Monday, July 16, 2007

Heart Attack

"Lady in Rajkot strips and parades semi nude to protest against harassment" screamed the headlines. All the news channels showed her walk to the police commissioners office. Why did it take an extreme step by Puja Chauhan to get the court and the police to react? Could it not have been avoided? Had the print and electronic media not hyped it, giving it such a coverage would a case have been registered?

It takes a lot of courage, determination for a woman to take the decision of walking out of her marriage. She will take all the abuse, have her self esteem and confidence battered just to stay married for the sake of her children and society. The very man who vows to protect and love her, becomes her oppressor. She is tormented by another woman, her mother in law. She quietly takes it all. But there is a limit to ones endurance. When she is cornered and no where else to go, she chooses 2 options - to fight back or to give up. Giving up leads to suicide and fighting back needs a lot of courage and support (emotional and psychological from loved ones and society). When she chooses to lead a safe, secure and sheltered life away from her tormentors, why do cops and lawyers try to stop her, to get her to change her mind? Puja choose to fight back, the cops refused to file a complaint, didn't take her seriously. It was all routine for them. Did they want her to go back to her husband? Or just that they did not want the hassle of a small routine case? Her husband called her a prostitute. The police wants to file a case of indecency against her. There is more exposure in the Indian music videos and by the movie stars. Puja compared to them was much more decent.

Neetu was also troubled by her inlaws. Hers was an arranged marriage. One year after her marriage she decided to end it. Why? Domestic Violence. The lawyer she went to, refused to file her divorce. Instead he would counsel her on going back and to try to make amends as divorce is against the Indian traditions. Fed up and frustrated she turned to her aunt who counseled the lawyer. No woman would like to go back to her parents house after a failed marriage. She will try her best to make it work but it should not be done at the cost of her self esteem. What if she becomes a victim of dowry? Whose responsibility will that be? The cops who refused to file her case or the lawyer who wanted her to go back?

Prathiba married against her parents wishes. During the 10 year courtship she supported him both emotionally and financially, through his business downfalls. His parents were always loving and caring. 2 weeks after marriage they showed their true colours by mentally harassing her. One year later she got pregnant. The harassment continued and after delivery her husband joined them as well. The reason - Dowry and Girl child. She is still waiting for a divorce. Her lawyer counseled her to go back. Today her parents and her daughter are her biggest support.

There are countless cases like these. And it affects women of all economic strata. A lot of cases go unreported. Times are changing and more and more women are choosing to say no to domestic violence. Till men and women stop thinking that a woman cannot exist without a man,that she has no identity without a man, this will never change. As Michael J.Fox says " One's dignity may be assaulted,vandalized and cruelly mocked, but cannot be taken away unless surrendered."

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