Scilla and Charybdis

So the world is up in arms because Hamid Karzai has legalized rape within marriage and made it illegal for a woman to leave the house without her husband’s permission. (Hey! We should send Manyata to Afghanistan, she admits to asking her husband for permissing before going out for coffee. She’d fit right in.) What kind of people are willing to accept such laws? What can they do about it? Do they fight it? I have no idea.

And we can get off our high horses because things here in India aren’t much better. Our laws mght be better but some of our people are so regressive that it seems pointless. This woman who was raped, has urged the court to release the rapist because she is afraid nobody else will marry her. So she asked her rapist to marry her and he very benevolently agreed, saying his family wouldn’t mind so long as she converted to Islam. Right. I wonder if he checked with his family before raping her. As for the woman – I wonder how bad life for her must be if the best option she has is to marry her rapist. I feel really really bad for her….

The mind does not boggle. It is simply exhausted by the state of affairs.

Fortunately the DCW has objected, saying that the woman is under pressure from her family. Imagine having to live with that sort of support or lack thereof, from your family. We do afterall, live in a country where you have honour killings and revenge rapes and victims committing suicide because of the shame of it….

So is there still hope? I mean okay, DCW objects and then where does this poor woman go?

What do you guys think?

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60 thoughts on “Scilla and Charybdis

  1. It’s an effect of all those movies I tell you…hero rapes heroine..marries her and then she “reforms” him. Or the villain rapes hero’s sister and the hero puts up with crap so that the villain agrees to marry his sister.

    Why is it that for women, the victim is punished and socially shunned for something she did not wish on herself? Why are men not offended when people make statements like “He is a man, he cannot help it”. How can they accept that people think men (they) are sex crazed animals who have no cranial capacity and think with their d**ks??

  2. Oh MM there is still hope for India. I cannot even imagine what goes on in regressive societies like Iran/Afghanistan etc. At least, by law, we have rights and rules, no?

    Me: exactly. and inspite of that we realise that society so backward that the rules do us no good. so many rape victims kill themselves because even if the rapist goes to jail, society wont let them live in peace 😦
    dont get me wrong – i admire our legal system. i think this is a fantastic country to live in – most laws sound amazingly fair to me – even the abortion ones… but we have so much to work on in terms of mindset.

  3. This is on the same lines as the rapist who wanted to be pardoned coz he had cleared the civil services examinations…

    what a mighty mighty WTF!!!

    Me: totally.. but look at the sadness of the situation. opting to marry the man who violated you so badly – just to be able to live in peace. i’d go for him with a loaded gun… but then i dont have to live her life …

  4. First it surprises me to see the plight of women in Islam given the fact that most people claim that it was Islam which gave equal rights to women (personally I don’t agree with that claim as I feel that Hindusim was much ahead of other religions in terms of women rights…yes Sati thing was a big aberration but somehow it had a reason in those frequent muslim invasions and the consequences thereafter)…….

    Me: I’ll disagree with only this part, Alok- lets not religion bash – if you must criticise – just criticise a custom or a law… in this case, I’d say its a terrible law made by men – just like sati. i am not sure their religion condones it. anyone enlighten us?

    Actually rigidity and the orthodoxy coupled with baseles interpretations are the real reasons that led to this situation…

    Coming back to the issue of rape, I am of the view-point that we need a complete overhaul of the legal system vis-a-vis rape cases…..simply because it deters women from filing cases (approx 2/3rd of the cases go unreported) ……worst is the kind of questionaing raped women have to undergo at the time of filing complaints…..

    Society too needs to alter its way of thinking and women need to take lead in that…..to ensure that the raped women doesn’t suffer again after her previous ordeal…… I know what I am gonna write now might cause lot of hue and cry….but then it’s a fact that many a times married women too are subjected to rape……….unwanted s** is equivalent to that only…..and who can understand the pain of that suffering than a women herself

    Me: exactly – and this law that Karzai has signed on makes it illegal for a woman to refuse her husband sex. awful.

    And minimum penalty for a rapist should be life imprisonment going up to death penalty… deterrence is very important….

    Me: totally. no 14 year business if you ask me.

  5. At least the framework to improve is there – good laws give people scope to improve. India is still maturing. I would say another 200 years should do it (I’m not joking. You literally need that sort of time to change the mindset of a nation.)

    Me: I agree. walk into the villages and you’ll see what a long way we have to go…

    The western nations have had centuries of democracy to arrive at their liberal mindsets. Compared to them, we’re really moving along at a fast clip given our size, diversity of culture and the freshness of our Democracy.

    Places like Afghanistan don’t allow people to change at all – the laws themselves are a huge hurdle. So we’re still better off.

    To the first poster – I disagree that men are not offended by this sort of thing. We very much are.

    I’ve also yet to come across any reasonable man excusing rape by saying “He is a man, he cannot help it”. For that matter, I’ve never heard this line from any unreasonable guy either.

    Me: i’ll disagree here… So often you hear people say that men will be men so women should dress decently/not provoke… etc.

  6. this is pathetic…the rapist gets away without being punished while the victim lives the rest of her life with the same sick person who snatched her dignity…
    having said that, its easier for us to comment without really knwoing what drove this woman to take such drastic steps.

    btw, i love the title of your post.

  7. I am not saying anything against Islam….my problem is with the militant Islam that interprets Quaran and Hadees to suit its motives…..

    Me: yes – so the fault lies with the interpreters – have you heard the Pope’s latest ridiculous stance on condoms? makes me want to cry!!!

    yes every civil society has issues w.r.t women rights but we must not forget that those issues don’t deal with the basic existence of women. Compared to this at places like Af/Pak and central Asia, it is the basic existence of a women and her right to choose her life that is questioned.

    Infact I remember reading an article by Friedman after Mumbai attack in which he had talked about the mobilisation power of Islamists nation whenever they feel that their religious values are being questioned….remember that Satanic Verses issue of the Danish cartoon controversy….was enough to for entire Islamic world up in arms…..This power needs to be utilised ..Sadly they lack the reformist leadership and all this gets reflected in what Karzai did….

