Decriminalising of Section 309 of IPC by the Modi Government

I read this post this morning and am sirprised how out of touch I had been and at the same time happy to know that the government has taken a step towards improving the condition of human lives by abolishing the outdated Section 309 of the IPC, for I do regard this as a step to improve life conditions.

I had written about the concept of auto destruct in 2009, pointing out that even computer proograms without a mind of their own or the capacity to discern between right or wrong are endowed with the choice regarding their life cycle.

A program can be programmed to auto destruct with the possibility of imminent danger, or to prevent loss or when its job is done (example the message for Tom Cruise in the movie Mission Impossible – you remember the sunglasses he was delivered on a helicopter atop the cliff? I mention this as it is interesting and contemporary and most people have seen this and it is easy to understand rather than a scholarly article about the idea).

I appreciate this move on the part of the government, it is sensible especially in a country like India with a long history about such ideas existing in its religious and sacred documents.

I continued to read and found that a lot of people think “icchyamrityu” and suicide are somehow different. Well it is not but the implication of such a death would differ depending on who is doing it and why and in what circumstances.

However, irrespective of all such considerations I sincerely believe and think, with all the power I have of thought and judgement, as an adult responsible for my life and having enjoyed it best as I can so far, (until danger befell me and my life changed) I can muster that every single person should have a choice regarding the most precious possession they have.

What people choose to do with their lives should be indeed their choice.

Our won lives and our deaths, the manner we choose to die, the time of it, the circumstances of it, we should be free to choose in a free country and I appreciate that we may not have to leave it to chance the most important aspect of our life cycles.

By reneging this control over its human resource, this government has indeed shown courage and set a good example of good thinking and good governance at least in one area of our collective existence.

And now if they can also invest a little bit in the construction of social infra structures to ensure the safety and security of the lives and property of single women in India that are otherwise not a liability on the community in any manner financial or otherwise, that would be great. Thank you. I am glad.

To Improve the life of Indian Women

It would help improve the quality of life of an educated, modern urban Indian woman if these things were in place:

