Sunday, 12 November 2017

Forget the Cynics, the Odd-Even Scheme is a Necessary Step in the Fight Against Pollution

Given the chronic lack of political will, only citizens can eventually force changes in government policies by adopting saner and healthier lifestyles.

The poisonous smog that has enveloped Delhi and the NCR for days on end seems to have temporarily jolted Delhi citizens as well as Delhi Government out of its “chalta hai” attitude resulting in the announcement of modest remedial measures like reintroduction of Odd-Even Scheme introducing partial restrictions on plying of private cars.  If the air quality improves just a wee bit so that the poisons we inhale are not visible as during the thick smog days, all is likely to go back to business as usual and the media too will move on to other sensational issues. 

Last year, vested interests managed to discredit the Odd-Even Scheme by convincing people that it had zero impact on improving air quality during the period it was under experimentation despite the fact that most citizens found it useful and compliance rate was very high.  The negative publicity given to it in the media, forced the AAP government not only to withdraw the experiment but also put the entire issue on the backburner.  But this year, in a shocking move, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) first put the whole plan of action on hold by asking the AAP Government to first prove to NGT’s satisfaction that restrictions on use of cars is actually beneficial. 
Of the many thoughtless orders emanating from the NGT, this one is most perverse.  One expected NGT to demand serious implementation of Odd-Even along with additional measures because it has proved efficacious in other countries battling air pollution.  Just today, Mexico’s ambassador to India has written a lead article in one of our national papers detailing her country’s success in implementing multiple measures, including “Hoy No Circula” (a day without a car), adopted by Mexico City in improving its air quality. ( “Lessons from Mexico City: Series of steps needed to signal that life can’t go on as usual when air so toxic” The Indian Express, November 10, 2017).

A street cleaner works in heavy smog in Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. Credit: Reuters

Instead of following those leads, the NGT in a totally uncalled for move has discredited and nipped in bud the very idea of controlling the burgeoning numbers of motor vehicles in the city. For the record, the same NGT had banned cycle rickshaws from plying in many areas using the absurd argument that they cause pollution. This when manually pulled cycle-rickshaws are the most eco-friendly mode of short distance transport. They neither consume carbon fuels nor create noise pollution. Our organisation Manushi  which succeeded in getting a new policy and law in favour of eco friendly cycle rickshaws legitimized by the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court of India-- has had to battle NGT’s Tuglaqi farman in NGT’s court.

Within a day of stalling Odd-Even, the NGT took an about turn and asked Delhi governmentto go ahead with Odd-Even but without the proposed exemptions to two-wheelers and women drivers, given the concerns regarding safety of women. But as Delhi based women's organisation Jagori pointed out, most working women use public transport. Only a small percentage use own cars. They can easily switch over to cabs. As for two-wheelers, the Delhi government has argued that the existing public transport system cannot possibly handle the massive increase of users if use of two-wheelers is also rationed. But for this they have only themselves to blame since in the last three years they suffered total amnesia regarding their 2015 electoral promise to add 10,000 buses to the DTC fleet. So far not a single bus has been added to the DTC fleet. NGT is also right in accusing that none of their other orders regarding pollution control have been heeded thus far by AAP government.

Thanks to the ongoing tussles between Delhi government and NGT, the first half hearted measure proposed by Delhu government has now been shelved indefeinietly.
Odd-Even not a Magic Wand but...:It is not my case, that the Odd-Even Scheme is the proverbial magic wand that can solve the problem of air pollution in one stroke.  However, it was a significant first step to drive home the message that the government alone cannot handle handling this serious challenge and that it requires mass participation of citizens in more ways than one with each citizen contributing his/her bit to reduce the carbon footprint.
While in some domains, such as quality roads or power supply, the solution is largely in the hands of the government, combating environmental pollution has to be a collective resolve of both government and society.  The Odd-Even scheme is a way of making each citizen an active partner and stakeholder in the process of finding solutions to the foul air menace.  It is meant to make each of us understand that it involves daily discipline and willingness to make necessary sacrifices.
It defies comprehension how people came to the conclusion that Odd-Even Formula had zero effect on curbing pollution.  The reduction in the total number of vehicles meant far less traffic snarls. When cars move at a consistent speed instead of moving at snail space due to traffic jams, they emit far less fumes & consume less fuel.
If we want clean air, each one of us has to take the responsibility by making important life style changes.  This includes switching over to public transport, which will never improve unless elite groups of society begin to use it.  Our collective pressure will force the government to improve the quality and enhance the quantity and modes of public transport. Like many others of my class, I too was addicted to using my personal car for daily commutes.  But I am grateful to the short-lived Odd-Even experiment for having forced me to experience the benefits of using public transport.
Thanks to the continuing spread of Metro in Delhi plus steady growth of quality cab services provided by Uber and Ola, switching over to public transport is today not only possible but also more convenient and cost effective than using one’s own car.  For instance, for going to DLF Gurgaon from my house in Civil Lines, a car ride could take anything from 90 minutes to 2.5 hours depending on traffic.  But a Metro Ride in cool comfort does not take more than 60 minutes, that too at a fraction of the cost.
A man cleans dust from a school bus in heavy smog in Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. Credit: Reuters