  8. It is always so easy to look down on “regressive” societies.And (here I think I will get the trolls in droves) specially societies that seem to follow another religion.It is so easy to say “places like Afghanistan” but geographically and mindset wise they are so close.
    Social change will not come with laws, rather it is a changed society that ensures the passage of better laws- because laws only reflect social mindsets. Some of the most progressive laws already exist in India, but do we see them in practice?
    As for men using the excuse, well if “canot help it” is not said” she deserved it” is certainly implied.

    Me: thank you.. agree with all you said.

  9. I don’t know what to say. I think quite a bit about such things but, as you said, the mind is too exhausted to comment on it. I am disillusioned. Jaded.

  10. This made me very, very sad. We have heard of the disgusting cases of rapists offering to marry their victims. But this is the first time I’ve heard anything like this. Makes me shudder.

    As you said, I can’t imagine the kind of life this girl must be having. This is one case which has been reported. Makes me wonder how many more happen all the time! Horrible!

  11. Bhadwad Park,

    For every man like you who is offended at the “He is a man, he cannot help it” statement, I myself had to personally deal with jerks who indulged in eve-teasing on the roads, in buses and even had the audacity to tell me not to “stir” them by wearing jeans and a sleeveless top.

    In India, this is an unfortunate reality where every woman has had to endure eve teasing at some point in their lives, and also had to bear with the accusation that she brought it upon herself because you know – men will be men.

  12. I have heard this men will be men crap even from educated men, which just goes on to say this has nothing to do with education..but just how the society is. For generations, women have handed that kind of attitude to their children and regret it later. So I guess every mother has to imbibe in the minds of their sons that they are not special because they have pee pee’s and to respect women for what they are and not to judge them for what they wear. It is in our hands….and not too late to make that change. It may just take a whole lot of time, but not impossible 🙂

  13. I think an important thing to remember here is that very few countries until recently (20-30 years ago) had clear laws allowing married women to take legal action against their husbands for rape. Indian laws for instance did not allow women to accuse their husbands. I remember reading about this in Leila Seth’s autobiography (very interesting btw) and how she was part of the panel that tried to set the law straight on this one. She talks about the other judges (all male) saying it was open to misuse etc. Sometimes we forget how recent some of the changes we take for granted are.

  14. Every time they talk of how Indian women are making progress and gaining recognition these days(economically,educationally etc),what hits me, is that the gap between those who do and those who don’t just keeps widening, the injustice, those who are left behind, deal with, keeps getting more and more appalling.
    Sometimes I feel, it takes more than just education, or economic independence or an accomplishment of any kind, to change that stereotypic “role” that every Indian woman is expected to fit into, to change their outlook.

  15. Yeah heard that comment….about time that he comes out of the glory of Vatican (as created by Michealangelo and team- have been there and that is why I am saying that)and think straight……

    You know basic problem is these so called “self-confessed contractors” of religion who always tries to put obstacles in the evolution process of free-wheeling movement called religion……….

    These babas,sadhus,ulemas,maulvis, pastors and their heads have no business to interpret religion for me or any other practitioner….one who practises knows what he/she is upto.

    The problem of crime against women (and worst is one which violates her chastity) is pervasive across all societies and countries….one cant hyphenate India…

    See majority of crime against women originates at the hands of men….so it is not about country but about them…

  16. as a muslim woman… tis post of urs had me REEELING! i mean for God’s sake… forget abt family’s permission to marry her, just the fact that she has to convert to islam for him to marry her?? what islam was he following when he raped her? and if he really is following islam, then islamically he must be stoned to death for raping her! (which, btw, is something that generally bothers me but in this scenario, i find it too light of a punishment for a man so callous and thick skinned!)

    Me: Why does it bother you? I think its the best punishment. I am usually against violence but I cant think of a better deterrent if its legally sanctioned.

  17. Did you hear about the woman who chose to marry her husband’s killer and turned around on her own testimony to say ‘He didn’t kill him’ cuz she said that if this person won’t marry me, I will be treated like shit and be free fodder for every other man in the society?

    This happened somewhere in UP I think. Heard about it from a colleague whose father practices there. Isin’t that sad?

    Me: Good Lord that is awful. didnt hear of it.

  18. The biggest problem is ‘support’. Apne hi saath nahi dete to doosro se kya ummeed karein. But in today’s world I’ve seen innumerable times that its your friends who come forward to give you any support that you can expect while the real family is hiding somewhere.

    I really wonder who that woman will survive living with her rapist? Won’t she feel a burst of anger every time she sees his face? How will she allow him to even come near her again? Just the thought is too much for me to handle.

  19. This is very sad. Both the cases. One man dooms a whole nation of women on his crazy quest for control of power. Atleast in India the court prevented the girl from marrying the monster. Though it’s still sad to see that she didn’t have support from her own parents and society.
    In Islam the punishment for rape is death penalty. And neither does Islam condone marital rape. Unfortunately like you said, men change the laws to suit their selfish needs.

  20. “The mind does not boggle. It is simply exhausted by the state of affairs.”

    True. So true.

    What does this woman do now? Become a cause celebre? Get adopted by an NGO?

    What? Where are the women’s shelters provided by the State for women in such hapless situations?

  21. oh well… yes! its the mindset that needs to change. and like someone said 200years doesnt sound far fetched… it means so many things. it means actually believing that woman is an equal, that virginity is not end all, that it isnt woman’s fault that she got raped… yup its gonna take time.

    then we go on and read about fathers raping their daughters because a tantrik told them too. yup its not about religion, its about our mindsets…

    sigh!

  22. Hmm. Good thing they got rid of the Taliban!

    Ok- snarky comment aside I do wonder if Hillary Clinton will put her money where her mouth is when it comes to womens rights in Afghanistan?

    And closer to home, I’m with Allytude that laws will not necessarily be effective till they reflect the mindset of a people.

    I don’t believe in giving up though. We’re too young a country to pack it all up and given the enormous gulf between haves and have-nots in India, maybe we are being too ambitious, too impatient in wanting to see change?

