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A woman’s freedom is not negotiable

ht view Updated: Nov 06, 2014 21:12 IST

If a woman faces a threat from a man, then in order to stop a possible crime whose actions should be checked and who should be empowered?

Logic says ‘empower the woman and keep a check on the man’s actions’.

But sadly, many right-wing organisations in this country don’t think that way. Rather, and ironically so, they think the other way round and advocate keeping a check on the woman’s actions and letting the man do whatever he wants. The Hindu-Mahasabha in Haryana is the latest to join the bandwagon of such organisations. Some time ago its members condemned women wearing jeans and using cellphones. And the new chief minister of Haryana did nothing about this diktat, not even condemn it. Not doing anything against what’s wrong also implies accepting it.

This leads to even bigger fears in my mind. What if walking in the footsteps of people with such a feudal mindset, in government and other organisations, our youth start thinking this way?

After all, youth politics in universities is gradually becoming a prototype of active politics outside the campus. They are manifestations of what happened earlier this month when the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), in two different instances, stopped a beer festival in Chennai and protested against live-in relationships in Delhi University. All this in the name of saving ‘Indian culture’ and ‘women’s safety’!

Is there a problem with all this? Of course there is. Whenever any such self-appointed custodians of ‘Indian culture’ dictate what others should do or not do, they forget that they are going against the Indian constitution, which has granted the individual the right to live the way she or he wants as long as it is not illegal.

Every time we blame a woman’s attire for provoking a man into molesting her, we somewhere end up justifying the offender’s act by putting the onus on the woman. This is so very wrong.

One can always argue that a live-in relationship, in many ways, can be in favour of a girl than being against her. It can be the litmus test of a marriage and if it doesn’t work, she can walk out of it, something that’s lot more difficult to do in a marriage.

It is disturbing that in the name of protecting women some of us are advocating curbing their freedom. It’s neither a political outfit’s nor an organisation’s business to monitor what a girl wears or whether she is in a live-in relationship. It is solely her personal choice.

India cannot afford to see its youth, which is expected to be liberal and forward-thinking, curbing an individual’s freedom. Instead, the youngsters should be fighting to safeguard this freedom.

Ravinder Singh runs the publishing venture BLACK INK

The views expressed by the author are personal