My total monthly bill of cab rides comes to less than the salary I have to pay my driver.  On top of it private car use means hefty petrol bills, car servicing and repair charges, parking charges plus the hassle of finding parking space.  Driving in choked cities also means frequent dent and scratches on your vehicle by careless drivers.  Then there is the annual car insurance and recurring expense on minor and major repairs.  Add to it the lakhs it costs to buy a car.  The annual interest one can earn on the amount one spends on a luxury car is enough to pay for taxi bills for the whole year.
I have trained my driver to do other office jobs thus putting his time to more productive use than taking me from one meeting to another and sitting idly for hours in-between. Now I never ask him to drop or receive me at the airport because it is far cheaper to take an AC cab than have him drive 30 kms through choked roads to drive me back another 30 kms.  Think of the man-hours and fuel cost saved. Today, every time I avoid taking my car out, I feel I am contributing in a small way to improving air quality.
While many of my friends and acquaintances went ahead and bought an additional car to evade compliance and sabotage the very intent of Odd-Even Scheme, I actually postponed indefinitely the idea of replacing my ten year old car with a new one, especially since the existing vehicle is still in good shape and running fine.  Even after the government discontinued the Odd-Even Scheme, I began avoiding the use of my personal car. These days, for at least 8 out of 10 trips, I use the Metro, Uber or Ola.
Some argue that using cabs is no different from using personal cars since both are fuel dependent. Firstly, most cabs use CNG, which is less harmful than petrol or diesel. But more importantly, on an average, a personal car carries just one or two persons in a day whereas a cab ferries at least 50 persons every day. When we park our cars on roadsides or in parking lots, that space becomes dead for all other purposes for that many hours.  An office goer or shopkeeper leaves his/her car parked all day occupying scarce land resource in prime locations. Today, our cities are choking with parked cars. As a result there is no safe space for pedestrians. By contrast, a cab keeps moving all day carrying dozens of passengers in multiple trips. So it actually frees road space, especially for pedestrians.
 If access to radio taxis becomes increasingly easier by growth in their numbers then there would be less rationale for owning a personal vehicles. Delhi government had done well to issue a warning to radio taxi services that they cannot arbitrarily enhance changes using “rush hour” or high demand” of an excuse to up the rates and fleece passengers.  Enhanced use of cabs and autos will also provide much needed job opportunities to the huge army of unemployed in India.
Sadly, buying ever-new models of cars and owning multiple vehicles has become a status symbol. Many of my neighbors, friends & acquaintances with 4-5 adult members in the family own 8 to 10 cars.  I hope if the awareness about such thoughtful extravagance which is creating life threatening problems for all of us keeps growing, the day is not far when elite families will be as embarrassed about owning a large fleet of cars as they are today about bulging tummies, expanding waistlines and sporting multiple chins.
But the Government also needs to realize that Odd-Even can’t work as a stand-alone measure. The environmental challenge we face demands many more radical measures.  These include:
  • Much greater investment in high quality and adequate supply of public transport;
  • Ban on the manufacture of diesel vehicles and following Mexico’s example in procuring Zero Emission Buses plus commitment to actively promote fossil fuel free motor vehicles;
  • Charging hefty fee for parking cars on public spaces, not just during the day but also at night.  Today our commercial areas as well as housing colonies are choking with vehicles leaving no space for walking because there is no restriction or charge on parking as many cars as you want/own on the public roads, footpath and every possible public space.  If people have to pay heavy parking charges for occupying road space, not just in commercial areas but even in their own neighborhoods, they would think ten times before buying multiple cars;
  • Using cutting edge technology for garbage recycling, producing wealth out of waste rather than let mountains of garbage emit noxious fumes every minute of the day apart from the intermittent fires that engulf neighboring areas endangering survival of poor communities that live near these garbage dumps;
  • Controlling industrial emissions with strict monitoring and up gradation of technology. This would include shutting down industries that refuse to invest in controlling noxious fumes & poisonous effluents. We should not allow the palliative of moving hazardous industries out of Delhi. They have no business to exist anywhere;
  • Helping farmers in finding cost efficient ways of handling crop residue;
  • Finding ways to control dust pollution due to construction activity;
  • Mechanizing daily sweeping of roads instead of using brooms to simply move dirt and dust from one place to another;
  • Planting more trees, especially those varieties that combat air pollution & respecting the sanctity of green belts and protected forests instead of slyly letting encroachments to take place;
  • Redesigning roads with dedicated tracks for non-motorized vehicles such as bicycles and cycle rickshaws. These eco-friendly means of transport need to be encouraged. Instead they are being pushed out through police banning cycle rickshaw entry into large parts of the city. A large chunk of working class would gladly move back to cycling to their workplace if our roads provided safe tracks for cycling. This would reduce the excessive burden on public transport and save precious money on commutes for the working poor.
  • Providing safe sidewalks to enable citizens to do local shopping and run other errands around their neighborhood without needing a motor vehicle. Today walking has become such a high-risk venture due to absence of clear sidewalks that even for short distance errands people are forced to take out their cars.  Even in the upscale Civil Lines area I live, I am forced to use my car when I go to the local nature park for my morning or evening walk, which is no more than 8 minutes walk from my house—all because of the absence of proper sidewalks.  Kids of my neighborhood are sent to a nearby swimming pool in cars even though the pool is only 6 minutes walking distance all because walking along speeding motor vehicles or crossing roads is a life threatening exercise.  If we made our cities walking and cycle friendly, that would help reduce our dependence on motor vehicles at least for short distance commutes which ultimately adds up to a lot.


Given the chronic lack of political and administrative will in India it is we as citizens who will eventually need to force changes in government policies by adopting saner and healthier lifestyles. Be it a self-imposed Odd-Even, planting and protecting trees in our neighborhoods, or making sure construction takes place in a responsible, non-polluting manner, it is we who must become the change we want to see take place in India. Or else be ready to live sickly crippled lives.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Fetishizing Gender Equality to Destroy Diversity & Freedom of Faith

Taking the Sabarimala temple to court for restricting the entry of women of a certain age group is akin to meat-eaters suing vegetarian restaurants for discriminating against non-vegetarians by refusing to serve meat. Common sense response would be to say—‘Go find a non-veg restaurant, of which there are plenty’. Tomorrow, self-styled, ill-informed reformers might demand that Durga-Kali worship be stopped because it legitimizes violence or declare the worship of Shiv lingam as “obscene.”  This is not farfetched because politically motivated groups have been decrying Durga as a whore and Krishna as womanizer.  Therefore, they declare these deities are not worthy of reverence.

In any civilized society, gender equality is to be treated as one of the core values. However, with apologies to Faiz Ahmed Faiz, aur bhi gham hein zamane mein gender equality ke siwa”. There are many more important values a democracy must uphold while standing up for gender equality—certainly not make a fetish of women’s rights.

Other core values of our democracy & Indic civilization are respect for diversity among the enormous range of communities co-habiting in India with substantial differences (as well as commonalities) in matters of faith, cultural practices, value systems, family structure, dress codes, food habits & ways of relating to the world as well as the Divine. While the leftist-feminist reformers have no difficulty in respecting the rights of ‘religious minorities”—namely Muslims and Christians—to live by their own cherished cultural and faith traditions, when it comes to diverse Hindu groups, they consider it their divine right to dictate terms.