    As the song goes,”When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

  23. @ Alok – ok, it’s amazing how you can criticize someone else’s religion, and say that everything bad in your’s is an aberration and it’s basically good. That’s very convenient.

    Repression against women is something that is found in most religions, or shall we say interpretations of religion. Manu’s position on women is well known, and is as bad as the “regressive societies” that we’re discussing here. The Vatican has always had a very medieval stance about women, contraception etc etc. In fact, I remember reading somewhere that the pope was of the opinion that washing machines had done more for women’s liberation than the pill.

    Our only hope is that we have a judiciary which is, atleast technically, above all this. Otherwise, just imagine, in Saudi Arabia, if you were a woman, and had to testify in court, your testimony wouldn’t be worth much because…

    1.Women are much more emotional than men and will, as a result of their emotions, distort their testimony.

    2.Women do not participate in public life, so they will not be capable of understanding what they observe.

    3.Women are dominated completely by men, who by the grace of God are deemed superior; therefore, women will give testimony according to what the last man told them.

    4.Women are forgetful, and their testimony cannot be considered reliable.

    Is there hope for us? I believe there is. But not anytime soon.

  24. Marital rape does not attract any penalty in India.

    A mandatory death penalty in case of rape would lead to a situation when there is no incentive for a rapist to leave the victim alive. As in the absence of a victim, only circumstantial evidence would have to be relied on for prosecution, which is weaker that a statement by the victim.

    me: you lost me. repeat very slowly for non-law-walas :0
    okay no i understood – but do you really think rapists leave victims alive for that reason? i mean u think that much thought goes into it?

  25. I think it was Gandhi who said a society can be judged by the way it treats its women and children.

    And with incidents like this happening, India has a long long way to go.

    And what breaks my heart is, that for every step women seem to take in India, there are a thousand more cases like these happening.

  26. @ Gentle Whispering: Gandhi said that a society can be judged by the way it treats its animals.

    But, I think it is a shame that we can replace animals with women and children to have the same effect/impact.

    Me: ouch…

  27. I agree with the Rationalist…but one solution I like is the idea of publicising the names of people who perform sexual crimes. The notion of shame seems to drive much public discourse, we should use it to our advantage…

    Publicise the names/photos/addresses in newspapers, and other media, perhaps come up with a database of sexual offenders like the US has.

    M

    Me: great idea.

  28. Hi,

    This is in response to Alok’s comment.
    Hamid Karzai is no spokesperson of Islam. Just like KS Sudarshan is no spokesperson for Hinduism.
    As far as women’s rights is concerned, I guess Islam was far ahead in “defining” these rights.
    I’ll just list down a few:-
    – Women have a right to work,do business.
    – Women have a right to husband’s property, and alimony/maintenance for her children in case of divorces.
    – Under the Islamic shariah, a man convicted of having raped a woman, is given capital punishment.
    – The Qur’an says that Hijaab has been prescribed for the women so it prevents them from being molested.
    – If the relationship between the husband and the wife is truly based on Islamic principles, in which both of them treat each other with love, affection, kindness, fulfilling all Islamic desires and settling all matters with mutual agreement and understanding, the question of the wife refusing the sexual desire of the husband does not arise. Nor does the question arise of the husband being insistent or getting perturbed at her not wanting to have sex.

    Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an in Surah Rum, Chapter 30, verse no. 21:
    ” And among His signs is this that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility with them and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts); verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.”
    If on certain rare occasions, the husband shows a desire for sexual intercourse with his wife, and for some genuine reason the wife shows a hesitation (not refusal), then it is possible, the husband can be understanding and voluntarily and happily give indication for postponement!

    There are many misconceptions related to Islam and its treatment of women, but you should be clear on who has the rightful authority to comment on such situations and whose word you should take seriously.

    No offence meant to anyone 🙂

    Cheers,
    Noor.

    Me: thank you.. that was informative. So tell me – what do you feel about Karzai and the new laws?

  29. Case 1:The DCW wins and the nation feels a sense of achievement :the woman is shunned by her own family and her social circle, an outcast, now a fodder for men who think she is available for their exploits, an ‘honor’ killing,suicide- ah! so many options in front of the woman who has notions of confidence,self-respect,rights and honor drilled into her mind as
    her social circle deems right. Volunteer groups might not be able to even reach out to this woman who has a thick layer of family and relatives shielding her- a family who might rather kill her and save their ‘honor’ than let her be a living reminder of their ‘shame’.

    Case 2: The DCW loses, the nation groans. She gets to live with the brutal monster , at his mercy. She might surrender to a life-long contract of domestic violence,rejection , zero-self esteem and witness to the monsters exploits beyond this convenience sake marriage, but she will be hailed by her society as the ‘righteous’ woman who fought for her husband and married him-an example of sorts. She is now assured of their life long support and acceptance.

    And sadly, we still live in a country where in many areas, social acceptance rates higher than any form of self respect or indignant anger or rights. The legal system is mostly at par with global human rights standards. But we still have a certain strata in the social system seeped with such low grades of respect for the human body or mind. Most of us with our exposure,education and background will not be able to ever relate to it and find it impossible to be coexisting with such shameful atrocities.

    I hope the DCW gets its way and does not allow this to happen(and open the freeway for all those predators out there). I hope the legal system tightens the noose around rapists and slap the death penality on them -so no lecher resorts to this crime with an assurance of getting away scot-free.

    But as disgusted ,shameful, repulsive and nauseous as I feel while saying this -it is for a fact that for this particular woman with her background and social cocoon,marrying this monster is the way out. For her, it might not be the choice between getting the criminal punished or let free (As we , with our confidence in ourselves,family and our society,with our indignant fury and frustration ; are bound to think). From where this woman comes, it is now a choice between losing the support system of her family ,relatives, her society VS their acceptance.

    And this is VERY saddening. No amount of India Shining or legal progress is going to help till civilization and respect of human rights reaches every node of our society at the grassroot level.

