The Indian Constitution guarantees six fundamental rights to Indian citizens as follows:
(i) right to equality,
(ii) right to freedom,
(iii) right against exploitation,
(iv) right to freedom of religion,
(v) cultural and educational rights, and
(vi) right to constitutional remedies
Please note that these rights are for ALL Indian citizens. Gender, race, religion and even age, do not make a difference when it comes to these rights. They are the FUNDAMENTAL rights of all Indian Citizens.
The reason I am repeating it over and over again is because some people seemed to have forgotten this recently and might need to reacquaint themselves with the basic core of the Indian Constitution.
When broken down to the basics, the Constitutions treats all citizens as the same. Every aspect of it that in any way makes a distinction among these citizens is not because the Constitution sees them as different, but because they are the ones who are different from each other and the Constitution is trying to give them fair and equal treatment under the law.
Please note, that these fundamental rights include the right to an education. Everyone and anyone who prevents that, by word or deed, is unconstitutional. It can be the people banning girls from studying, the people who employ children and prevent them from going to school – I am sure everyone can think of at least one example of this. Did you know that a few centuries ago it was thought that the more a woman read, the less her husband’s age would be? And this was a belief held by many Hindus. It’s a surprise men aren’t dying out like flies after a HIT spray these days, considering how many have highly educated wives.
I digress. Back to the point in hand, sort of, we are all equal as per Indian law. In fact, there is a whole section devoted to ensuring basic human rights to ‘aliens’ as in foreigners while they are on Indian soil. So, the Constitution even ensures that ‘aliens’ are treated as humans. If actual aliens ever show up, we are prepared. And I am not kidding when I say this.
We are lucky to have a Constitution, no matter how lengthy, which tries to cover everything under the sun. It is a living document – with the use of the judgments of the courts, especially the Supreme Court and the Amendments made by the Parliament – it has done its best to stay up to date with the times. We are lucky, and if do not use it well, then that is on us, not the Constitution or even the Judiciary.
All of this leads to my main point. Since we all equal under the law, and since there is a surprising amount of homogeneity that we have come to expect from the law when it comes to our dealings with it – why should we think it should not extend to personal law?
If there is a property dispute and the people belong to different faiths, they expect to be treated equally. Same if there is a breach of contract. Then why should women (or men) who want a divorce be treated differently just because of their religion? Everyone has heard of how easy it is for Muslim men to divorce their wives, but do you have any idea just how difficult it is for the wife to get rid of a bad husband? And, if she wants to re-marry her husband, she has to first marry another man, sleep with him (consummate the marriage in nicer terms – but why to sugarcoat reality) and then divorce him. Only then can she remarry her husband.
Then, of course, there is the Hindu Act. A marriage is a ‘sacred bond’ as per Hinduism which lasts for seven generations. So the laws governing divorce are really stringent – no matter the reasons for said divorce. But, did anyone give the memo of ‘sacred bond’ to the husband and his family? The Supreme Court recently had to pass a judgment that a daughter-in-law could not be treated like a maid by her in-laws. They had to pass a judgment about this because that is how sad the condition of this ‘sacred bond’ is in our country.
How about equality – if a wife has to live with her in-laws because that is a ‘pious bond between son and parents’ – yet leave her own family for her husband – let’s make marriage illegal? After all, a daughter is the same as a son right? And what of people who only have a daughter(s)? Their daughters leaving them for a husband should definitely be illegal. After all, al offspring should be held liable towards taking care of their family – not just the one gender. And what if that daughter, who is an only child, does not earn? Should it not be mandatory then for her husband to financially take care of her parents? In fact, it should be mandatory for him to treat them as he does (would) his own parents.
Or you know maybe we could have communal housing with the families of the bride and the groom living together. No? If he cannot live with her parents, he has no right to ask her to live with his, especially when they treat her like ‘in laws’ and not a member of the family.
You remember all those movies where the heroine says ‘Is ghar me meri doli aayi thi aur yahan se meri arthi hi jaayegi.’ But frankly, why should one die rather than leave? Life is the most precious thing on this planet. Is a husband mightier than life? In that case, why are there no stories of a husband granting life to his wife? All the stories are about the wife saving the husband – just look at our mythology – every fast possible – a woman keeps for the long life of her husband. Let me know if there is even one time that a husband has to stay hungry for the long life of his wife.
I digress, again. I think the point is that we finally have things going in the right direction. We have people raising questions and not getting killed for it (for the most part). We have people trying to bring about a change. We have a judiciary that is standing up for the people. We even have a government that is cooperating. Let us make full use of it, just in case we lose this chance. Let’s speak up, let us make people hurry, let us help them open the road – one that will eventually lead to us all to possess our fundamental rights in actuality.