  • Right to live alone, unchaperoned by a female relative or male presence in her life.
  • Right to not answer questions about whether  she is alone or single while she rents a place (her safety, security should be important from the very start.  What does it bloody matter as long as she pays rent and is from a decent family background: which should be evident with the way she carries herself, the way she dresses, uses words, her gesture, posture, demeanour. Most women colleague do not even get it that this is a trick question to gauge how much leverage the strangers would have on the woman’s life.   Women must understand that it is not necessary to determine rent or payment at all. You are renting the whole space paying for it, so what  does it matter to the landlord whether you are alone or single? If they are bad people though, this is exactly what they are looking for to arm twist for money or advantages.
  • Right not to give too much sensitive information like where she works, where her family is, how many members are there in her family, whether she is married or has a boy friend – especially this question bugsme like hell: how much she earns! She knows what she can afford, to guard against non payment of rent, she is paying a deposit that is advance rent, right?
  • Right to refuse her photograph / copy of appointment letter (the audacity of asking for something so personal as that! experience in Pune, Maharashtra) or give identity card / passport/ copies of PAN (permanent account number) / driving license to people that are practically strangers (the landlord/ broker)!
  • Right to have a receipt for money paid as rent/deposit for accommodation
  • Right to get a title / deed to property she rents/ buys, in a language she reads or speaks
  • Right to assistance by social self help groups if she loses important documents
  • Right to lodge an FIR in case of loss or theft of important documents like debit card or phone in the local outstation police station in the National language or in one she can speak/read.
  • Right to membership and stay in local YWCA even though she may be working and not a student or a Christian. And that withdue respect. She should not be treated like a scumbag that the YWCA is doing a favour to (Pune YWCA is horribly rude, refuses to allow electric points in rooms, and tries to rule ladies like ten year old kids: come back before 8 p.m., lights off after 9 p.m. , refusing address proof which is required to get a new telephone SIM in the new city as the other one would be on roaming charges now), asking for LOCAL references when they know you are from outside! New Delhi and Kolkata YWCA charges are exorbitantly high that only very high end corporate salaries can afford.
  • Better conditions and reasonable rates within means of non corporate women employees at private working women’s hostels
  • Better conditions (like electric points inside rooms so one can plug in a computer or light a mosquito repellent) at government ladies’ hostels.
  • Single room PG accommodation within reasonable rates : a working woman like a teacher would be carrying documents, work home – she would need privacy and safety of her stuff. In Ahmedabad and Pune they think you are a monster if you ask for single rooms and charge you INR 7000 (seven thousand). If you pay 4500 rupees you would get a reasonably decent house in a decent locality – only of course if you are married or have someone with you to share it. They do not give ‘nice’ houses on rent in ‘nice’ neighborhoods to single outstation ladies.
  • Women stop treating single women rudely, with mistrust, callously. “Why don’t you go back to your own city?” Halo! Why can’t she be where she chooses to be??? When you go to the US for your job, do they tell you to do that, “Hey why don’t you go back to India?” (makes me sick). Every city in my country is MY city. It is my birthright to be where I please, work where I please, choose to settle down where I like. I work hard. I pay my taxes.
  • Working women with PAN registration from one State should be able to file their Income tax returns from whichever city she might be in. I may not have address proof at the new city to be able to change my mailing address to get the address on PAN changed soon. Or I could be on a transferable job, travelling continuously, should be able to file the return from wherever I might be. I am trying to pay the government, TAKE the bloody money!
  • Address proof or employer’s certificate as soon as an employee steps into the company: from day 1 so she can get a house easily, get her new phone connection, gas, internet.
  • Right to the standard government tax rebate meant for women in India from employers. Some deduct 11% tax from salary that is way below the government taxable salary limits (I faced it in Ahmedabad itself, if you raise questions, they ask you to quit). Money can be very important when you have to pay rent and live on single income in an expensive city: please do not make it difficult by doing those other things that are not done anyway.
  • Right to appointment letters, salary certificates, Form 16*  from day1 of employment. (*necessary to file your IT returns – although I worked in some of the best schools here,  have not been able to file my return for the past three years I have been in this State). It is not feasible to go home and do it as we get holiday only during holidays when these offices also remain closed!
  • Employers with outstation women employees, maintain a database of (NOT reputable but) TRUSTWORHTY brokers, house lease information, tax return filing agents or simply a helpful and polite helpdesk that can help women with these small things that mean a lot of hassle when you are alone.
  • Right to adopt a child if she has a decent job even if she be single. Do not deny a child a healthy, capable mother she/he  might have or a safe home!
  • Right to have guests in the house: even though it be rented, it is still my home, I should be able to invite people home and I should be the one to judge who is safe for me and who is not.
  • Reservations in AC compartments when women are travelling overnight alone as it is unsafe for her in open-door-all-night sleeper coaches, especially going to the washroom at night alone, leaving her luggage.  Preference to a single woman over a single man in the Indian context especially would be in order (a large gang probably liquor movers that  boarded from Surat nearly threw me off the train during last Diwali because they claimed my seat, at midnight when I requested them to please vacate it).

If I had a support group for women, these are things I would be looking at to change. Sensitivity and good taste is all it takes and a sense of the realities of a single woman’s life.

employed and homeless in India

what happens when you choose to follow your dreams and seek out the best? when you choose not to stagnate or let your skills grow numbed and rusty?

when you decide not to marry till they stop asking if you are a virgin or commenting that you are sweet inspite of being dark-skinned?

when you are at the height of your career in the most prosperous city of India?

you end up without a roof over your head…people telling you, not to worry or cry, that you could go live at their places. and brokers show you houses in the bustee on the outskirts of the city. you are marginalized. you begin to live on the edge.

after all you are only an ordinary English Teacher. you are skilled at computers which is a crime. you are also good at what you do. which is abhorring. plus a woman.

what did you expect?

