Hysteria can’t be basis of law

Hysteria can’t be basis of law

By M.D. Nalapat | 16 February, 2013
Protesters at Parliament Street on Thursday as part of the One Billion Rising campaign against crimes against women. Photograph: Pramod Pushkarna
Our young women should be given education to make them economically self-sufficient.

Trust authorities — and the people — of India to trust in law when many policepersons ensure that action gets taken only in sync with the bribe paid. Indigents — and given the cost of litigation of passable standard in India, the middle class as well — get sent to jail while those able to "persuade" police of their spotless character escape accountability. Despite a consistent record of failure through such measures, both the public as well as policymakers seek more and tougher laws to deal with any problem. Examples are the way in which access too much of the internet has potentially been criminalised in India through an intrusive and absurd law and the way Kashmir and Gujarat believe that alcohol consumption can be stopped by banning the substance. More than a decade ago in Haryana, Bansi Lal followed the Morarji Desai example of introducing Prohibition, thereby generating a clutch of mafias throughout the state.

Collective hysteria ought never to be the basis for new law. Last December's murder of a promising 23-year-old in a Delhi bus has become the trigger for the introduction of a clutch of laws, which prescribe long jail terms for offences that even an honest and efficient police system would be hard pressed to accurately track. So broad is the category of sexual assault in the new legal constructs that a male accidentally brushing against a female in a crowded space can find himself the subject of a prosecution, should the lady — or bystanders — be so inclined. So vague are the new provisions, and so all-encompassing their scope, that the merest male touch on a female torso would be grounds for penal action, especially now that the way has been cleared for a post-facto change in a lady's assessment of what transpired between her and the offending male.

Some friends in a European country have talked about a young woman there who was privately bragging to friends of having sent her Indian boyfriend to prison by accusing him of rape. The provocation? He withdrew his offer of marriage after learning that she had been engaged in what may be described as aerobic exercise with two other men after having accepted the third's offer of marriage. Once the man decided that he would be better advised to marry a woman with less of a yen for aerobic exercises with multiple males, he became the target of a charge of assault. According to the evidence, such assaults took place repeatedly over months. Each time, she would assume that his devilish nature had changed and once again trustingly go with him to a secluded spot. It was only after he told her to forget marriage that she scuttled off to the police.

Now that relationships between the sexes have become a hazardous activity in India, would the way be clear for more same-sex couples? Better that the UPA's legal eagles — P. Chidamaram, Kapil Sibal and Ashwani Kumar — accept that better than law, what is needed is to make instruction in karate compulsory for girls. Our young women should also be given education designed to make them economically self-sufficient. That way, they could throw out of their lives any male foolish enough not to appreciate that women are — far and away — the better sex.

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