    (ummm…sorry! realized this ‘comment’ is way too long :-/)

    Me: not at all… its good to see people respond. I was burning with rage as I read the piece and yet so disheartened by the choices…

  30. A mandatory death sentence for rape isn’t good for a variety of reasons. Let’s go through them one by one.

    1.Rarest of the rare – Currently, the guideline is that the death penalty is only pronounced on the rarest of the rare cases. Rape is hardly rare in spite of it’s serious nature.

    2. Even though the rapist might not think of it at the time, a death penalty would mean that rape+murder = rape alone. I’m not sure many women would agree to this in a literal sense.

    3. If we hand down a death sentence for rape, what do we hand down for more serious crimes like the Nithari killings involving the sexual molestation and murder of dozens of children? I would argue that the rape of one woman is not as serious as the Nithari killings.

    4. Those who feel that death must be handed down are probably guided by the desire to inflict maximum punishment. If so, why stop there? Why not include torture as a punishment as well? Why not the dismemberment of limbs? At the end of the day, we have to choose whether or not we want to behave like animals or not – do we stoop to the level of the criminals?

    5. Deterrence by punishment isn’t effective. Throughout history, rape has been a common crime even though in certain societies, the punishments have been extreme – worse than death I would say. What IS effective is how people feel about the crime. We’re not criminals not because we’re afraid of the law, but because we have morals. Having said that, there SHOULD be some element of deterrence as well.

    6. Given the above, is the purpose of the law revenge? Arguments such as “He ruined her life so his life must be ruined” are based on the premise that the law is an instrument of vengeance. Is justice the same as revenge? I’m not answering this question, since I can appreciate the desire for revenge and can’t take a holier than thou attitude. But I would like to think that I can rise above the desire for revenge.

    7. Death is irreversible. One can be wrongly imprisoned for years and still be released if an error was made. The nature of rape law is such that there is a lot of scope for it to be abused. If the harsh Dowry law has taught us anything, it’s that there are black sheep among women as well as men. It’s unacceptable for an innocent to be put to death.

    Gandalf’s words come to mind “Death! I daresay he deserves it. Many live that deserve death. Many die that deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be so quick to deal out death in judgment. Even the wise cannot foresee all ends”

    Me: Yeah – I think its somewhere in the Bible as well and an argument I use for abortion/foeticide – don’t be so quick to take life when you cant give it. All very valid points no doubt. and all I can say is that as a woman who suffered years of child abuse – I’d like to see the bastard dead. I don’t want someone like that roaming the streets. So I really don’t know where this should go. I wouldnt go so far as to say torture, but I’d also like to see better punishment. 14 years of chilling out as the sarkari guest isnt as scary as being stoned to death. Tell me if you can, are there any statistics that show less crime in countries where they stone to death? I often wonder whether fear is the deterrent or morals…

  31. @ Rationalist – huh? How do you figure that? I know I’ll be hanged if I rape someone, so I just kill them after I rape them? There is enough medical evidence left behind on the dead body to prove a case. If I want to get away with it, I’ll have to make the body disappear entirely.

    Me: damn. now i agree with you. I’m confused.

  32. I have heard that the crime rate in Singapore is the lowest because they have strict laws and even capital punishment. They have petty crimes there (all this is from my friends who stay htere) but overall its very safe. So maybe there is something in your thought about fear being the deterrent.

  33. @ Homecooked – the crime rate in Singapore is low, but that’s less because if their laws, and more because of their people. I’ve only been there once, but it’s an amazing place. No one spits on the road, no one smokes where ur not supposed to, no one breaks any rules, and the funny thing is, I didn’t feel like breaking any laws there either. Not for fear of being prosecuted, but just that, in a place like that, you change. People in Singapore are amazingly disciplined.

    Small example, I actually started crossing the road without looking at the lights. An oncoming car just stopped, and waited for me to cross the road, and then calmly went on it’s way. If I did that in Calcutta, I’d either be run over, or there’d be sqealing tyres and a lot of cursing. It’s not the laws, it’s the nature of the people.

    Capital punishment as a deterrent does not work, and the prime example of that is the US. They have capital punishment there, and their crime rates are among the highest in the world. In the UK, there is no capital punishment, and the crime rates are not significantly higher, as far as I know. Life imprisonment, without possibility of parole is a good enough deterrent.

    @ Mad Momma – “I want him dead” is not the same as legalized capital punishment.

  34. @ Bhagwad – agree, the law cannot be a vehicle of vengeance.

    Also, punishment as a deterrent doesn’t work for a simple reason. Think about it. I know if I’m caught I’m dead, but that’s IF I’m caught. What if I can get away with it? A lot of people think they can, and a lot of them probably do.

  35. I agree with all the rational and logical arguments posted above. But somehow, it just “feels” right to have sex offenders punished in a very brutal way!! 😀 .. Rape should not be dealt with in the same way as any other crime. Castrate them, I say!!

    On a more serious note, I completely applaud the way the US has a database of sex offenders which is available to the public. If I am living in the vicinity of someone who has raped in the past, I want to know!

    Public humiliation may the only way to put enough fear into the minds of perverts and to atleast make rape a rare crime, as it should be.

