A twenty-five-year-old woman, from Kerala, had to testify in front of a Supreme Court bench yesterday that she changed her religion and married her lover out of her own free will. Hadiya‘s year-old marriage was annulled in May this year by the Kerala High Court after her father contested that her husband was trying to recruit her for a terrorist organization and take her to Syria.
Hadiya, born Akhila Ashokan, like many young women in this country has become a pawn in the game of religious superiority and paternal ego.
A woman willingly converted to marry a man of her choice, albeit from another religion. It is a nightmare for many Indian parents. Men from other religions are luring innocent girls into romantic relationships, and then radicalizing them. It is a nightmare for every religious sect. In these two separate incidents, one common inference is derived by parents and society: Women are not mature enough to take their own decisions in life.
When will the society stop, infantilizing grown-up women? Why can’t the elders humbly accept our decisions on the issues in our lives, keeping their fragile egos at bay?
The society has always burdened women’s reproductive organs with the responsibility of safekeeping its dignity. Hence, they become painted targets during wars and riots.
Women are mass molested, gang-raped and then left naked on the streets because they symbolize a community’s ‘Izzat’ (honour). It’s a heinous psychological game, played in every war-torn country, on every riot-filled street, and in every communally-tensed neighbourhood. What better way to break down and mentally wound the enemy!
Heavens forbid if a woman falls in love with a man from another caste, religion, sect or even social strata. Such women are accused of bringing shame to their people. Their dead bodies are hung from trees, as a warning to other girls and women. This is what happens when you try to defile the community’s dignity.
Then there are cases where parents use Love Jihad as a weapon to annul a marriage which was solemnized against their wishes. It not only contributes to hatred and communal tensions but also leads to the convolution of the truth. It is not entirely false that men use women to settle communal scores. The world is now not a place which treasures the ideas of love, freedom and choice.
In such cases, when women find out that they have been duped into a marriage out of hatred instead of love, they should have a choice to leave. Just as a woman should have a choice to leave a bad marriage for any reason. But often women are unable to.
We need to remove the label of dignity stuck across our bodies. When the virtues of dignity will be same for men and women, they will cease to be targets of war and communal crimes.
Free-spirited women like Hadiya, do not need their husbands, fathers or college dean as guardians. They are well capable of making the decisions in all matters of their lives. And the sooner the society accepts this, the better.
(Pic by The News Minute)
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Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.