Tuesday, 27 September 2016

My Body Your Rules

image from depositphotos
There was once a fire in Neverland. It started small but was soon blazing away ferociously and had to be put out immediately. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, and that Somebody will do it. But Nobody did anything to stop the fire and it consumed the whole city.

This is the story of our lives and times. We are waiting for someone to come and rescue us from our villains and circumstances. But as the story goes, no one is doing anything about it. Reality check- If we accept the situation, it will become the norm.

The norm that we have got ourselves into is the constant denial of our sorry state. It is an irony that a woman beaten up by her husband is protected under the prevention of domestic violence laws but if the same woman is forced into a sexual act by her husband, she has no remedy under law. She will get relief against all other forms of ‘physical and mental abuse’ but not the most grievous one by the husband. It is his right.

What then, about husband-to-be? What if a woman agrees to the act with a “supposedly” ‘would-be husband’ who later denies the promise to marry? Will his mere denial make the act a rape? Or should we simply brand the girl to be of lose character, or a boy to be a cheat? If such act results in pregnancy, should the woman be forced to bear the child?

In Bareilly, a 14-year-old; 35 weeks pregnant, is grappling with this exact dilemma and unfortunately, everyone has let her down;

her employer who raped her (repeatedly on the pretext of marriage),

the courts who can’t find her condition “grave/serious enough” to abort the fetus,

the police who won’t act against the rapist,

the media, who will invite personalities on talk shows to uselessly discuss the failing laws, and

the mute society, who will stand and stare at the debacle.

Minor Rape- two words which wipe away any residual faith one may have in the justice system. The victim in such cases loses not just her modesty but childhood and innocence. Add pregnancy to complicate the matter. And now imagine denial of abortion. It is the final nail in the coffin for the raped. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act has fixed criteria for abortion at less than 12 weeks, or more than 12 weeks but not exceeding 20 weeks, and above 20 weeks only in grave circumstances. In the Bareilly case, each court has interpreted these clauses in its own way, unmindful of the victim’s plight. As a result, a physically, mentally and financially traumatized individual is forced to continue with the situation because no provision in the law can come to her rescue. The law wants her to have this child because there is no other law to suggest that she may have a choice.

Irrespective of the victim’s consent, age and marital status and the age of fetus, who is anybody to decide for a woman and her unwanted unborn? Amidst the lack of justifying laws, the question raised by this teenage victim remains unanswered - ‘Who will adopt this baby?’ Legislature, Judiciary or the Police?