The unique grandeur of the Hindu faith lies in the fact that each group, each sect and each individual is free to envisage the Divine in whatever form, shape, and temperament that devotees like. That's how we have millions of Devis and Devatas with new ones taking avatar as and when the situation so demands or their devotees so desire. Practically every village in India has its own gram devi or devata. Our devis and devatas are not distant, unfathomable entities forever sitting in some distant god-land or heaven. They take avatar on earth to offer succour & comfort to those in need. In the process each one acquires distinct personality traits as well as preferences with regard to mode of worship.

Take the contrasting tastes of Ma Kali and Vaishnodevi, both of whom are manifestations of the same Shakti. While Vaishnodevi demands strict vegetarianism, animals are routinely sacrificed as offerings to Ma Kali. Lord Ganesh likes modak as prasad while Hanuman ji prefers boondi and Lord Shiva devotees offer milk and even bhang. Devotees of various deities do not begrudge the practices of others. This freedom has kept alive vibrant diversity in our faith traditions because they allow individuals and groups to define their relationship to the Divine according to their preferences.

It is the same freedom which allowed Manushi to invoke ten armed Ma Swachhnarayani, as our isht devi.She wields ten different non-traditional weapons that include a broom as symbol of cleansing society of corruption, weighing balance to symbolise social justice, a calculator that demands honest accounts of government, and a video camera that points to the need for an accurate grasp of ground realtity for those engaged in social reform. (For Swachhnarayani aarti click here). No Hindu has ever questioned or protested against the powers we attribute to our Isht devi or our mode of worship that includes jhadu puja.

The Hindu faith has thus remained amongst the most liberal in the world, with different groups and individuals exercising the right to relate to the Divine in whatever way they wish, without insisting that others must follow their chosen path.

Even the most conservative among Hindus don’t insist on uniformity of beliefs and practices. This spontaneous, mutual respect for differences in ways of being, ways of worship, singing, dancing, clothing, cooking and so on, is what enabled the rich diversity of India to survive through millennia. But in the name of equality rabid feminists can’t stomach such freedom and liberalism.

Traditional Hindu temples are run by different sects with each choosing a particular deity in a particular form as their isht dev or devi. They’re not meant as tourist spots for all to come & go as they please.  If you don’t respect the unique temperament of that deity or find beliefs of a particular sect offensive, you are free to opt for the devata or devi that suits your taste.  There are lakhs of others to choose from.

Just as our colonial rulers with their faith in the superiority of their monotheistic faith, despised Hindu religious practices, with their millions of gods and goddesses, our modern day missionaries can’t stand the temperamental nuances of our diverse deities. They have no problem in accepting that women are barred inside friaries meant to house Catholic priests who have taken a vow of celibacy. But they can’t stomach the idea of a Hindu deity who has vowed eternal celibacy which involves avoiding the company of young women. They take it upon themselves to cure this kink because their feminist indoctrination interprets it as misogny and gender discrimination!  They choose to ignore that it is only one or two temples in all of India where women of certain age groups are denied entry whereas there are several ‘women-only’ temples where males are denied entry.

As far as the issue of gender justice is concerned, the Hindu faith can hardly be considered anti-women, considering it is the only faith that worships the feminine as Shakti--the mighty force that moves the universe. Male deities are powerless without feminine Shakti from whom various devatas derive their strength.

When I find the case against Sabarimala frivolous, it is not to suggest that Hindu faith traditions are writ in stone and unchanging. Devotees reserve the right to change their dharmic practices as well as demand improved behavior by their chosen deities as per the requirements of changing times. That is how we have countless re-writings of Ramayanas in different ages with each one interpreting Ram in their own way and many even improving upon Valmiki's depiction of Ram’s conduct in various ways, especially his abandoning Ma Sita even after she had gone through an uncalled for agni pariksha or the deceit involved in the killing of Baliraja.  But it doesn’t behove non-believers or hostile attackers of Hindu faith to impose their fads and sensibilities on groups who don’t share their worldview, especially if their practices don’t impact, leave alone harm the non-devotees.  A genuine devotee has the right to demand change but not politically motivated hateful critics.

Ironically, the flag bearers of women’s equality don’t seem to have any problem with special compartments reserved for women in trains. Most of them insist on our parliament enacting a law to reserve 33% constituencies for women whereby males are barred from contesting from those seats. They’re not satisfied with laws that promise equality. They insist on legislation that is unjustly loaded in favor of women.  You can’t have it both ways – Fetishize equality when it suits you and insist on special concessions and previliges as per your dictates.

It is ironical that the Supreme Court has entertained this petition at a time when Hindu groups are already in the Apex Court demanding that Hindu temples be freed from statist controls whereby ruling parties in every state have the power to appoint their political flunkeys as well as favoured bureaucrats and politicians to Management Boards of all major shrines and dharmasthans. This power has mostly been used to control and siphon off the enormous loads of money that devotees offer to these temples. The government of India dare not take such liberties with running of mosques and churches.

While delivering its judgement, the Supreme Court should keep in mind that none among the devotees of Sabarimala have come to court demanding changed rules. It’s only hostile and motivated outsiders who are using the fig leaf of gender equality to push their partisan agendas.


Thursday, 21 September 2017

Appeal to Govt. of India to Stop Funding Pro Pakistan Media Houses & Journalists in Kashmir


"The Pakistani flag is a symbol of freedom and independence for the Kashmiris while protesting against the Indian forces, however, New Delhi gives the perception of the international community that the demonstrators hoisting the green flag in the valley are infiltrators"
 
Shujaat Bhukhari, Editor of Rising Kashmir speaking at a meeting in Dubai of Jammu and Kashmir Journalists Forum, United Arab Emirates. The meeting was attended by Pakistanis and Pro Jihad journalists from Kashmir.
............................

