Our politicians suffer from foot-in-mouth disease
By Soli J Sorabjee
13th October 2012 11:56 PM
Politicians’ Occupational Disease: The propensity of politicians to put their foot in mouth is appalling. Apparently, it is an occupational disease. Dharamveer Goyat, a Haryana politician, takes the cake. According to him, 90 per cent of the rape cases in Haryana are consensual because the girl and boy concerned had known each other before the rape. Goyat’s ignorance of rape as defined in the Indian Penal Code is pathetic. Besides, where did he get the magic figure of 90 per cent? Disciplinary proceedings against him by his party are reported to be in the offing. Rahul Gandhi has claimed that seven out of 10 youth in Punjab take to drugs. There is a drug problem in Punjab. However, one is perplexed about the figure of seven in Rahul’s statement. Is it based on some cogent material or is it sheer youthful exuberance? Rape and gang-rape can be a devastating experience for a young girl who is a victim of the brutal assault. There has been a spate of rape incidents in Haryana which require initiation of urgent remedial and punitive measures. Instead, the panacea offered by former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala is ludicrous. According to him, the marriage age limit of young girls should be reduced to 15, their parents should get them married young, and then providentially rapes will cease. Again, why the magic figure of 15 for Chautala’s sovereign remedy? Experience shows that marital status is not a guarantee against rape or an essential preventive measure to combat this crime because married women are frequently the victims of rape. For example, a newly married 19-year-old woman was abducted and raped by four men in Gohana town near Sonepat; a 30-year-old married woman from a backward community was gang-raped at gunpoint by three men in Jind district while her family members were held hostage and the crime was videotaped. What is perturbing is the mindset manifested by such statements. They exhibit utter insensitivity to the profound human issues involved. They also disclose a gender bias against women. Rape is not considered a serious enough issue for the State to expend its time and energy in combating this horrible crime. Probably, the real reason is the reluctance to challenge the Khap panchayats frontally on rape and marriage issues for fear of losing their electoral support.
Next is the statement by Union Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal during a kavi sammelan (gathering of poets) at K K Girl’s College in Kanpur that “a new victory and new marriage have their own importance. With time, memories of victory dim. With time, wives lose their charm, there’s no enjoyment”. The inevitable consequence was that women activists as well as NGOs demonstrated outside his house and burnt his effigies, and his photographs were garlanded with shoes. The National Commission of Women slammed Jaiswal for his comment and sought an apology. Jaiswal, already embroiled in the Coalgate affair, said in his sheepish defence that his statement was made in a lighter vein and “there is humour and satire in a kavi sammelan” and his offending statement should be viewed in that context. He disavowed any intention of hurting women’s sentiments and magnanimously apologised if he had done so. People expect better from their representatives who enact laws for the nation and are tasked with good governance. Is it too much to expect that they think before the speak?
Innovative Bail Order: Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan granted conditional bail to a brothel owner Neelam. The condition is that she must visit the Imam of Zarghuni mosque in Hayatabad area of Peshawar every day for a month and spend an hour a day at the mosque to repent for her sins. This is an innovative example of justice tempered with religion. One, however, wonders who will monitor compliance with the court’s bail condition and determine that Neelam’s repentance for her sins is genuine.
Sorabjee is a former Attorney General of India
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