Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Smoke that!

What would you make of a man who told your daughter that it is her duty to suffer violence? And what would you do if this man happened to be the person to whom we all turn for justice?

A certain Justice Bhaktavasala has gained notoriety recently for his handling of ‘family matters’ — which means divorce or domestic violence cases. First he rebuked an unmarried lawyer for arguing a divorce case, implying that she couldn’t possibly understand the significance of marriage. He also forced the estranged couple to spend time together though they were reluctant; at least, the woman was.

There was a minor furor when this judge confronted another young woman who was getting beaten up by her husband — in public, and sometimes at night when she’d be thrown out of the house. Reports quote Justice Bhaktavatsala as saying: “Women suffer in all marriages. You are married with two children, and know what it means to suffer as a woman... Your husband is doing good business, he will take care of you. Why are you still talking about his beatings? I know you have undergone pain. But that is nothing in front of what you undergo as a woman."

He proceeded to ask the woman if her father had never beaten her mother, and cited the example of the film actor Darshan, whose wife went back to live with him despite reports of violence. When her lawyer produced photographs showing the young woman’s face after being assaulted, this judge is reported to have said: “You have to adjust… You have to give him a divorce or go with him... What is on your mind and what is on your agenda?”

If the honorable judge had been getting beaten up himself, he might have had a slightly different take on the matter. But anyway, my problem is not his personal attitude to wife-beating. That is his own wife’s or his daughters’ problem. My problem is his disregard for the law.

Petitions were sent out to the Chief Justice at the High Court in Karnataka and eventually, ‘family matters’ was taken away from Justice Bhaktavatsala. While this is a relief, it is also horrid to know that this man is not likely to be penalised for this blatant defiance of the very laws he is supposed to uphold. God knows how many lives have been destroyed along the way.

Last year, a Bangalore resident had filed a petition seeking to be reunited with his wife. He claimed that she was being illegally detained by her parents. Justice Bhaktavatsala had remarked that the Hindu Marriage Act ought to be amended so a girl under 21 could no longer marry without the permission of her parents.

And thisman, who would rather send a loving husband to jail than the violent man who beats his wife, is being paid by all of us. To think that I work hard and pay taxes to enable this man’s livelihood!

He isn’t the only one with strange ideas about women. V Shekhar who was representing the health ministry in the Supreme Court, made statements like: “Indian tradition doesn’t permit a lady to smoke.”

Which makes me wonder if Shekhar even knows who India is. With my own eyes, I’ve seen women smoking in Rajasthan, in Madhya Pradesh, in Maharashtra, in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh (I haven’t travelled much in the south or northeast). None of these women were urban, nor did they watch many films. They were as ‘traditional’ as they come. They had their beedis or chillums, often in front of children. And they enabled and passed on culture. Smoke that!

First published here.


Roy said...

can't someone sue the idiot?

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