Dear Prime Minister Narendra Modi,
Statements like the above are routinely coming from Kashmir's newspapers and journalists, including those who run their papers from Indian tax payer's money.
We the undersigned welcome the firm action being taken by the Government of India against various separatist leaders of Kashmir following media exposure that avowedly secessionist outfits in Kashmir have been promoting a bloody Islamist jihad engineered and financially supported by Pakistani agencies.
However, it is a matter of great concern that all those newspapers and media houses which are openly supporting terrorist organizations and jihadi warfare in Kashmir continue to be supported by the state government with lavish funds through advertisements by government departments, free or subsidized housing for journalists, editors, land grants and other freebies. Some of them even Government of India ads through DAVP. Many of them have availed of Sadbhavna Funds from the Indian army.
The very same papers run a daily demonization campaign against India as a country as well as the Indian state and India’s armed forces. Their coverage of Pak engineered unrest and jihadi attacks in Kashmir, whether against innocent citizens or against India’s security forces, as well as countless murders of elected representatives is brazenly tinted to favour pro secessionists. They have never condemned murders and mayhem by Islamist terrorist groups but make a ritual of spewing venom against India and its security forces, which have behaved with commendable restraint while dealing with hard-boiled terrorists.
Each one of these papers defends Rohingya Muslims’ right to settle in J&K even though they have entered India as illegal migrants. But the same papers go ballistic at the mere mention of restoring the rights of Kashmiri Pandits in their homeland or giving state subject rights to Hindus who were ousted out of POK in 1947 and settled down in Jammu region 70 years ago.
The brazenness with which they take Government of India money as their right is evident from the fact that one such editor, Shujaat Bukhari of Rising Kashmir filed a criminal defamation suit against Prof Madhu Kishwar on the basis of three tweets in which she merely stated that though papers like Rising Kashmir feed off government funds, they still continue furthering Pakistani agenda. Given his political clout (his brother is a senior minister in PDP led government), he could even get arrest warrants issued against Kishwar on the very day that the case was admitted in Srinagar court. Bukhari has neither denied that he takes government funding nor has he denied that he is pro-secession and pro Pak. And yet, he wants to silence Kishwar’s voice for exposing his duplicity. (Source)
Here is one of the many seditious intent towards India. While attending a seminar/meeting along with Pakistani journalists in Dubai hosted by a British NGO, Bhukari is reported to have said "The Pakistani flag is a symbol of freedom and independence for the Kashmiris while protesting against the Indian forces, however, New Delhi gives the perception to the international community that the demonstrators hoisting the green flag in the valley are infiltrators" (Source) 
(After our petition Bukhari got the link we had originally given to his quote blocked. However, we have found same statement reported by this link)
While that case will take its own course in courts of law, we appeal to Prime Minister Modi and National Security Advisor, Mr Ajit Doval to:
1.  Set up a time bound Task force to review the list of recipients of government ads, government housing, land allotments and other facilities made available to media persons in order to weed out those media houses and journalists who are openly allied to forces committed to breaking up India through violent secessionist movements. This must be done not only with regard to Kashmiri media but all the regions witnessing Maoist or other insurgencies
2.  Enquire into the hawala funds coming from Pakistan or other Islamic countries to secessionist newspapers, journalists—both regular and freelance
3.  Revoke the passports of all the journalists who are on the payroll of Pakistani or other agencies hostile to India’s security and integrity. They should not be allowed to run around the globe defaming India with horrendous lies while carrying the Indian passport
Hawala payments coming to media persons from Pakistan and other Islamic or Western countries need to be investigated with the same vigor that the NIA is investigating the foreign funds coming from the Hurriyat Jihadis.
Thank you!  
Kashmiri Pandits

Madhu Kishwar
Sign the petition here: http://chn.ge/2wuXIgr


Monday, 18 September 2017

Gender Justice Versus Gender War : Why “Marital Rape” Law Would Add to “Legal Terrorism”

This article was first published in slightly edited form as cover story in The Week, 24th September, 2017

The world over, sexual violence and abuse in marriage is a common phenomenon.  Those who say that acknowledging the reality of marital rape is against Indian culture neither know India nor are they cultured.  A cultured society is one that faces problems head on, instead of pretending they don’t exist.   

Much before western feminists dared to talk of rape in marriage, way back in early 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi's message to the women was: 'If you want to play your part in the world's affairs, you must revolt against any pretension on the part of man that woman in born to be his plaything" (Gandhiji in Ceylon, cited in "To the Women" p. 195, Gandhi Series Vol. II (ed) A Hingorani, Karachi, 2nd ed. 1943)). 

Gandhi insisted on the inviolability of the personal dignity and autonomy of women.  She had the right to say 'no' even to her husband.  "I want woman to learn the primary right of resistance. ..She thinks now that she has not got it." He goes on to add that every woman has the right to her own body with she does not surrender for a lifetime with marriage.(Harijan, January 25, 1936, CW Vol LXII, p.158)

The zealous campaigners demanding a new law to cover marital rape have created a misleading impression that Indian laws provide no recourse to women who suffer sexual abuse and violence at the hands of their husbands. However, it is plain common sense that before demanding amendments to existing laws or enactment of new laws, we must carry out thorough audit of existing laws on the subject

Domestic Violence Act Covers Sexual Violence and More: The truth is that the Domestic Violence Act of 2005 along with S.498A of the Indian Penal Code have more than enough provisions to provide relief to a victim of spousal violence and abuse including sexual or emotional violence or economic deprivation.  True, the term “rape” is not mentioned in either of these laws.  But isn’t sexual violence the same as “rape”? Why this bizarre obsession with getting an antiquarian term included in marriage laws?  Both these laws take a very broad sweep in defining domestic violence as evident below:

“Any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence in case it—
(a)   Harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse; or
(b)   Harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person with a view to coerce her or any other person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any dowry or other property or valuable security; or
(c)     Has the effect of threatening the aggrieved person or any person related to her by any conduct mentioned in clause (a) or clause (b); or
(d)   Otherwise injures or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved person.”

When the DVA defines “physical abuse” as acts that “cause bodily pain, harm, danger to life, limb or health or impair the health or development of the aggrieved person and includes assault, criminal intimidation and criminal force,” does it not adequately cover what can be termed ‘rape’?

