their personal space and outraging their modesty. According to reports the filed number of rape cases in 2011 was one every hour.
Many a time it has been asked whether the legal remedies are sufficient enough and argued that the issue is not about strengthening legal provisions alone but the problem is rooted in social atmosphere. Society in this modern era still stresses the notion of female virginity and purity, as a consequence often the harassment leads to the blaming of victim rather than the offender, sexual abuse of women in India specifically if it results into breakage of chastity considered as the end of life since it endangers the possibility of respectable marriage and usually in backwards parts of India rapists are made to marry the victim.
All these acts are justified in the lights of our Indian tradition. Society instead of searching root of the problem find solution of these issues in putting restrictions on women limiting the freedom of victim by restricting girls in houses after dark, not allowing the use of social sites to girls in order to keep them away from boys. Although the crowd which gathers to demand justice for sexually assaulted women have their morals at right place but they often follow degraded mentality which calls for the capital punishment of rapist on the ground that raped women is nothing more than a "dead body walking".
Old Indian text such as dharmasutras and dharmashastras or smritis were considered as books of law and they have significant impact over the colonial perception of traditional Indian law. There is one thing common in all these ancient texts which is the writer, all of these are composition of Brahmin writers and they strongly favour the highest caste and patriarchy. Ownership of wife body is crux in these disciplines. Religious text is not about Union of male and female but about giving away of daughter to man. There could be certain examples where women are equated with property such as in AGNI PURANA gives the interest rate of 1/70th of the original value for the pledged woman and animal.[i] Manu declares “In her childhood girl shall be under the will of a father; in youth of her husband; her husband being dead, of her sons; women should never enjoy her free will”.[ii] By reading all the above examples it can be concluded that women signed as husband's property is part of ancient legal tradition.
Women body is treated as husband's property because of which rape is not considered as violation of human dignity but is the infringement of husband right of property. Apart from the fact that ancient Indian text have questionable authority colonial government define Indian traditions exactly as given in them. Consequence of this India was perceived as country of religious speculation.
Considering women property & objectifying them is one of the causes for the crimes occurring against females in India. Issue is not about having insufficient legal provisions but the mindset of society. First step should not be women empowerment or women safety, initial step must be sensitizing men about respecting women’s personal space and integrity.
[i] Kanad Sinha, Be it Manu, be it Macaulay: Indian Law and the ‘Problem’ of the Female Body, Volume 5 /Issue:(Winter), Manupatra, 21 Jan 2015, Available at - http://docs.manupatra.in/newsline/articles/Upload/2DF292AF-4B6A-4EC3- A5BC88015CF5FE56.pdf (Last accessed on – 26 Feb 2021) [ii] Manu, The Ordinances of Manu, V.148 (Arthur Coke Burnell & Edward W. Hopkins trans., 1971). (Wherever, Manu has been quoted this translation has been used. For the original Sanskrit passages, see Manu, Manusmṛiti with the commentary Manubhāṣya of Ācārya Medhātithi, (Ganganath Jha ed., 1998).
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