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Madam Justice, Here’s My Character Certificate

Posted: September 19, 2011

I have been restraining from writing another post regarding the highly patriarchal and hypocritical society in Kerala. My intention is not to blame without reason as well. But the innumerable number of incidents and popular opinion on those incidents is too horrendous that one cannot restrain from responding to those issues.

I recently watched a chat show regarding Child Sexual Abuse. I repeat – Child Sexual Abuse. Can there be even a debate in this regard? Isn’t this a straightforward discussion about how the pedophile should be punished? But apparently not! Kiran Manral and Monika Manchanda might be able to shed more light on how much troll they received in the light of their Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Blog initiative.

However, you would expect that people who are in responsible positions would not make insensitive and irresponsible statements? I am particularly writing about the statements made by Justice Sreedevi, the Chairperson of the Kerala Women’s Commission in the program, Nammal Thammil in Asianet, a mainstream Malayalam channel on 17th September 2011.

Frankly, I would not reproduce all her words considering that this website maintains a particular level of decency. The same reason why I would not even link the video in this post.  Along the discussion, Justice Sreedevi makes a statement that if a girl wears revealing clothes (she pretty much describes parts of a girl’s body in a rather provocative manner which, many a man might find “tempting”), then it is very “natural” for any man to be tempted to touch her! She asks, “Don’t men have feelings? When they see this, they will feel like touching and they will touch. Some girls will enjoy this (she makes an expression of women enjoying) and some will get angry. Why create this situation?”

Really madam? Are you the person that I am expected to meet and discuss regarding any harassment I was meted out? Do I have to bring my character certificate, possibly from my right wing hindutva brothers in Mangalore? I guess, the minimum criteria for any woman to register her complaint would depend on the length of her dress.

I don’t have words to describe my anguish, horror and shock to hear her say the things she did. How can a law enforcing authority, particularly involved in women’s issues talk like this? How can she justify men who violate women? How can she dismiss women’s dignity as easily as she did?

Let me put down the objectives of the Women’s Commission here as translated from their Annual report :

– To protect women’s rights and their dignity

– To raise women’s status in society by investigating and resolving issues regarding women’s harassment and violence against women

– To take actions that empowers women and ensures women’s equality

Seriously. If the head of an institution which is supposed to uphold women’s rights undermines issues that women face based on their “dress”, I am afraid to say, “justice” is so many miles away for lakhs of women. Is this upholding of women’s dignity? She undermines the strength of an institution which was supposed to be the solace for women in Kerala.

Madam Justice, truly, do you understand what you are doing with such careless statements?

I am reminded of Madam Dikshit’s remarks on women being adventurous. Women activists made this an issue in Delhi. I hope activists in Kerala will not take these statements lightly. Such remarks cannot be tolerated. Heads of institutions are responsible to the public for the kind of messages that they spread out. This institution is supposed to be a space where women can approach for resolving their issues without fear of judgment and victimization. It needs to be what it claims to be.

In the said discussion, a young girl said, “Parents are also to be blamed too. They buy clothes which are too short for their children. This can also be tempting for abusers,” and my heart broke. It felt like, we were walking a million steps backward.

Are our children going to grow up believing that they are responsible for the violence that is imposed on them?
Are they going to take the blame even if they were abused by some obnoxious minded pedophile?
And most importantly, is our legal system going to “resolve” cases with this framework?

Justice Sreedevi and people who hold positions as important as hers have a responsibility to the society. They are supposed to instill confidence in women to be able to register their complaints of harassment and violence. Imagine the kind of influence that she could have on young impressionable minds, through programs like these – after all, its an “honourable” judge. It was no wonder  that the young girl said the things that she did. If Justice Sreedevi boosted the confidence of anyone, it was of all those eve teasers, pedophiles and rapists. Yes Madam, they were tempted and did the most natural thing ever possible.

Horrified and saddened to the core.

Thanks to egroup Fourth Estate Critique for initiating this discussion.

Preethi is currently pursuing her Graduate Studies in Sociology in Purdue University in the US.