This is not all.  DVA goes to specifically define “sexual abuse” as “any conduct of a sexual nature that abuses, humiliates degrades or otherwise violates the dignity of woman.”  It further includes “verbal and emotional abuse, insults, ridicule, humiliation, name calling” etc.  DVA also provides recourse against “economic abuse” which is defined as “deprivation of economic or financial resources to the wife but not limited to household necessities for the aggrieved wife and her children”.

There is lot more covered under DVA but for the purpose of this article, I limit myself to these clauses.  Can any reasonable person deny that not just marital rape but even lesser offences such as taunts or sexist jokes can be used as grounds for demanding relief under this Act?  The law is already over the top in putting verbal abuse, sexist jokes at par with beating a wife.  And yet, rabid feminists (both male and female) want more sadistic provisions in favor of women.

Wide Ranging Reliefs Already AvailableDVA also provides for appointment of Protection Officers and Service Providers in every district. Neighbors, or friends of the victim as well as her relatives can seek intervention of these officers who are duty-bound to file a police report on behalf of victims, provide shelter homes, medical facilities and legal aid for the victims and ensure that protection orders issued against the respondents are carried out.  Most important of all, the law enables the women to seek orders against her eviction from the marital home so that her right to residence remains secure.  At the same time, the woman can seek orders barring or restricting the accused from entering his own house, even if he has no other residence.  In other words DVA allows a wife to render a man homeless and still be obliged to provide maintenance for wife and children plus monetary relief to the woman for loss of earnings, medical costs and any other expenses incurred by her on account of harm caused to her due to marital violence.  The law also gives her prior right to custody of children.

It is noteworthy that these remedies are available not just to legally wedded wives but also for live-in partners – no matter how short or long be the duration of the live-in relationship.  This is one of the most harmful clauses because it puts legally wedded wives who may have given their whole life to a marriage at par with women having short-term flings. Yes, there are problems in honest implementation of these provisions.  But why are rape obsessed feminists not fighting for that instead of demanding yet another impractical law?

Under Domestic Violence Act, far reaching civil remedies were made available to wives on the assumption that by sending their husbands to jail, their economic problems tend to get aggravated if they do not have an independent source of income or a secure home. 

Provision Under S.498A: However, the woman can simultaneously use section 498A of the IPC, which also provides for effective criminal remedies against her husband for violence and cruelty.  This is what 498A says:

“Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.”

Cruelty is defined in an overarching manner as:

“…any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) or the woman; or harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.” 

It is plain common sense that a husband coercing his wife into sex against her wishes, especially if it involves use of violence in sex, amounts to physical and emotional cruelty and therefore, covered by S. 498A. But the hunger for punitive measures of feminist zealots is not satisfied with these two laws.  They argue that DVA only provides for “civil remedies” while the maximum punishment under S.498A is just three years whereas under the regular rape law it can’t be less than seven years. Hence their insistence on a new law that treats rape in marriage as a specific crime at par with rapes outside marriage. 

The PIL filed in the Delhi High Court by NGO RIT Foundation petition has gone so far as to argue that marital rape as separate from general rape amounts to discriminating between two categories of women – namely those raped by husbands and those raped by men who are not their husbands.  Therefore it violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which promises equality before law.  If these revenge hungry feminists were serious about equality, they would not object to making anti-rape and domestic violence laws gender neutral.  But they go ballistic at the mere mention of gender parity in laws.

The RIT petition also argues that the law as it stands today amounts to a state-sanctioned license granted to the husband to violate the sexual autonomy of his lawfully wedded wife and is therefore, a violation of the Right to Privacy guaranteed to the wife under Article 21 of the Constitution.  Needless to say, in their partisan worldview men do not deserve the right to privacy, or the right to fair trial through due process.

Offence as the Best Form of Defense for Unleashing “Legal Terrorism”: The timing of their frenzied demand for enacting a new law to cover marital rape is revealing.  It comes at a point when various high courts in India as well as the Supreme Court have passed several judgments expressing serious concern at the growing and widespread misuse of domestic violence laws, especially Section 498A as well as the anti-rape law for the purpose of blackmail, extortion and revenge – that too using false charges.

Way back in 2003, the Malimath Committee report made vital recommendations regarding rights of the accused and preventive measures required to prevent misuse of criminal laws. Law Commission reports (237 & 241) have also recommended amendments in these laws.

 In Sushil Kumar Sharma Vs Union of India (141 of 2005) Supreme Court cautioned that “We come across a large number of such complaints which are not even bona fide and are filed with oblique motive…the role of the investigating agencies and the courts is that of watch dog and not of a bloodhound. It should be their effort to see that in innocent person is not made to suffer on account of unfounded, baseless and malicious allegations.”  The court added that, “by misuse of the provision, a new legal terrorism can be unleashed”. In 2008, Justice Gambhir also gave detailed guidelines for procedures before arrest. In Arnesh Kumar Vs State of Bihar judgment in 2014, Supreme Court issued directions to all police authorities/ Magistrates for well defined due process to be followed before arrest/authorizing detention and ruled that no automatic arrests/detentions to be made by the Police/Magistrates even in non-bailable and cognizable offences; conditions precedent to making arrest/authorizing detention under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 must be satisfied first.” As a result of these restraints  the arrests under 498A came down from 220000 to 186000 in 2015.

But misuse of the law continued, especially where the accused were not well informed because it gave the corrupt police, unethical lawyers and judges ample opportunities to fleece money. Therefore, as recently as 27 July 2017, the Supreme Court again issued clear orders that the police should not go arrest the accused family without due process.  The Apex Court also laid down yet another list of legal steps that should precede the arrest.

In the last two decades a groundswell of mass pressure has built up demanding a thorough review of the several draconian amendments and laws enacted for the ostensible purpose of strengthening women’s rights because in reality they have caused untold suffering and havoc against countless innocent persons and families.  At the same time, many genuine victims of abuse and violence are unable to get justice. Just as the higher judiciary was being forced to take note of their growing abuse and put in place remedial measures, rabid feminists have come up with a new weapon to wreak vengeance.  It’s a typical case of offence being the best form of defence.

The reason women-centric laws have come to be feared as “legal terrorism” is that certain excesses are common to them all which render these laws easy-to-abuse.