  36. It sincerely blows my mind when Muslim women (as I’m presuming you are, Noor. correct me if I’m wrong) become complicit in perpetuating the sexist practices and dictates of Islam. Even if you do take pride in Islamic society being more favourable to women than other societies in medieval times, it’s the 21st century now. And so, if people still plan to use the Quran to navigate their lives in this century, the rights afforded to women are hopelessly unfair and very little, when compared to other societies. I can only assume that you neglecting to mention the unfair division of inherited property between men and women, was deliberate – since you made it sound like such an emancipated provision. Let me quote some Surahs from the most accepted translations of the Quran found here – http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/quran/ :

    “Allah (thus) directs you as regards your Children’s (Inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females: if only daughters, two or more, their share is two-thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is a half.” (4:11)

    “Divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three monthly periods. Nor is it lawful for them to hide what Allah Hath created in their wombs, if they have faith in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation. And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them. And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.” (2:228)

    Why DO men come out better in both case scenarios? Or were you simply arguing that women get SOME rights, but it’s okay that they don’t get ALL the rights that men do? And lest we forget, the Quran allows a man to have multiple wives if he can provide for them and not vice versa. He can also beat her lightly as a last resort. She is supposed to always be modest. Even your explanation of the hijab made it sound like women needed to be the moral gatekeepers of society, so men aren’t tempted. Like some people already mentioned here, I think men might be very offended with such a suggestion. And maybe a raped woman is given a bit of sympathy by the law courts. But a woman simply needs to be accused of committing adultery by four witnesses and the Quran and the Hadith declare that she and her supposed lover should be stoned to death. There’s a reason such medieval and barbaric practices are banned in most countries now. And, it was interesting that you didn’t bring that up when you were talking about a rapist’s punishment – why is forcing yourself on someone equivalent to cheating on your husband (assuming you actually did what you were accused of)? Why are women the guardians of chastity in the muslim world? Especially when men are allowed multiple sexual partners aka “wives”? Oh and the women being allowed to work bit – well, even that seems to have a glass ceiling, because in the Hadith it recounts that –

    “When Allah’s Apostle was informed that the Persians had crowned the daughter of Khosrau as their ruler, he said, “Such people as ruled by a lady will never be successful.”” (5:59:709)

    And please, everybody, don’t give these passages the misleading euphemism of “interpretations”. Please find me even a SINGLE interpretation by any scholar for any of the passages quoted above that can be construed to have a different meaning. Women don’t have equal rights as men under “true” Islam. People need to stop being PC about this and recognize the inherent flaws in their book – at least in the context of modern times.

    I don’t know why every time it’s a question of one’s faith, we put our blinkers on and don’t demand the same standards from a book (that most Muslims live their lives by), as we would from any other social arrangement. We rage and scream at Sanjay Dutt for being an MCP, but when Muslims do it – oh, it’s a religious thing. That’s hypocrisy. Like Alok, who finds it convenient to pick and choose when it comes to the good and bad bits about Hinduism and it’s cultural practices; most of us make excuses for some of the terribly hateful things in most holy books. Or we just ignore it. But the point is, if it’s the absolute word of God, you can’t just pick and choose based on your modern-day, evolved SECULAR morality. You have to either buy it all or nothing at all. And I’m sorry folks, but some things don’t have a MILLION interpretations. You either get an equal share in your parents’ property or you get 1/2 what your brother does. There’s no philosophical leeway here to justify it. And if it’s the word of “God”, it should hold for all time, not just that medieval period. If you do believe the latter however, you should be willing to toss the whole thing out completely, since it doesn’t apply to the time we’re living in. Read it as literature that you can be inspired by then, but why take is as the absolute truth? That just allows people the ‘moral’ authority to impose it on unwilling people. And believe it or not, even a woman in Afghanistan might want more rights for herself than granted to her under the Quran. But, once you’re considered a Muslim (even if your parents just forced it on you), you can’t leave – because then, well, you’re considered an apostate and the Holy Books promise a righteous Muslim heaven if he kills an apostate. So you’re screwed if you do, and screwed if you don’t.

    I don’t blame the people in Afghanistan for the laws they want. It’s just a natural progression of being religious at all. Because modern-day secular morality hasn’t reached them yet, they take their morals from their holy book. If some of the stuff in there is contradictory, they can just pick what they like. And unfortunately for the women, that book is full of some really sexist and violent stuff. Men, who make the laws mostly, might not always benevolently ignore those bits.

  37. About the Afghan law, it has nothing to do with Islam. Women can abstain from having sex with their husbands for valid reasons for up to a month. She is obligated to have sex at least once a month if she can.

    Muslim men are possessive over their women not only for what they are but for what they become – loyal wives and nurturing mothers to their children. Islam does not shy from this fact and makes it known time and again that women are to be treated with honor and dignity-whether married or not.
    Also checkout henrymakow.com formerly savethemales.ca
    DrMakow phd exposes the New World Order Rockefeller funded Feminism.”Illuminati the cult that hijacked the world” is his bestselling book.

  38. Hey MM,
    Sorry for the late reply to your query.
    In my opinion, Hamid KArzai is a two-bit-politician trying to garner votes in a male dominated society based on the one factor that excites men the most- their libido!!
    No more comments 🙂

  39. @Anushka :
    Why so much bitterness dear?
    I could practically *Feel* you exploding in anger!! (No offence meant!)
    I think this is not the right forum for us to argue over religion.I dont think MM would approve of her homey little blog turning into a battlefield 🙂
    I’d just like to say that we shouldn’t confuse “religion” with “society”.
    Its just that Muslims adhere to their religion.
    Many people of other religions are more liberal with their’s because there are no definite guidelines. So they are free to practice as they want.
    In my opinion, Islam is beneficial in the sense that it has “defined” (I’m using this word again) guidelines for *Each and Every Human Action*.
    Atleast we have rules for giving inheritance to daughters. Name one other “religion”, NOT “society” which has defined this rule.
    Lets talk about equality. Islam gives certain guidelines as to what are the acceptable terms of equality between men and women and where men are given more rights(AND, also more responsibilities).
    You may live in Metros and demand equal rights with men. But a majority of India lives in villages. Where this term is not even recognized!! Where women dont even utter a whimper when left out of inheritance. Where men can easily dump their wives without any compensation.
    These are just a few points.
    Modern society may give you privileges, but then, its the “society” doing that, not the religion!
    You will find a justified answer to ALL your queries. Just try to search for the answers with a positive mind. If you go looking for the negatives, you find ONLY negatives.
    Love,
    Noor.

    Me: Perhaps the issue then, Noor – is that Islam gave women a lot of equality and then instead of evolving and changing with time, society is regressing and creating more oppressive laws. As muslim women wouldnt you want to do something about it? Have you seen this? The latest? http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hyn-0e0877EZZfq0qOEWOGL8z89g

    For what its worth – i really appreciate people who stick to their beliefs although very often i dont see the point in many of those beliefs

  40. Deep- I have not criticised Islam per se but the militant Islam…. If you read all my comments,you will know that my anger is directed at the fundamentalists who are interpreting the religion to deny the basic rights to women in Islamic societies…..

