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  Life   More Features  13 Jan 2018  ‘Do we need the court to tell us adult women in India are free?’

‘Do we need the court to tell us adult women in India are free?’

THE ASIAN AGE. | SURIDHI SHARMA
Published : Jan 13, 2018, 12:11 am IST
Updated : Jan 13, 2018, 12:11 am IST

‘Why would an adult woman need a guardian in the first place?’

Hadiya
 Hadiya

In a recent verdict, the Supreme Court of India declared that an adult woman has the right to live freely and choose a life of her choice. That this needed to be reiterated by the court is a pointer to how this basic right and freedom is still denied to many in the country.

Feminist activist and author Kamla Bhasin says, “It is very sad that the Supreme Court has to say that adult women in India are free. I mean, don’t we know that? Do we need a statement from a court to understand this?”

The Supreme Court passed this verdict in the Hadiya case. When Akhila married a Muslim man called Shafin, embraced Islam and changed her name to Hadiya, little did she know that she would become the poster-child of ‘Love-Jihad’ controversies in India and have to walk a long road to freedom.

 A shot from Ishaqzaade that depicted an inter-religious romance.A shot from Ishaqzaade that depicted an inter-religious romance.

Nikita Azad, founder of the campaign HappytoBleed and a member of feminist collective, PinjraTod, says, “At one level, it is a good judgement, but why did it take so long for the court to come to this verdict? In an ideal world, the idea of such a verdict should be beyond imagination. What is even more saddening is that the verdict before this one was against her will and was highly patriarchal.”

She adds, “No educational institution or family member or husband should be a guardian to an adult woman. Why would an adult woman need a guardian in the first place or be subject to moral policing? It is really sad that women in India have to approach the courts to be able to marry, live with the person of their choice, study or change their religion.”

Expressing her opinion on the verdict, actress Riya Sen says, “The Constitution of India never said women can’t live freely. So the verdict is just a reinstatement of the constitution.”

Director Avinash Das finds it mere tokenism. He says, “We are living in times where four judges from the Supreme Court have to collectively tell the media that there are a lot of problematic things happening in the Supreme Court. So in such times, if there is a verdict related to freedom of women, I feel it’s mere tokenism. It won’t really change things in the country. The ruling party is gaining from caste and communal divide. The Hadiya case was not the first time that a Muslim woman married outside her religion. But these things are being targeted more these days so that mindsets can be affected. The constitution already has given us these freedoms, so the court has done nothing great. It is the politicians who need to take the right stand.”

On the other hand, Arshiya Ismail, who was a Hindu before she had an inter-religious marriage, disagrees slightly. “The truth is that BJP is in power, so many people are saying that issues related to inter-caste and inter-religious marriages are being created. However, I married a Muslim when BJP was not in power and I still faced a lot of issues. Caste and religious differences have always affected the choices of women. People didn’t accept such marriages before and it’s the same now. But no one can question an adult woman’s choices. So the verdict highlights how sad the situation is. We don’t need the Supreme Court to tell us this, it should be common sense.”

She says, “This verdict in itself reflects how inherently patriarchal our society is. If women can’t voice their opinion and desires, it speaks a lot about our country.”

However, Bhasin sees a silver lining in the verdict. “I am really glad that the Supreme Court said it categorically. While this verdict hasn’t really helped people in general and those involved in this specific case, I hope it helps the cause of gender equality in the future. The more we talk about it, the more we move closer to the vision of equality,” she signs off.

The Hadiya case was not the first time that a Muslim woman married outside her religion. But these things are being targeted more these days so that mindsets can be affected. The constitution already has given us these freedoms, so the court has done nothing great.
— Avinash Das,Film director

It is very sad that the Supreme Court has to say that adult women in India are free. I mean, don’t we know that? Do we need a statement from a court to understand this?
— Kamla Bhasin, Feminist activist

The Constitution of India never said women can’t live freely. So the verdict is just a reinstatement of the constitution.
— Riya Aen, Actor

Tags: supreme court, hadiya