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Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors, a web series which raises important questions about consent and abuse, needs to be applauded for its efforts despite its shortcomings.
The second season of Criminal Justice came out last week on Disney+ Hotstar.
The show is presented as a crime thriller where a wife (Anuradha Chandra) murders her husband (Bikram Chandra), which seemingly appears to be a cold-blooded murder in her own selfish interests. But what seems to a simple open-and-shut case turns out to be a rather convoluted one.
Throughout the course of the case, many aspects of their married life are explored. While most people saw their household from outside and assumed that they had a beautiful family life, the reality was revealed to be far from this. In the final episode, it is revealed that Bikram frequently assaults and rapes her as a punishment for her mental health issues.
The case was not just about the heinous act but also about the constant oppression that Anuradha faced at the hands of her husband. He deliberately cut her ties from her father and in-laws, and convinced everyone that she was a manipulative person who did not want to maintain relations. He monitored every inch of her existence and made her feel like a prisoner in her own house.
Other than the main trial, the show also explores numerous families where women are constantly disrespected and abused. Be it the defence attorney Nikhat’s mother who has accepted her husband’s second wife just to have him in her life, or Inspector Gauri Pradhan who is constantly undermined by her husband Inspector S. I. Pradhan because he wants her to focus on their family life instead of her police duties.
These are stories that we see in everyday life. Women in India face such disrespect and humiliation behind close doors every day, to the extent that they accept it as their fate. Most women never raise their voice against such abuse because they fail to even recognise this as abuse. Since childhood, they have seen their fathers and elders behave in similar ways, so for them, this constant misconduct becomes a part of their life.
Lawyer Madhav Mishra, who is the defence attorney for Anuradha, fights for her dignity in court but at home, he too does not give his wife the respect and status that she deserves. These breadcrumbs are spread throughout the series to remind us of the injustices that happen all around us.
The show is centred around the issue of marital rape and how it can be detrimental to a woman’s life.
Anuradha is regularly harassed by her husband which makes her feel less of a human. In her final statement, she admits to feeling ashamed of the acts that he committed. She felt humiliated and helpless every time he would abuse her and this made her vulnerable and disturbed.
India is one of the 36 countries where marital rape has not been criminalised. The argument given is that the sanctity of marriage will get tainted if such laws are implemented. But this is far from the truth. Marriage should not be the licence to sex. Just because a woman is married to a man does not make him entitled to sexual pleasures at his own will.
Marital rape is a common practice in this country because most people do not understand that this is wrong and disrespectful. And even when they do, there is no way for them to get justice. This puts women in a difficult position and makes them helpless in their own houses. For women to be empowered, they should be given absolute control of their bodies and married or not, rape means rape.
This web series is in no way a perfect one. They screenplay fails to hold attention in several episodes. But the intention of the creators is in the right place. They are successful in telling a gripping story of women who face varying degrees of abuse and unjust behavior from their husbands and society. The expectation for women to cover every action of their spouse makes them helpless.
According to me, one of the best moment was when Nikhat’s mother finally decides get divorced after years of being in a futile relationship with a man who had left her for another woman. In the last episode when Inspector Gauri finally stands up to her husband after she discovers that she is pregnant and she does not wish to raise her child in such an environment.
When a reputed lawyer Mandira is told by the prosecutor that they will win the murder trial because marital rape is not a crime in India. She replies with, “Bataur ek vakeel aapko nhi lgta ki kaanoon sirf purshon ki suraksha ke liye nhi bana hai?” (As a lawyer, don’t you think that laws are not made only for protecting men?) But the sad reality is that some laws till date only serve the purpose of protecting men.
My takeaway from this series is that there are many incidents that happen behind closed doors. Reports indicate that around 98% of crimes that happen against women by family members remains unsaid. We need to be aware of the things happening around us and raise a voice if we see something like this even though it is not happening in our house.
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