    Let us accept one fact that we can find solution to problems only after we recognise that they exist…

    I agree with Noor when she said that Islam was the one of the first to give equal rights to women…..but that was long time back. Subsequent interpretations by Maulvis and the fundamentalists points in a completely different direction…… Yes there are problems in other religions as well but let us give credit to other religions for one fact that preachers in those religions don’t issue fatwas for murdering anyone who has spoken against the religion…. Neither Vatican nor any Sadhu Sant samaj issues those fatwas…..

    One more thing- if someone does or says anything against Indian Christians/Hindus, people in other parts of the world don’t come out on the streets demanding beheading of those wrong doers/commentators….Now consider Salman Rushdie or Danish cartoonist…..and what their comments/acts led to…..

    All other religions have evolved and continue to evolve…..they debate and they recognise problems….Alas! Maulvis or Jamaat who are nothing but the self confessed contractors of Islam continues to push Islam into mediviel times…..the religion has simply stopped evolving…

    Religion is like a flowing stream of water……if you stop the flow, impurities/sediments begins to contaminate the water…same way works the religion. It is very important to let the new thoughts flow and have a free wheeling discussion….Pope with his dogmatic views and Christians are co-existing…..RSS and Hindus too co-exist….can you say similar thing about Jamaat and Islam?

    Noor let me clarify that I have a respect for Islam as a religion…coz for me religion is something that needs to exist only between those four walls….. I am not voicing anything against Islam but my problem is with militant Islam….. I respect Asma Jehangir more than Arundhati Roy..former is fighting for a real change unlike latter who will come out on the streets only when her book is nearing a release….Asma’s religion doesn’t stop me from supporting her and Arundhati Roy’s religion dont’ make me support her….

    As I always do- last but not the least…. Noor you will recognise one point that Jamaat E Islami in this part of world is considered as the biggest Islamic party. Pakistani branch of Jamaat’s website has so much of hatred against Hindus but no one (of 10 crores muslims in Pakistan) can dare say anything against that….. If you want to check out…please go through “Hinduism:Inside and out” link on http://jamaat.org/links/links.html

    As against this take the latest Varun Gandhi incident in India….majority of Hindus irrespective of their political lineage do not support his views…..and reason for that lies in the religion itself which gives us power to think and oppose anything that our mind thinks inappropriate…..

    Me: And you’re saying that other religions do not give you the power to think? Thats a dangerous, biased and inflammatory comment….

    I am just trying to create a distinction from the view point of a practioner.

  41. Deep I understand that I had talked about Sati as an aberration….but then you chose to ignore the reason that I gave afterwards… If you read our ancient religious books, in no book will you find any mention of Sati as the religious practise…… This practise was prevalent in India mostly during the Mughal era…..and the reason was obvious- to escape from the large scale violence against women by the invaders who used to molest them after winning the teritorries….

    Me: Which is the case with the issues in Islamic countries today too na? Most of what the Taliban is upto, is of their own making – not something their religious texts suggest. So how is that any diff from Sati?

    See the problem in India is that we are reading the distorted view of history as given through the eyes of either the Britishers or Historians with left leanings….. So called secular credentials of historians won’t led them right openly about this….with the result that Sati continues to be regarded as a religious practise….

    Me: Thats an unfair and sweeping generalisation. sometimes we’re unwilling to look at ourselves through the eyes of a third person. its not a very pretty picture, you see. And if that is the case -where are the ‘fair’ historians? why arent they writing? And would you then appreciate the new Saffron texts which totally wipe out chunks of our history?

    Actually, I would like to bring to your notice an article by Francois Gautier (published in the latest edition of Outlook)…..once you will read it you will know what I am talking about….

    Me: That man is a baised trouble maker according to me. Similar to your view on ALL the historians in this country who give us a distorted view…

    India’s problem is the systematic glorification of one family and pseudo secularism at the cost of real India and Indian values…

    Me: again – what are these real Indian values and who defines then? the shri ram sena? the shiv sena? you? me? the fashion week organisers?

    Had this been not the case, Christianity would not have arrived in India much earlier than Europe or Parsis would not have find a Navsari as a base in place of Sari in Iran…..or for that matter Jews in Israel- who rate India highly just because it was the only country where no attrocities were ever commited against Jews ….in fact first batch of people to migrate to Israel had lot of Indians…. Do you know what we did to those very Jews? We didn’t have any diplomatic relations with them until 1991….why? in the name of secularism….

    If a nation can commit such an error then I won’t blame you for mistaking my comments against militant Islam as one against Islam per se.This is what pseudo-secularism is all about.

  42. MM please correct this “So called secular credentials of historians won’t led them right openly about this….” by replacing right with write…please delete this comment after you correct that error

  43. Anushka….I am not running away from the problems that afflict Hinduism… I recognise them and being a practioner I try and follow the correct path vis-a-vis the distorted view…..

    And, my so called hypocratic comment was written in the context of the Afghan law……

    Let me also take this opportunity to clarify that Hindusim is not about following one book unlike every other religion….

    It is important to break the myth of Hinduism as a religion. The religion of ancient India was the Santana Dharma and Hinduism was a name given to a certain way of life.

    Here, it is important to create two distinctions-

    1. Who were Hindus- Anyone who used to live east of Hindukush mountains was called as a Hindu.
    2. What is Hinduism- the cultural practises, way of life of those very people was Hinduism..

    Me: You do realise – that other religions too practice a way of life – their dressing, their food, their choices – Hinduism isnt the only way or life as opposed to other religions being religions. I’ve never understood this argument. Just because its doesnt practice expansion? What about the zoroastrian faith – is that not a way of life too?