In the Year of the Woman

 

It says in the epics that in ancient times a woman called Kunti, enamoured by the valour and brilliance of the Sun god, desired him and gave birth to his son, who later came to be known as Karna. However, to preserve her social status as an unmarried virgin and her right to marry, she was forced to abandon her baby.

Yet Karna was not an unwanted child. He was not an ‘accident’! Later on this noble queen laments her inability to nurse her own offspring and keep it or care for it (see Michael Madhusudan Dutt’s “Karna-Kunti Samvad” a poetic rendition of a mother’s agony and pain faced with social dilemma).

Kunti, mother of Arjuna, queen of King Pandu is a character from the great Indian epic Mahabharata, composed thousands of years ago, portraying life and times in the Vedic age of Vyasa, the author. She along with the second queen of Pandu, had five IVF sons between them.

Has the contemporary social conditions changed?

In the age of  InVitroFertilization (IVF) and the Nano, and embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) and cloning, am I better off than Kunti? Can I be sayambhara* and choose the paternity and inheritance and heritage of my own child? Am I allowed to bear my child as I will?

Is the academic machinery being adequately used to empower her with competencies she would require as mother, caregiver, a tech-savvy worker, social or political leader or entrepreneur? Are the syllabii in schools still relevant to the social and economic roles a woman would be expected to play once she passes out?

Is she aware of her rights? Are there enough platforms where an average illiterate woman can voice hher grievances without commissioning the help of some political bhaiya ?

In the Year of the Woman and in the wake of March 8, the Woman’s Day, when I paused to ask myself these questions, the answer to all them was NO. India is still not ready

** Indian women continue to be repressed, forced to abort or to abandon her children, or face social ostracization unless society approves of the way it was conceived.

** She still cannot adopt easily,

** or admit her children to school if the father refuses to acknowledge them.

**In most cases she is still deprived of her father’s property on some pretext or the other.

** She still can’t rent a house easily if she is alone in a strange city, even if she is in her thirties.

In 1961 the Indian sex ratio – the worst in the world – was 976 females per 1000 males. Currently it stands at 927.

Despite the Pre Natal Diagnostic Technique Amendment Act of 2003, UN figures reveal that 75,000 female foetuses are aborted in India annually. Selective breeding has almost become endemic in India and means a woman is dead even before she is allowed to be born!

The Public Service Broadcasting Trust : In 2005, in a gender sexuality orientation workshop at the India International Centre at Delhi, the Chief organizer Rajiv Mehrotra had said that PSB commissions fifty two  films annually in their endeavour to create media content to help the government and agencies to understand relevant issues and introduce better welfare measures. When I visited their site there was no news of any film to be released presently.

The Prez struggles to roll out reforms, but the ground reality is this: “Many legal experts feel that President Patil should be more circumspect.”…“she cannot directly summon civil servants or ministers nor can she insist on promulgation of action plan. This is the job of a Prime Minister.” (Times News Network news item published in the student edition under the title President gets Cracking on Empowering Women.

Well, if our own President can only be informed and then just encourage , warn and suggest and NOT DO anything then obviously my plight stands defined.

Being raised well and steeped in the ethos of my beloved country, I would patiently continue to re-read the Mahabharata and of women like Rohini and Khona, and secretly dream of one day be liberated or at least be invested with the power to do it myself.

I am not lazy. I would not mind doing it for myself, provided I know I shall not be persecuted or repressed or raped or worst still posted at Patan or some such hell hole or divested of my job. I would wait. I guess that is what is expected of gracious people?

* Swayambhar : refers to the ancient Indian practice of the woman’s father/brother/the head of her clan, inviting all possible suitors at the house, there she is formally introduced to them, and their achievements and accomplishments publicly related to her, after which she selects her mate indicating her choice by presenting the man with a garland. Unlike in the West she doesn’t kiss him or hold hands. In India touching between opposite sexes was a taboo even back then. Even hand holding was not seen as a simple gesture of cordiality but had specific social significance. While rescuing Devyani from a well Yayati had to pull her up by her hands, and later marry her because he had held her right hand!