1)      A mere allegation by a woman that she is the victim of marital abuse, cruelty or dowry demands have been enough to send the accused persons, including teenage sisters of the husband or those living in another city/country plus aged parents, aunts, uncles, cousins of the accused man behind bars.  Bail is not easy in these cases.  Families spend years and go bankrupt defending themselves even when the charges are blatantly false.  The stigma involved with jail often means dismissal from jobs and destroys whole families.
2)      Unlike in all other cases of crimes--including serious ones like murder, dacoity, maiming, financial fraud-- the accused is assumed innocent till proven guilty.  However, in all women centric laws, this principle has been turned on its head.  The accused are assumed guilty till they manage to prove their innocence beyond doubt through lengthy judicial trials.
3)      The principle of due process, which is essential to fair trial, has also been done away with because the accused have to suffer the ignominy and trauma of jail even before the trial has begun.
4)      The sole testimony of the woman is considered enough to indict the accused.
5)      The definition of domestic violence has been widened enough to include even “verbal abuse” and “emotional/mental torture”. 

A law which puts verbal taunts at par with physical violence is both unsound and irrational because it is easy to make allegations but impossible for the accused to prove that he/she did not subject the person to taunts or emotional abuse.  The threat of undergoing jail even before the commencement of the trial makes husbands and their families’ easy targets of blackmail.

Widespread Misuse of Existing Rape LawLikewise the misuse of anti rape law following certain amendments in 2013 which introduced some draconian provisions that enable women acting with malicious intent to implicate even innocents with ease. Notice how wide and loose is the definition of rape: “A man is said to commit “rape” if he
a)      Penetrates his penis to any extent into the vagina, mouth, urethra or anus of a woman or makes her to do so with him or any other person; or
b)      Inserts, to any extent, any object or a part of the body, not being the penis, into the vagina, the urethra or anus of a woman or makes her to do so with him or any other persons; or
c)      Manipulates any part of the body of a woman so as to cause penetration into the vagina, urethra, anus or any part of body of such woman…
d)      Applies his mouth to the vagina, anus, urethra of a woman or makes her to do so with him or any other person…” against her will, without her consent, with her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any other person in whom she is interested, in fear of death or hurt… or when her consent has been obtained while she was intoxicated or when she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that of which she gives consent.

The law further clarifies that:

“Consent means an unequivocal voluntary agreement when the woman by words, gestures or any form of verbal or non-verbal communication, communicates willingness to participate in the specific sexual act.  Furthermore, “a woman who does not physically resist to the act of penetration shall not by the reason only of that fact, be regarded as consenting to the sexual activity.”

Thus even in case of adult sex, the term ‘consent’ has been given a very irresponsible and easy-to-abuse meaning in S.375 making it almost impossible for a man to defend oneself against the charge of rape with the aid of circumstantial evidence. A woman doesn’t even need to say or prove that she resisted the alleged “rape’. It’s enough if she post facto goes and tells the police that a particular sex act was against her wishes.
As per the pre 2013 anti rape law the judge could exercise his discretion regarding the quantum of punishment depending on the seriousness of the act of aggression. But the 2013 amendments prescribe a minimum of 7 years jail going up to life imprisonment.  The discretion of the court to award less than 7 years in any situation whatsoever-- even if there is a “good and adequate cause”--has been taken away by repealing the previously existing provisos to Sections 376(1) and (2).  When viewed along with the fact that under the present law, even the uncorroborated testimony of the Prosecutrix without any medical, independent oral or documentary evidence is sufficient to convict a person charged with rape, the amendments can justly be called draconian. The prosecutrix is not expected to show any evidence, such as bodily bruises or injuries, that she resisted the sexual act.  A mere statement that she did not “consent” to sex is enough to get the main locked up even before the start of trial.

In the wake of these amendments brought about by the 2013 Amendments in sections 375 and 376, IPC, the following questions of law arise:
¨      Is it reasonable, fair, just or rational to classify as ‘rape’, acts such as  touching a woman’s private parts or subjecting her to intimate embrace or body contact or a deep kiss that are incapable of medical corroboration, when the sole testimony of the Prosecutrix is sufficient to convict?
¨      Granting that such acts are certainly offensive if forced upon a woman, should they all be equated with rape and punished with equal severity, and does such an equivalence in penal consequences not violate the principle of proportionality in punishment and amounts to a violation of Article 14 apart from belittling the horror of real rapes?
¨      The loosely worded definitions provide an easy handle for consensual acts being given the taint of ‘rape’ ex post facto, by persons actuated by malice, as many reported cases show. For instance, such provisions allow a woman to allege rape on grounds that she was drunk at the time and therefore was unable to give informed consent, even though the act was consensual when it happened. Such situations are common when women go to late night bars and parties hosted by unknown people in luxury resorts where liquor and drugs flow freely or in private addas of aiyyashi euphemistically named “farm houses”.
¨      The words “where she is unable to communicate consent” put in a penal statute, are (S.375) too vague and liable to abuse in the absence of any specification as to the nature of inability to express consent.  Is the man expected to first video record her consent before going to bed with her?

All these amendments have made it easy to register flimsy rape complaints, without the requirement of objective substantiation of the charge. As soon as an accusation is made, there is an arrest, and aside from the deprivation of liberty, the filing of such a case, leads to the irrevocable loss of reputation not just for the targeted individual but also for his entire family who are devastated by the ignominy of the heinous charge and the trauma of being treated as social outcastes.  The media trial that accompanies rape complaints, especially in cases of high profile public figures, often influences the judicial process whereby even getting bail becomes a herculean challenge.

Evidence of Misuse by DCW & The Hindu: Statistics compiled by government agencies indicate that immediately following the amendments, there has been a disturbing spurt in the filing of rape complaints which have ultimately been found by courts to be false. For instance, the Delhi Commission of Women (DCW) has come out with startling statistics showing that between April 2013 and July 2014, 53.2% of the 2753 rape cases filed in the capital were found to be 'false'.  Only 1,287 cases were found to be true and the remaining 1,464 cases were malafide.  Between, January 2014 and July 2014, the number of false rape cases filed was 900. In many cases, investigation revealed that revenge was the most common reason for filing a false complaint.  In 2013 there were a total of 1,559 cases of rape registered in Delhi, where the acquittal rate was 78%. This was a 22% jump from the earlier 46% of acquittal in 2012, when there were a total of 680 cases filed.