    So, in short Hinduism was never a religion. It was a way of life. This fact is proved in one significant distinction; the non expansionary nature of Hinduism…. this faith alongwith Zoroastrian faith is the only faith that never preaches any expansion; which is the root cause of all our religious issues. Hinduism never says that the only way to achieve salvation goes through it’s way. It only stops at saying that the main goal of human life is to attain salvation.

    Religious books in Sanatan Dharma comprise of Vedas and the Upnishads. And if you do a careful reading of those books you will find that non of the current problems afflicting Hinduism finds any mention there. Whatever was mentioned in those books is ageless/timeless. It was prevalent at that time and is prevalent during these days as well. And that is the real beauty of Sanatana Dharma- it’s universal appeal irrespective of times and ages.

  44. MM sorry about coming back to you again with this request to edit one comment……

    Can you please add this-“Indian value systems have always looked beyond religion.”

    Me: What are ‘Indian’ value systems? The Indian who complained against Akshay Kumar is as Indian as I am, as Akshay is, as Twinkle is, the show organiser is, the MNS is, the RSS is, so many of us are… is there one value system that all of us Indians subscribe to?

    before this

    “Had this been not the case, Christianity would not have arrived in India much earlier than Europe or Parsis would not have find a Navsari as a base in place of Sari in Iran…..”

    Actually when I was writing this piece my daughter started crying and I lost track of my thoughts…just realised that I forgot to write that…

    Thanks in advance

  45. Deep, just to respond to your question about capital punishment for rape – right now the burden of proof is on the person who makes the accusation of rape. Given that most rapes go unreported, proof of rape is fairly hard to come by, which is one of the reasons it is a relatively smaller crime in India (purely in sense of numbers).

    If you change the laws to make it an automatic death penalty for rape, yes, it may make for more cases – but every one of the cases will result in death of the accused, thus leading to the very real possibility that the perpetrators will kill out of hand, simply to prevent such cases from being made.

    M

  46. @ Alok – I think you’re confusing jauhar with sati. I don’t know where you’re from but I am from Bengal, where women would be drugged and then thrown into the burning pyres of their husbands, with no evil invaders in sight. I think, in Bengal atleast, it had more to do with property and family politics than anything else. It took some of those evil invaders applying a lot of force to get this barbaric practice to stop.

    Me: hmm.. I thought he was confused between jauhar and sati too…

    @ Noor – agreed, Islam puts down laws for every human action, so, Anushka points to specific laws on inheritance and says that they are biased towards men. I don’t see how the city girl village girl logic applies here. I mean, so women in villages have a much tougher life, and so laws that are unfair are ok for them? Is that what you’re trying to say? Because I honestly cannot understand.

  47. @ Alok – ok, it’s not really possible to take you on without reading up, so I did. Instances of sati in India can be found before and during the Gupta era, which was from 280–550 AD. The earliest Muslim invasion I understand was by Al Muhallab ibn Abi Suffrah, in 664 AD, and that too, it was only as far as those parts of Punjab which are today in Pakistan.

    Bramhin scholars justified sati as “required conduct in righteous women, and it was explained that this was considered not to be suicide (suicide was otherwise variously banned or discouraged in the scriptures). It was deemed an act of peerless piety, and was said to purge the couple of all accumulated sin, guarantee their salvation and ensure their reunion in the afterlife”.

    There are mentions of Sati in the law books, and in the scriptures. The Vishnu Smriti says…”Now the duties of a woman (are) … After the death of her husband, to preserve her chastity, or to ascend the pile after him”. Mention of sati is also found in Brihaspati Smriti, and both this book, and the Vishnu Smriti are from the 1st millenium.

    Mention of sati is found in the scriptures. The Garuda Purana says…”A wife who dies in the company of her husband shall remain in heaven as many years as there are hairs on his person”.

    “In the Ramayana, Tara, in her grief at the death of husband Vali, wished to commit sati. Hanuman, Rama, and the dying Vali dissuade her and she finally does not immolate herself”.

    While sati is supposed to be voluntary, “…pictorial and narrative accounts often describe the widow being seated on the unlit pyre, and then tied or otherwise restrained to keep her from fleeing after the fire was lit. Some accounts state that the woman was drugged. One account describes men using long poles to prevent a woman from fleeing the flames…”.

    What you are describing, women immolating themselves to avoid dishonour at the hands of foreign invaders, is called Jauhar, which is defined as”…the voluntary death on a funeral pyre of the queens and royal womenfolk of defeated Rajput kingdoms….This was usually done before or at the same time their husbands, brothers, fathers and sons rode out in a charge to meet their attackers and certain death. The upset caused by the knowledge that their women and younger children were dead, no doubt filled them with rage in this fight to the death called saka”. This practice is not realted with sati.

