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Madras HC’s latest ruling finally dispels the myth that a woman and a man in a locked room need not be engaging in sexual activities!
The Madras High Court recently gave a landmark judgement where it upended the wide belief that any relationship between a man and a woman has to have sexual undertones. According to a report in The Hindu, the HC ruled that the mere presence of a man and a woman behind closed doors doesn’t imply that they may be engaged in sexual activities.
This was in context to the dismissal of the writ petitioner from the police force in 1998 when he and a female colleague were found in his apartment. When others came in, the female constable was seen standing in the kitchen and there was no indication of any sexual liaison.
The Madras HC set the record straight that illogical and harmful social constructs do not have any bearing on the law. After the ruling, the petitioner would be entitled to all service benefits that he was being denied for this case.
That a man and a woman cannot merely be friends is a stereotype that is deeply entrenched in our societal consciousness. Right from childhood, when girls and boys befriend each other, parents are found to be conversationally joking about the kids falling in love. Often even indulging in match-making. This reeks of compulsory heterosexuality and gender roles.
This sentiment is carried forward in school, too. In 2015, the Kerala Education Minister made public how he disapproves of girls and boys sharing the same benches in schools. He supported segregation of the students based on their gender, as do many other politicians and even parents.
It implies heterosexual men and heterosexual women cannot be allowed to be friends, or simply cannot be friends. This begs the question as to what happens to queer women. Does it mean that lesbians would not have female/feminine friends and bisexual or pansexual women would have no friends?
At the root of this inane conception that refuses to acknowledge men and women as platonic buddies are gender roles and heteronormativity. This happens when we over-sexualise women and deflate their identities to their sex organs. Rigid traditional gender roles dictate that it is natural for the heterosexual man to be possessive of the women around them and to objectify other women.
This mentality is reflected in popular media, as well. Since the movie ‘When Harry Met Sally’ posed the question if men and women can be friends, Bollywood has taken it up very emphatically.
We find Shah Rukh Khan’s Rahul in ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ discover that he has fallen for his best friend from college Anjali (once she became traditionally feminine, that is). From ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’ to ‘Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani,’ friends of opposite sex always end up developing romantic inclinations for each other.
But it was most definitively spelt out in Maine Pyar Kiya. The most absurd dialogue was delivered by Mohnish Bahl, “Ek ladka aur ladka kabhi dost nahi ho sakte.” (A girl and a boy can never be friends). And since then, generations have been made to gobble this up as a fact.
This insistence on scrutinising every relationship between every heterosexual man and woman inhibit them from forming meaningful relationships. In this social context, refusing to institutionalise this mentality by the Madras High court is setting the right precedent.
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Maine Pyaar Kiya
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An undergraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. Describes herself as an intersectional
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