Jan 12, 2010

Not Woman Enough?

I could hardly believe my eyes when I read this today. I read and hear the absurdest of accounts in newspapers every day, but this one is something the wildest of my imaginations could never comprehend. It made me marvel at the nadirs our supposedly 'honorable' courts manage to sink in to, and how a human has ceased to be considered so, and how all this is so easily allowed to go on.

The 'case' goes such. A woman (let's call her W) worked as a housemaid in a home. One day in April 2006, a man accosted her on way to work, dragged her to a secluded spot, and raped her. The woman, once she came to and realised what had happened, wasted no time in lodging an FIR at the nearest police station. Subsequently, the police nabbed the accused Kashinath and booked him under Section 376 (rape). Not surprisingly, he was soon released on bail, even while the case was still pending in a sessions court.

During the trial, the public prosecutor (a woman) asked W to narrate the unfortunate incident in detail, and W revealed certain facts from her personal life. She told a stunned court and bench that she had never had a menstrual cycle. This was also probably why, according to her, she had never had a physical relationship with her husband of two years. On undergoing a battery of medical tests, it was discovered that the sexual/reproductive organs of W were not fully formed - a congenital condition.

If you think this was a shocking pronouncement, nothing can beat the astounding decision the bench (presumably having some kind of basic minimum educational qualification) conferred on the accused. The defence counsel stated that the medical tests that W was subjected to were proof that she had 'not been raped'! And in an apalling judicial verdict, the rapist was set free, acquitted of all possible charges - even those of 'outraging modesty' or assault!

Now come to think of it, what could have prompted such an absurdity from the 'learned' bench? And on a tangential (yet related) note, who is a woman? Or rather, what is a woman? Does a person being have to have the entire paraphernalia of breasts and vagina and uterus and ovaries to be a woman? Or do the qualifying criteria also include the presence of supposedly womanly behaviour traits - compassion, tolerance, maternal instinct? Is the menstrual cycle the defining characteristic of what makes a woman? Or can a woman not have fully-formed or fully-functioning ovaries and yet be a woman? What about a woman who has her fair share of 'feminine' personality traits but lacks a uterus? Or contrarily, what of a woman who has the required physical attributes but does not love children and cannot tolerate the colour pink? Who, then, is a woman?

And anyway, why does a woman need to have sexual organs in order to be sexually violated? A female infant of a few months may not have a fully-developed uterus, has no breasts at all, and has no menstruation. But she is still considered vulnerable to being raped by the Indian law, and granted protection under the Child Abuse Act. Similarly, a woman well past her menopause with ovaries that no longer function and a non-existent menstrual cycle is also protected from rape by the Indian law. Why, then, did the same law fail to protect W?

Is she not woman enough?


Anonymous said...

I read about this case Surbhi. The man should have been punished for assaulting and molesting at least.

It seems a new law against sexual offences was conceived in 1997, along with the law to protect women at workplace against Sexual Harassment - after the Vishakha judgement. [http://www.ndtv.com/news/india/tough_new_law_against_sexual_offence.php?]

...now (after Ruchika Girhotra's case) the Law Ministry has decided to set matters right with a radical new law.

The law:

* The Sexual Offences (Special Courts) Act 2003 will be introduced in the Budget Session of Parliament
* Under the proposed law investigations can begin without an FIR
* The police can act on a complaint, even make an arrest, without a warrant
* The accused can't walk free, can't even apply for anticipatory bail
* The government is bound to appoint a special prosecutor and not just any lawyer

"Laws like Sexual Offences (Special Courts) Act can fast track within six months or 1 year.

Aathira said...

This is shocking. Is this what they call learned? They define a woman by whether she has a menstrual cycles. It can be put an end to medically, and then what, I am no more a woman!

Heights of injustice.