  48. Deb-

    Let me first tell you that the word “Sati” which originated from “Sat” (meaning true) was derived from the original name of the goddess Sati also known as, Dakshayani, who immolated herself, unable to bear her father Daksha’s humiliation of her (living) husband Shiva.
    Sati has always been an involuntary act. Whatever Smritis you have mentioned also talks about Sati that only. In fact, what used to exist earlier was “Anumarana” which was not restricted to widows – rather, anyone, male or female, with personal loyalty to the deceased could commit suicide at a loved one’s funeral. These included the deceased’s relatives, servants, followers, or friends. Sometimes these deaths stemmed from vows of loyalty. System of sati was never prescribed in scriptures. In fact you will find that most of Shastras and Vedas advice against this.
    Consider this:
    “The well known custom of burning of widows for thousands of years demanded by the Brahmins – is nowhere evidenced in the Rig-Veda; only by palpable falsification of a hymn has the existence of the custom been forcibly put into the texts which, on the contrary, prove directly the opposite – the return of the widow from her husband’s corpse into a happy life and her remarriage” [Kaegi – “The Rig Veda”, p.16,
    The available evidence shows that the custom was entirely nonexistent in early Hindu society. Infact the Vedic practice was to marry a widow to her dead husband’s younger brother. In the sutra period she was allowed to marry any near kinsman; in the earliest Dharmasutra (Gautama) without enjoining any restriction and in the later (Baudhayana and Vasishtha) enjoining ascetic practices for a short period only. Later on, however this asceticism alone remained and became lifelong. This was the characteristic of the period ranging between the 2nd century B.C. and the 4th century A.D., when the Smritis of Manu and Yajnavalkya were compiled. But there is absolutely no mention of widow burning. Later on, however, we find Anumarana prescribed for a widow as an alternative to lifelong asceticism.
    “This is clear even for a superficial study of the Vishnu and the Brihaspati Smritis, which were put together between the 5th and the 9th centuries. A. D. Hindu society was completely revolutionized soon after this, and we find new Smritis and new commentaries springing up and holding up the ideal thing for a widow in comparison with life-long asceticism. This last is no doubt mentioned by them, but only incidentally.
    Perhaps the first author opposing the pracice was was a poet called Banabhatta, who flourished earlier than Medhatithi in the 7th century A.D and was protege of King Harshavardhana. His view on the subject has been embodied in a characteristic passage of the “Kadambari”. He said- “This practice which is called Anumarana is utterly fruitless. This is a path followed by the illiterate this is manifestation of infatuation, this is a course of ignorance, this is an art of foolhardiness, this is short-sightedness, this is stumbling through stupidity, viz. that life is put and end to when a parent, brother, friend, of husband is dead. Life should not be ended, if it does not leave one of itself. …” [Kadambari]
    Another author Rishi Medhatith and a learned Shastra scholar did not look upon Anumarana, or the self- immolation of windows, as a Dharma or meritorious act at all, and tolerated it only as a transgression in times of distress.
    Continuing with what you have mentioned about Bengal, I draw your attention to the Dayabhaga system of inheritance which was prevalent in Bengal. The Sati pratha as practised in Bengal had this practise to blame and you may agree that:
    1. This practise was mostly prevalent in the wealthy families of Bengal.
    2. Under Dayabhaga a women inheritor used to have full rights over the property of her deceased husband. And that’s why Sati became a vehicle to fight those property battles. It was more of a social evil in Kullen Bengal rather than religious diktat.
    The religious books are completely against this practise. Whatever was prevalent in Bengal was a social evil and not religious one. Besides please note that the visual description of Sati was mostly through the eyes of European travellers and if you don’t believe what I have said above, I don’t think you should believe on those pictorial descriptions too.
    You may want to read this:
    “The European fascination with suttee, expressed through traverlers’ accounts and in the debates over official policy, was mirrored in visual representations by both amateur and professional artists. Among the earliest portrayals of suttee is an engraving, 1598, to illustrate the account of the Dutch traveler, Jan Huygen van Linschoten (1563-1611), who lived in India from 1583 to 1588. The print shows a widow, with arms raised, stepping off into a pit in which her husband is consumed in flames.[16] The Hindu widow again leaps onto the pyre in the 1670 frontispiece engraving for the book by the Dutch missionary Abraham Roger.[17] The early portrayals of suttee in prints were based on travelers’ descriptions, such as those by Linschoten and Roger, and are often highly fanciful, but by the late eighteenth century European artists in India were drawn to the subject and its powerful imagery. Tilly Kettle (1735-1786) painted the serene young widow bidding farewell to her relatives.[18] Johann Zoffany (1733-1810), in one of at least three paintings he devoted to the subject, depicted suttee as a “heroic act,” as Giles Tillotson notes. “The widow here is not a sentimental figure inviting pity, but a moral exemplar to be admired.”[19] The paintings by Kettle and Zoffany are idealized, and it is unlikely that they were based on first-hand observation, but in the early 1780s, William Hodges (1744-1797) witnessed a suttee near Banaras and made a drawing at the scene. He subsequently completed a painting, “Procession of a Hindu Woman to the Funeral Pile of her Husband,” that served as the basis for the engraving accompanying his description in Travels in India.[20] There is in Hodges’s depiction a somber atmosphere of saddess, but it too is idealized and draws Solvyns’s criticism as not being “correct.”[21] A later painting, 1831, by James Atkinson (1780-1852), is also romantic and conveys in its portrayal of the beautiful young widow an overtone of the erotic that was so often associated with the depiction of suttee. Archer and Lightbrown suggest that Atkinson “probably intended to express sympathy with the plight of young Indian womanhood condemned by inexorable custom to premature death.”[22] Many European portrayals of suttee, as in written accounts, reflect ambivalence–admiration for the courage of the virtuous woman and sympathy for the victim of a heathen rite–but characterturist Thomas Rowlandson uses his 1815 engraving, “The Burning System,” as an attack upon the government for its complicity in permitting “voluntary” suttee.[23] And over the course of the nineteenth century, with imagery of horror, missionary tracts and journals frequently depict suttee as the symbol of benighted India and Hindu “superstition.”[24]
    Lastly, I am aware of the difference between Sati and Zohar…Also I can get you the books and quotes that speak about the rise of Sati during post Islamic invasion.
    Please don’t get me wrong as I am NOT GLORIFYING THIS PRACTISE. ALL IAM SAYING IS THAT RELIGIOUS BOOKS DON’T PREACH SATI PRATHA…..
    Hope this will set the things straight. I am no authority on the subject but I know the subject I talk about.

    Me: I think all Deep is trying to say is that similarly the evils in other religions are not in their books. most of them are similar socially created evils. and that is all. there is no way we can justify the illtreatment of widows and dalits and there is no way they plan to justify the flogging of women who step out of the house…

  49. @ Alok – you said there were no instances of religious books that demand Sati. I have shown at least two instances of books that do that. That was my point. To say that other religious books demand things that we find unacceptable while our own don’t is something that I cannot bring myself to agree with.

    “My religion is better than your religion” is a stupid argument, and that is what we are getting caught up in here.

    It would seem a little presumptuous on your part to assume that you know what you’re talking about while I don’t, wouldn’t you say?

  50. Socio-religious norms have been unfair to women due to the prevalence of patriarchy. It is time that women’s concerns are separated from religion and looked into from the point of view of human rights- then it will all become clear!

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