Putting rights issues through the looking glass. Not seeking answers, just some food for thought to see whether things could be any different!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Sacrificing the individual at the altar of religion

The recent case of a village woman, Imrana Bibi in Muzaffarnagar, U.P being raped by her father-in-law and then asked to separate from her husband by a Fatwa has attracted a lot of attention, but for all the wrong reasons. The Fatwa was issued against the violated and not the violator because a woman cannot have sexual relations with a man with whose father she has had sexual relations, according to the Shariat, the Muslim personal law. According to the clerics, she had a physical relationship with her father in law ( she was raped for God's sake and the "relationship"established, therefore was forced upon her and is by no means consensual or voluntary). Does the Shariat not apply to the father in laws who rape their daughter in laws or is it licensed in the holy edict?
What about her choice of living with her husband? While she will have to accept her husband as her son and therefore, leave him, the husband will continue supporting his children! The Shariat recognises the father's duty towards his children but chooses to make "haraam" the relationship with his wife as he has been rendered her "son" by virtue of her being raped by his father.
Imrana decided to abide by the Shariat and leave her husband.... Is this her personal choice and was it thrust upon her by her religion? Nobody will ever know or ask....
The same issue arose when one Gudiya from Meerut, U.P was made to choose between two husbands- one who went missing during the Kargil war and was assumed to be dead but returned and the other, whom she married when she thought her husband was dead. The choice was made before religious clerics and the media for her, against her wish.
Under the penal law, Imrana's father-in-law is a rapist and has been duly arrested but what do we do about the personal law under which Imrana lost all that she had....Not only was she violated by a person who she respected as her father but she has lost her husband in the process-a price she paid for being raped by her husband's father. The decision of the Imam was upheld by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. How liberal?
The political parties, except the CPIM did not protest much about this incident. The BJP used this opportunity to discuss UCC. The Hon'ble CM of the state accepted the decision of the learned Imam as final and declared Imrana's relationship with her husband as "haraam". The Congress decided to remain silent and left the final decision at the hands of the judiciary.
The question is simple..We respect personal laws in a secular country but when such a law is in direct violation of the rights of an individual, clearly the law of the land i.e the Constitution should prevail.
What the clerics did by issuing a fatwas is no less than criminal but so high is our regard for personal laws and secularism that we choose to ignore their guilt in the whole episode. Wonder what happened to personal choice and freedom in the world's largest democracy.