In this series of articles I write about the forced enforcement of religious laws.
Here are a few stories that have a common thread running through them.
- Two teenage girls, their mother and maternal aunts were shot and buried while still breathing- their crime? The girls wished to marry persons of their choice- their mother and aunt supported them.
- A married woman in her twenties was shot dead after being pulled out of her lawyer’s office; the lawyer was also shot at but had a providential escape. Reason- the victim had gone to consult the lawyer about divorcing her husband who was inflicting cruelty on her. The only eye witness to her murder by her husbands people was her mother, who later testified that she had seen or heard nothing. The dead woman’s father justified his daughter’s murder on the grounds of family honor!
- A married woman was escorted by her friend’s son nearly half her age. That was construed of as spending time with an alien man. The punishment? The boy’s sisters were raped by the woman’s husband and his brothers.
- Genital mutilation is carried out on many pre-pubertal Muslim girls in some African countries to prevent them from “enjoying sex”! Since it is forbidden in all civilized countries some parents try to take their girls back to the home country where it can be performed.
- A couple was ordered to be separated by the village panchayat. The reason? According to some religious rule they were of the same gothra and hence were considered as brother and sister and hence their marriage amounts to incest.
- A girl commits suicide after she was harassed by a local “sena”, for speaking to a neighbor belonging to another community. Her pleas that he was twice her age and had got her a job fell on deaf ears.
- An auto rickshaw driver was assaulted with deadly weapons because he was transporting a woman belonging to another community, late at night. Her pleas that she was being taken to a hospital in an emergency were ignored.
- A boy and a girl belonging to different minority communities were traveling together. They were attacked by a boy belonging to the girl’s community, supported by a local sena whose members belonged to the majority community!
Each of these incidents has one thing in common- the treatment of women as a commodity. The constitution of India, it being a secular democratic republic, guarantees fundamental rights to all the citizens. We have the right to follow a religion of our choice, or to not have one. The right to marry a person of any community (though same sex marriages are not allowed!). The right to live with any person with whom we may choose to live, whether married to that person or not. These rights do exist on paper and for those who can afford the due process of law. But, according to the various Senas and Dals belonging to various religions, the constitution of India has been suspended in our district.