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  1. My God! And she heads the Women’s commission? WHERE do I exactly look for Hope in this miserable scenario??! Who put the woman there?
    I can just so hear the “parents buying short dresses for children” as mentioned above. This is exactly the conversation I came across and led to my writing this: http://shailsnest.com/wp/rant/clothing-the-women/
    I was so anguished reading similar sentiments regarding what kids wear.
    Horrified and saddens describes it. I am actually heartbroken. This is a woman of authority, not just some clueless people discussing.

  2. Absolutely loved your article.
    Its alarming to know, literacy and education has done nothing in terms of common sense. Its disgusting to hear such irresponsible, baseless responses from the educated mass, people holding respectable positions etc.
    So what next? Letting women out of the house will tempt any man to touch her?

  3. Reminds me of Nirmala Venkatesh’s reactions to the Managalore Pub Molestation. She defended the men and said they should ‘not take law into their own hands’. Which law did the goons take in their own hands by molesting adult citizens not involved in any illegal activity?
    She insisted that the men who molested the adult citizens “had good intentions“, it seems they told Ms Venkatesh “they wanted to stop the live band and other activities that were spoiling the girls.”

    Since such thinking will take time to change, it should be mandatory for those responsible for welfare of women and children, to read and understand the law of the land. They should have to know that no matter how offensive or difficult to understand they find the concepts of justice, equality and rational thinking, they simply have to respect the Constitution and every citizen’s fundamental rights.

  4. Goodness! Such words from a Justice! How on earth do they come up with these things?

    I wonder when our society will come to accept that no matter what a woman or a child wears, nobody has the right to touch her!

    The criminals who rape/molest are ofcourse blameless, what can they do? They were ‘tempted’! Makes me furious!

  5. i appreciate your efforts and in agreement whatever you pointed out, but instead of classifying violators of human rights as only “right wing hindutva” was not in the right spirit, while it’s well know fact that in most of the child-sex abusers are near ones..and as far as statements of the lady judge is concerned, the logic behind it is flawed and pathetic..

  6. Navdeep,
    The right wing hindutva brothers was a specific reference to the Mangalore incident, not about abusers in general. Did they not have a hindutva agenda?

  7. This is preposterous. If a person falls sick with a disease, we eradicate the pathogen and not point at the patient and say serves you right for tempting the pathogen to enter your body. Similarly if someone has been abused, the logical step is to see that the abuser is punished accordingly so that other people know that they will be punished as well. I don’t know how the length of the dress and other things are coming into this. It was a child. Children are off limits. Even in the case of adults, irrespective of the length of the dress, if there is no consent there is nothing to be done. How hard is that to understand? And to think that people who are supposed to help and guide are coming up such ideas.

  8. rpreethikrishnan -

    Thanks Hrishikesh. But let me clarify. The Justice made the comment in case of women and not necessarily children. It was an young girl, who made the comment on children’ outfits.
    But yes, it is beyond me why dressing should take the centre stage in this discussion

  9. Surprised that this was being said in Kerala of all states. I thought Kerala was one state where women had a say in matters of importance since it had a matri-lineal arrangement and women of my mother’s age and generation were encouraged to take up careers. This again makes me raise questions about women empowerment through education and financial independence. Is society progressing or retrogressing?

  10. Agree with you. The society has changed a lot over last 20 years and why is still India stuck with, the old rules(copied with no much amendment from British). Young elected people need to take up government offices, with out age barriers.Today, I don’t think many cant enter significant offices after crossing age 30(Say IAS). This should change, people between 30-50 need to be in offices, where they can utilize there professional experience, maturity, and ability to be in sync with the younger generations.(At least their children)

    Hope the best. Thank you for writing. Next blogs/comments we would like to see some solutions for problems like these.

  11. When shall we stop making girls believe that they are responsible for all the evils that come their way, whether it be abusers, flashers, molesters? The right kind of education to give a girl is to teach her that she needs to learn how to fight against the scum of the society and protect herself from them, and NOT blame herself for her predicament. Funnily, women are the most prejudiced in this respect and they add to the injury with false pity or criticism…

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