The Hindu newspaper also conducted a detailed survey in Delhi, which indicated that that one-fifth of rape cases were ultimately wound up because the complainant either did not appear or withdrew her charges, while another 25% had to do with the “breach of promise to marry”.  It further revealed that a total of 583 cases were decided in Delhi in 2013. Out of the 460 cases which were fully argued before the Sessions Courts, nearly 30% involved elopement of the boy and girl, followed commonly by a complaint of abduction and rape by the girl’s family. In 67 of 174 cases of alleged elopement the girl initially admitted (either in the FIR, medical examination or to the magistrate) that she eloped of her own volition, but subsequently she turned against the accused and got him booked for rape.

The over imaginative definition of “rape” to include acts which defy corroboration, have effectively reduced the evidentiary requirements to establish the offence.   With the factum of consent resting entirely on the statement of the prosecutrix, acquittal becomes almost impossible in law if the prosecutrix sticks to her story even though it may be false. 

It is noteworthy that under the IPC, except for full-fledged murder under Section 302 IPC and the actual act of waging war against the State, few other offences are punishable with a statutory minimum term.  Even in the case of culpable homicide under Section 304 IPC, only an upper limit is prescribed.  The same is true for offences against the state, such as Sections 121A and 124A IPC. Out of around 300 offences only about 25 have mandatory minimums sentences. A mandatory minimum extending to seven or more years is a recent (mainly post-2013) phenomenon, except for robbery with prior preparation or attempt to cause death or “dowry death’ under S.304 B IPC. 

Well-known categories of frivolous complaints:

a)      Punishing a lover or live-in partner for refusing to get married: Sadly, the police have not hesitated in registering rape cases on the basis of bizarre complaints whereby the concerned woman has termed the entire period of a live in relationship or years of voluntary intimacy as a case of repeated rapes just because the man refused to marry the lover.  This when most such women don’t deny that the sexual/ live-in relationship was voluntary and not a forced affair.  The very premise of a live in relationship is that either of the two partners can walk out of the relationship if they feel it is no more viable.  To say that a man is legally obliged to marry a woman he has had sex with and failure to do so will mean a minimum prison term of 7 years is to trample upon principle of equality.  Are we willing to accept that women who refuse to marry their lovers or want to put an end to a live-in relationship should be sent to jail?

b)      Punishing a man for refusing to give a job or promotion or refusal to enter into a relationship.  Such cases have unfortunately become very common. One of the most striking examples of such abuse of rape law was the case filed against famous film director, Madhur Bhandarkar by an aspiring actress, who alleged that Bhandarkar had “raped her 16 times between 1999 and 2004 on the pretext of casting her in his films.” This case was quashed by the Supreme Court nine years later on 5th November 2012 noting that the lady did not want to pursue the case against Bhandarkar.  Also that the Mumbai police had earlier given a clean chit to the film director.  This is not to comment on the merits or demerits Bhandarkar’s claim that he was an innocent victim of blackmail. The woman’s open admission that she repeatedly agreed to have sex with him, as a quid-pro-quo for a film role is, however, damning.  The projection of such women as rape victims causing enormous harm to reputations all around and is simply not what is contemplated by the objectives of equality, women’s security or justice. This is not to deny the prevalence of sexual exploitation of women with the lure of attractive job offers, job promotions or modeling and acting assignments.  But such unsavory deals, when entered into voluntarily, should not come under the purview of anti-rape law.

Voluntary elopement by teenagers being registered as rape and abduction charges: As pointed in the data provided by Delhi Commission for Women, a large number of rape cases pertain to young women eloping with their lovers or getting married to men disapproved of by their parents on account of difference in caste, religion or social status. Even though the act of elopement is voluntary, the parents of young girls invariably file abduction and rape cases against the young man. 

The easy sustainability of a rape charge under the new law has turned the threat of a rape complaint into a blackmail weapon:  I can say on the basis of personal knowledge that unscrupulous policemen are running well-organized extortion rackets using male and female sex workers for blackmailing respectable citizens with the threat of trumped up cases of rape or sexual assault. In cases where sex workers either trap an unwitting person or voluntarily engage in commercial sex with him, the charge can even be medically corroborated through DNA examination of the semen.  This is not to condone engaging in prostitution by men but merely to point out the unfairness of taking the word of the prosecutrix as gospel truth added to the provision that the past sexual history of a woman including the fact of her being a sex worker cannot be used as evidence against her. While there is no denying that even commercial sex providers have a right to say ‘No’ when they so desire, and their ‘No’ should be taken seriously, it is nevertheless relevant to show the many dangers of rendering rape prosecutions easy in an eco-system prone to abuse.

My PIL against Excesses in anti-Rape Law: The result of these alterations in the law has been that a man may be subjected to the full brunt of the criminal law and the obvious, concomitant loss of reputation merely on account of allegations of rape or sexual assault, all because the “due process” requirement has been seriously undermined through the 2013 amendments in the rape law.

The abuse of anti-rape law becomes much easier because of the strict provision that the identity of the prosecutrixis to be kept anonymous while the identity and even photographs of the accused are freely broadcast on television and publicized on print media.  This in effect means that getting a man arrested and defamed on false charge of rape involves zero risk for unscrupulous women especially considering that in our legal system, even after falsity and malafide nature of charge is proven in court.  A false and malafide rape case ends up ruining not just the life of the concerned individual but also the entire family, especially if the person concerned has old parents or young children of impressionable age.  It can also ruin the marital life of the targeted man as well as his professional career.

Personally witnessing countless cases of misuse, on March 17, 2017 I filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court for review of the anti rape law with a view to getting unjust unfair and lawless provisions quashed.  Kapil Sibal is arguing this PIL in court.

