There is something ghoulish the way we think about and treat women in India. Rumi Nath an MLA from Assam was beaten and nearly raped by a mob of over 100 people because she dared to leave her husband and marry a Muslim. Tennis macho stars Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati have fought over Sania Mirza in full public view as if she was some piece of real estate both had to acquire at any cost. And a television channel keeps reminding us 24x7 to save the tiger, forgetting that one half of the humanity in India is increasingly becoming endangered.
What makes the Indian male so vicious and so insecure that he will go out of his way to make and implement laws that choke the desire and aspirations of self respecting women? Take for instance the law of bigamy which is now being used against Rumi Nath to harass and intimidate her. We are not sure of the details in this case but my argument is that assuming that even if Rumi left her husband and has started living with another man, out of wedlock, why should it be held against her? Is marriage all about a legal contract where usually the scales are tilted against women from the very start? What goes on behind the four walls of a house is the business between a woman and a man. Does society like a tribal panchayat have any right to sit in judgment to tell a woman who she should be sleeping with or with whom she should be emotionally attached?
I can understand the need for legislation to protect individuals from financial wrong doing. But surely a woman or for that matter a man should have the free will to live with the person he or she chooses to live with. For heaven’s sake settle the financial issues but don’t sit on judgment on the morality of a woman? There is urgent need to amend this archaic law on bigamy.
What makes this entire issue so depressing is that both the major political parties in the country are all for enforcing the status quo. The BJP has always had its share of the loony right but Rumi’s party is the Congress and not one person from her party has stood up for her. Rather, according to reports elements from within her party carried out the attack on her.
In a deeply sociological sense the average Indian male even today is Mama’s boy who is utterly incapable of handling strong women with a mind of their own. Modernity and an embrace of western, modern values by itself does not guarantee the evolution of a modern mind. It takes enormous courage and inner strength to let go and not bind half of humanity in India by laws that should have been consigned long ago in the dustbin of history.