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It is tempting to have an opinion on everything, as it gets you facetime across the screen with several people from across the globe. They may like you or hate you, but ignore they cannot, for you have a valuable Facebook profile, a Twitter handle, and a whole series of I-know-better proclamations in place. Especially when you have an issue that is easy to stand by and take sides upon, it’s a cakewalk. You know what to say, and you know the predictable pat backs on the way all too well. I run a Facebook group around the theme of Equality, which really, in many frequent threads, stand to vouch more for the equation of gender equality than of other forms. So, it was easy for me to hit the share the scream and outcry of gross injustice and I’d know that I’d have an unquestioned weight of support on my side. And yet, I found it not easy at all to reach my own conclusions on this subject.
But, before that let us pause here and give a patient hearing (reading) to the actual hearing instead of the news bytes that is doing wildfire rounds on behalf of the several media houses. They have – as they do – reported the judgment with their own dash of salt, sour and sugar, which is their work. Their headlines have been spiced to attract maximum hits, and their lines have provoked interpretive reality than observational. Which is, again, what they are there for! But for us, before we read them, let us read the real hearing once. For, for all you know, as much as the media headlines can generalize court judgments into generic messages from up there to down there towards the countrymen and countrywomen, a specific case always carries its specificities well into the sentence that it delivers. It becomes, therefore, necessary to appreciate the exact allegations, evidences and trials as we dissect the appropriateness of judgments.
Here is the full text – http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/imgs1.aspx?filename=44123
I find a few section of the sentence really disturbing, especially where the judges try to carve out their personal (popular?) notions of an “ideal” Indian home following the Bharatiya Sanskar route, and narrates a picture which can actually give teeth and nails to domestic violence and gender crimes under 498A.
I have a problem with this judgment when it goes to say that a wife asking a husband to stay separate from his parents amounts to “cruelty”.
And I agree when I watch the gender-conscious group crying out in protest. But before I take my rounded up a stand on the question of the entire list of allegation and resolution I get stuck at another point. This one has a milder voice in my personal circle of associations, and yet, the feeble voice cannot be choked down. The question of sustenance and survival, the question of financial dependence, and the question of human rights. The question that asks, while living together is not something a wife deserves to bear through, does the parents also not have a right to live with financial support from the son? Or daughter, too, if that indeed is the case? Of course, there is a law around protecting old parents as rightfully there should be, and bravo to the fact that that law is gender neutral too so that it calls upon both sons and daughters to take care of parents. However, this too does not totally settle the score, you see! If the wife is not working (and you need reasons? Look at gender share of activities around household chores to child care, to workplace discriminations to glass ceilings to what not) where does the wife’s parents go to?
If a non-working wife is to have say in financial decisions on household incomes, does that not mean financial support to husband’s parents should also need her approval? How much is enough, and how? Is the equation of upkeepment similar to what is used when the alimony amount is calculated in case of marital separations? Does it contain lifestyle, inflation, medical exigencies?
For all I know, the Supreme Court will decide each case on its merits. It may hand out judgments that appear fair to us or unfair. As much as we shout our lungs out, at times we may even not know which is which, for what is fair to one isn’t always fair to another when interests clash. The justice will fall down and pick up, one case at a time. They would even make mistakes, and maybe in his one they just did! And yet, I cannot but say – I don’t know!
Really! I am still trying to find my stand on the recent Supreme Court dictate. I know for sure it is not right entirely, and yet I cannot overlook the reasons why the opposite of that isn’t quite right too.
Feminism is not about supporting a female spouse as opposed to a female parent. Human rights are not at loggerheads with Feminism. It never was. No one is wrong, really. Only, the time is wrong. We have arrived at a social crossroad where our ideas are no longer uniform and absolute.
For at each juncture, our idea of tradition is clashing against our aspiration to fly like never before. Our wings are clipped, and our spirits are new to the taste of freedom. We have fallen out of the idea of bowing down to patriarchal shackles, and yet we have not solved all our equations so that the equality can be sorted out in reason and practice. The dependencies clash with the need for independence, and no one side is right or wrong.
Our beliefs about marriage are changing, and more than about the two dozen of family members we are looking for an equation between two people creating a life of equal spaces, which again is a far cry from what we have grown up with in the name of Indian tradition.
Our idea of family structure is changing. Our meaning of love and marriage is changing. Our sense of self is changing, The power controls are changing. The needs are changing. And?
And, we are all looking for a way. We need to come out and find it. Together!
Until then, the Supreme Court judgments will only remain the case in hand, perhaps. And we’ll still not be able to take our sides.