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Yesterday, a Facebook post by the Vice Chairperson, Haryana State Commission for Women, in which she shared a write-up she attributes to Dr Rekha Jain, ex-DSP, Sagar (M. P.), went viral. We think it reeks of moral policing.
A viral social media post by Preeti Bhardwaj, Vice Chairperson, Haryana State Commission for Women that she attributes to Dr. Rekha Jain, ex-DSP, Sagar ( M.P) has detailed the various “techniques” parents and families can use to “prevent” inter-caste marriages and ensure their daughters don’t run away with men from a different caste than theirs.
The post is appalling to say the least even for the fact that this regressive attitude is that of woman law enforcement officer and that of someone who holds a public office meant to address women’s exploitation and not issue fresh diktats in tune with Khaap panchayats to “control” them.
Ms Bharadwaj has since then deleted the post, and put up this apology.
However, it had been copy pasted and shared by many people (like the one below) and it is still doing rounds on various pages, profiles, groups, and on Whatsapp, so it still remains a problem.
A few points that make it cringe worthy to the core and make one wonder how this post is getting so much appreciation and support too in groups of civil servants, social workers and others.
The post says – “When a girl runs away with someone from another caste, it is discussed a lot….25 years of my experience at a police job says prevention is better than cure….I suggest if every parent, family, neighbourhood, relatives, community scrutinises the day to day behaviour of their sisters and daughters, no girls can run away.”
(Extract translated from original, screenshot below)
While all the governments even have schemes and laws to financially aid inter-caste marriages and couples and prevent honour killings, this is essential a sermon about how to “prevent” women from marrying outside their caste.
Caste is a hugely divisive social factor especially in Haryana and has been the main cause of many so called honor killings by family. In this light such a blatantly entitling statement seems to be only justifying violence on young adults by families and communities based on caste.
It clearly urges the people to observe the conduct of sisters and daughters. Though it uses the generic word kids at many places but the post targets young girls as the chief “culprits” in cases of inter-caste marriages and delineates several rules for parents to observe clearly in violation of a young lady’s freedom, privacy and consent like by suggesting that:
“You must check whether she has the same mobile you gave her or another, how many SIMs does she have? You must make them do all their shopping in your presence only even if you allow their choice.”
“Alone time at night with TV and mobile surely leads to sin. Don’t forgive any lies of the girl if you have evidence, especially related to her time management.”
(Extracts translated from original, screenshots below)
Bhardwaj says in the introduction of the post that this is a post that is about the identification and prevention of the currently spreading “loveria disease” and later in the post Jain says that every disease has some symptoms and same is the case with the “loveria disease.”
Considering love a disease and referring to it derogatorily and in a trivialising manner indicates the stifling of any freedom of expression and choice by young adults.
It is every citizen’s right to choose who they love and decide to spend their life with. While the government and judiciary is gradually opening up to the possibility of non-hetrosexual relationships too here love itself is being seen as an ailment to be cured. It offers a long list of ridiculous symptoms too like the girl has stopped going to temples and attending Satsangs, or spends a lot of time on the terrace or in the balcony.
The post is addressed to parents, neighbours and community and urges them to be “vigilant” and enforce strict rules about what girls wear, where they go and with whom, their mobile phone usage, their shopping and other day to day activities.
Haryana has one of the highest numbers of crimes by families in the name of honour already and the Khaap Panchayats keep issuing similar diktats from time to time, this seems to be in the same tone and tenor.
The post not only demands complete control on the lives of young girls but also asks the parents to not live as couples and only parents. Huh? It says –
“I have seen many couples whose children are 20 years old and they live like husband-wife and not like m other-father which adversely affects their children. One last suggestion stop allowing young boys and girls separate bedrooms, if it is a girl she should sleep in her mother’s room and a boy should sleep in the father’s room.”
This sounds more like a prison and less like a home where men and women have separate living quarters and must have no interaction. Is this some kind of dystopia where even the bedrooms must be watched and regulated by the government and its officials?
If these are the ladies who are giving these regressive advice, women themselves, who are in an official position that has to work for the upliftment of and empowerment of women, we know now the reason why our country still has women as second citizens.
When will these people be sensitised? And why are people like these governing us?
This post is a reflection of how much work even our institutions need to do on themselves in the areas of gender sensitisation. The lady ironically calls this whole post as “sensitizing” in her last comment on it saying-
“Dear All, I sincerely appreciate the likes/unlikes and comments positive or negative. It shows that this article has indeed somewhere stirred our minds to speak for or against about this sensitive issue in our society. The intention is to create positive dialogue and seek solution by sensitizing more and more from amongst us. Thank You.”
Let’s call this for what it is. Regressive moral policing.
Image source: a still from the movie Sairat
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Pooja Priyamvada is a columnist, professional translator and an online content and Social Media consultant.
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