– A case for Diversity, Inclusion, Equality and Privacy
Bharat, the ancient name for the land presently known as INDIA, is credited to have been a leader in Science and Mathematics even five thousand years back. Bharat was considered the cradle of civilisation with the Indus Valley Civilisation flourishing and famously known as the ancient world’s most advanced civilisation. In the early 18th century, India had a 29 percent share of the world’s total GDP, which eventually during the British rule and over the 19th and early part of the 20th century, tumbled to just 3 %. In the year 1947, an Independent, resource rich India found itself to be a country inhabited by the poor while having missed the Industrial Revolution which the Western countries managed to embrace. The British left behind a legal system which India adopted and developed it’s Indian Penal Code. The Western civilization progressed and so did India in many spheres, but for some unknown reason the archaic laws belonging to the colonial era were never addressed and continued to drag India. So, it came as a pleasant surprise to all Indian’s when the Supreme Court of India gave some Socially progressive, Culturally defining and path breaking back to back judgements in September 2018, thus making this the most enlightened period in history of India’s judicial system.
It all began when the top court upheld the constitutional validity of the Unique Identification Number (Aadhar). While passing an order in response to a Public Interest Litigation, the Supreme Court took a firm stand against the Government’s policy of linking the Aadhar number with practically every aspect of a person’s private life by striking down the provision which required the linking of the Aadhar number to Bank accounts, Telephone services and even School applications and directed the government of India to develop better privacy laws and policies. This was a victory for Freedom of Privacy.
What followed within a few days of the Aadhar verdict was the partial striking down of a regressive British-era law popularly known as Section 377, dealing with the criminalisation and definition of unnatural sex, including sex between persons of the same gender. Immediately thereafter, another archaic and a very patriarchal law, known as Section 497, dealing with the subject of Adultery was abolished. Section 497 was written in a manner which showed women as chattels to their husbands and in a way projected Men as masters of their wives.
Another interesting judgement against a PIL addressing gender-discrimination followed closely to the Section 497 judgement. There existed a religious practice at the Sabrimala temple in the state of Kerala, that did not allow women devotees to enter the Sanctum Sanctorum of the temple. The Supreme court’s verdict put an end to this practice, and allowed women to enter and worship at the Sabrimala temple.
These verdicts have equilibrated the scales of justice. The supreme court shook the nation out of apathy, and ensured the fact that these verdicts were not discriminatory, they were not for a particular religion, political party or a community but purely for the welfare of the entire nation.
Section 377 of the IPC – An Anachronic Law
Section 377 of the IPC was a Colonial era law introduced in 1861 during the British rule in India. The law criminalises gay sex and punishes the offender with imprisonment for life. However, in a momentous judgement, the top court on September 06, 2018, partially struck down the Section 377 of the IPC and decriminalised gay sex among consenting adults in private. This was an historic moment for the LGBT community in India as well as globally. This judgement has echoed throughout the globe and whose sound has been heard by the oppressed gay communities worldwide, who live in despair of the homophobic laws in their societies. India is now safe destination for the LGBT community and now they can immigrate, work, study and live peacefully with their true emotions respected. India now will welcome same sex expat couples to come work and settle in the country. The bureaucratic process to immigrate into India will also change when the government of India will recognise same sex married partners allowing them to bring along their spouse to live with them on long term dependent Visas and the world will identify India as another friendly nation to work and live in.
Section 497 of the IPC – A Patriarchal Law
September 27, 2018, The Supreme court of India rejigged the sections of the 158 years old Indian Penal Code by completely scrapping away the Section 497 and decriminalising Adultery. The Adultery law stated – “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery.” The court said that the law was patriarchal in nature, and subordinated status of women in India. This concept of, the husband holding the right to allow his wife to sleep with another man was akin to treating women as chattels at the hand of her husband.
Even though, the verdict was appreciated and accepted by the people, the top court was subject to severe criticism from few communities. The very common question was, how will the law protect the sanctity of marriage? Consequently, the supreme court of India, illuminated the citizens of its nation with its luminous justification that, loss of moral commitment in a marriage creates only a dent in the relationship, but it is left to each individual to deal with the problem — some may forgive while others may seek divorce. Punishing each other or the wife’s lover is unlikely to re-kindle commitment. Finally, the entire nation upheld the verdict, showing the world that INDIA supports and accepts Gender–Equality as a fundamental right. Matter of choice and matter of privacy is an individual’s right, and the constitution will not probe into the relationship of two consenting adults. Now, India joins the long list of countries which have upheld the principle of gender equality among their nation’s men and women.
The Sabarimala Verdict – A mountain of prejudices and discriminations
September 28, 2018, The Supreme Court of India removed a 20th Century ban imposed on the women between the age of 10 and 50. The state of Kerala, restricted women from entering into the mythical mountain “Sabarimala”, where a shrine for Lord Ayyappa lies. This discriminating law originated from the belief that “Menstruation” was associated with notions of impurity and thus polluting the shrine. This prejudice was rooted deep into the minds of the devotees, and women were restricted entry into the shrine. However, the supreme court of India annihilated this ban against women and stated that, “The social exclusion of women based on menstrual status is a form of untouchability which is an anathema to constitutional values.” Finally, the verdict was accepted by the Government of Kerala and the Temple Board. Followingly, the Police have declared to deploy 500 Women Police Personnel in Sabarimala, for the welfare and safety of women devotees. The verdict has not just let women climb the steps of Sabarimala, upholding their right to equality and dignity, but it has also killed the menstruation taboo they have lived with for centuries and this judgment would open doors for women into other Shrines across India.
For a nation where the founding fathers had guaranteed fundamental rights to all the citizens of India, and where the government practiced decisive affirmative actions through reservations and in this country where served the longest serving female prime minister the world had ever seen, a minority Sikh prime minister as well as a Sikh president and three other Muslim presidents and also a female president ( even before America had it’s first black president ), these verdicts were received with mixed emotions, they were accepted as well as criticised. However, the verdicts were neither in favour nor against any religion, sex or community, the verdicts were solely for the nation’s oppressed sections of society. The supreme court of India enlightened the nation as well as the whole world with differences between morality and criminality. Consequently, the supreme court abolished Homophobia from the hearts of the children of this nation. This transformation of the nation’s cultural and political practices will deliver new possibilities for the next generation. JAI HIND.