Draconian Rape Law Failed as Deterrent: Global experience has shown that draconian provisions have failed to act as deterrent in criminal law generally and in rape law in particular.  It is not the severity of punishment but the certainty of punishment in genuine cases that brings down crime in any society.  It has also been proven beyond doubt that the 2013 amendments have failed to act as a deterrent to sexual atrocities. There is no decline in either the number of rapes being committed every year or in the brutality accompanying rapes. Leave alone curbing incidents of rape in secluded places or in privacy of homes, the law and order machinery has failed to curb even custodial rapes in police stations and hospitals. Similarly, after the 2013 amendments, cases of gruesome forms of rape, including more and more child rapes, no less brutal than the Nirbhaya case are being reported on a daily basis. Gang rapes have also become alarmingly frequent. What is worse, rape is being treated as a youthful sport by lumpenized youth, many of who proudly post video recordings of the acts of gang or individual rape on social media. This clearly shows that instead of growing fear of the existing stringent anti rape law, people are cocking a snook at the law enforcement agencies.

Marital Rape Law would be Lethal: Just as the draconian provisions of 2013 in the anti-rape law have lent themselves to easy abuse while having zero effect in curbing either the incidents of rape or their brutality, amending the rape law to include marital rape amounts to putting lethal weapons in the hands of women without any safeguards for married men, many of who are already reeling under the “legal terrorism” of S.498A and unreasonable provisions of the DV Act.  It has now been well established that thousands of falsely implicated men have committed suicides and countless families have been destroyed beyond repair because our new fangled laws carry the mistaken assumption that women are too angelic to book false cases and that only hapless victims among women go to police stations and law courts.
Husbands will be a 1000 times more vulnerable than non-husbands to becoming targets of mala fide charges.  Since the post 2013 anti rape law doesn’t require any proof of tell-tale signs of violence on the woman’s body to suggest that she was forced into sex, or that she resisted sex on a particular night, it is easy for a wife to allege ‘rape’ but impossible for a man to prove that the act was consensual.

Most married couples share the same room and sleep in the same bed.  Sex between marriage partners is normal routine and is considered part of marital obligations on both sides.  Countless women and men have sought divorce in every country of the world, including India on the ground that they have been denied sexual satisfaction either due to the partner’s inability to perform sex or physical aversion towards each other, just as countless women have walked out of their marriages to escape physical and sexual violence.

What protection does a man have against a wife who cooks up a rape charge to settle some other scores or get rid of the husband in order to live with her lover in her jailed husband’s house?  The only way married men can protect themselves from such a post facto charge is to have CCTV cameras installed in every nook and corner of the house, including the couple’s bedroom and bathroom.  Or do we want husbands to get a duly notarized signed statement on judicial paper before every kiss, embrace, or sexual act?

What if the charge has been filed for the purpose of extortion, as is happening routinely with the existing rape law?  Gone are the days of Sati-Savitris who would rather die than act vindictively towards their spouses.  Nor are today’s women afraid of being labeled as “rape victims”, since for the unscrupulous women it brings economic and other rewards.  Crying ‘rape’ has opened many lucrative opportunities for blackmail with the woman even getting social sympathy, while the man and his family are ruined for life.

This is not to deny that there are plenty of brutish husbands who inflict heinous forms of violence and indignities on their wives.  But the real remedy against such husbands is to walk out on them, not insist on sharing the same bedroom and same bed with such a man.  That is exactly what self respecting women do.  Divorce laws are today in favour of women.  So why not seek freedom from brutish husbands, especially since the DV Act also protects the wife’s right to residence, maintenance and childcare?

At this feminazes will scream: “In our conservative society, most women are petrified of seeking divorce.”  But the very same petrified women won’t mind sending their husband to jail for minimum seven years?  Their second idiotic counter would be: Why should a rapist husband be let off with a mere three year jail while other rapists get a minimum of seven years?”

To this I can only say, if a woman continues staying with her husband despite severe atrocities deserving seven year jail, she has only herself to blame, now that the marriage, divorce and maintenance laws are heavily weighted in favour in women.  Those who have failed to build exploitation free lives with existing pro-women laws, they don’t deserve yet another law which has the potential to tear asunder family life and social fabric in India.    

As per crime data released by BPRD for 2015, suicide rate among married men on account of marital discord is more than twice as high as among married women. Of 91528 men who committed suicide in 2015, 64534 were married men. By contrast, of the 42088 women who committed suicide, 28344 were married. But has any feminist cared to express concern at this high rate of self killing among married men?

When I founded Manushi in 1978, women’s rights activists used to be celebrated and admired for their moral courage in giving voice to the voiceless.  But the irresponsibility with which a section of women’s rights activists have made use of these laws, has lent almost fascist connotations to feminism, with terms like ‘Feminazi’ coming into currency because of their sadistic delight in pushing for venal laws without any safeguards. Therefore the wisdom of these “women-protection measures” that have proved ruinous for countless families call for a serious and comprehensive review.

When laws are not judiciously crafted, when draconian provisions are added as compensation for failure of the law and order machinery to ensure security of life leading to easy abuse of law, it leads to mistrust and disrespect towards all institutions meant for enforcing law and order & dispense justice. The resultant cynicism & nihilism among citizens destroys the collective resolve and ability of society to combat crimes. When women, who are traditionally seen as the moral conscience of society and hence worthy of reverence and special protection measures, are found to be misusing and abusing laws enacted for their protection, it delegitimizes the very idea of special measures for protection of women. The misuse of the above mentioned provisions for the purpose of blackmail, extortion, revenge and other malafide purposes goes to confirm that whichever individual or group in society, irrespective of gender, caste or class, is bestowed with legal power to tyrannize others for its own benefit, will invariably end up doing so. That is why the principle of constitutional equality--which becomes meaningless without equality before law courts--cannot be compromised under any circumstances.  At the same time it is vital to build effective safeguards against misuse and abuse of laws by unscrupulous persons.  A pre requisite for that is an honest, well-trained and accountable police force as well as an effective justice delivery system.  Sadly, the feminazis don’t seem to be bothered about these niceties.


First published as cover story in The Week, issue dated 24th September, 2017 : (http://www.theweek.in/theweek/cover/gender-justice-and-the-feminazi.html)

Madhu Kishwar

Madhu Kishwar
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