By Dr. Javed Jamil
It is a strange world of relationships. India is even stranger. While we tend to always think positively about some relationships, we try to search negatives in others. It is argued for centuries that women are the victims of men’s cruelty. But, which men and which women? Men are villains for women only when they are their husbands, not when they are fathers, brothers or sons. They are not ready to demand their rights from the men in the privileged positions. But when it comes to husband, they want even the last drop of his blood. And of course, the most privileged are the men sitting in the big business. They have all the support of the System.
Only recently did I realize this huge difference. In recent times, I made frequent references in my articles and talks about women being denied their rights in parental properties. But I found not even a lukewarm response from the readers or the audience on this issue. At the same time, Triple Talaq continues to haunt the media and social discourses without any let up with Prime Minister Modi and Chief Minister of UP Yogi Adityanath again clamouring for banning it. They refuse to address issues that are much more devastating for women.
If the government is seriously interested in safeguarding the rights of women, one step which it must take regardless of the religious breakup is the realization of their rights in their parents’ properties. Not only Muslims falter in this respect, Hindus do far worse. Despite new laws to make them have their rights, practically hardly any Hindu women get share in their parental properties. A report, “Property: Daughter has share but father has will” in Times of India says: “….there is little data available on the extent to which the amended Section 6 of the HSA conferring the same rights and liabilities on the daughter and the son in the ancestral property has been implemented across the country.
Unlike in the case of RTI and NREGA, there has been no noticeable attempt on the part of the government to spread awareness about the change in property rights. Nor have civil society groups been anywhere as vigilant in monitoring the enforcement of HSA 2005 as they have been about the accrual of benefits from the more high-profile laws of that year.;;;
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that the import of the 2005 amendment is yet to sink in among the intended beneficiaries. Whether the women concerned are still ignorant about their new succession rights or have chosen to ignore them, Hindu ancestral properties have largely remained the preserve of their male counterparts.
“As a study conducted by a feminist group, Partners for Law in Development, put it, “The de facto situation continues to be one where women forfeit these rights to avoid strained family ties.” What is particularly difficult for the daughter is to invoke her entitlement, under the 2005 amendment, to claim partition of an ancestral home even when male heirs from her family are residing there.
“Apart from the lag in the implementation of the 2005 amendment, the Hindu inheritance law is in need of further changes for it to be rid of the remnants of gender discrimination.”
I have tried to assess the situation by talking to some Hindus and to my dismay I found that the transfer of properties to the daughters is almost totally non-existent. Muslims may be having a little better position in this respect but it is only marginally better. Most Muslim women do not get their rights and their properties are usurped with impunity by their brothers. But no woman complains. Instead they are made to feel guilty throughout their lives for the dowry which their fathers and brothers had to arrange for getting them married. Everyone forgets that the amount of dowry is normally nowhere compared to the value of their shares. Moreover, dowry is given to the in-laws while the share in property would remain with women. This share will not only make them economically sound but will enhance their position in the family of their husbands. But I have hardly ever heard any women’s organizations taking to the streets on this issue. While Talaq remains the major issue despite the fact that it hardly affects 2-4 percent of the women, property rights is no issue at all despite the fact that it affects almost every woman whose parents have some property.
When it comes to the men in business, they are given clean chits even for committing the most ignoble crimes against the world of women. When money is involved, every practice becomes acceptable.
The prostitution in India is not only on the rise but is also providing natural habitat to the HIV Virus. A report, titled, “Prostitution in India: The Staggering Numbers And The Stagnant Legality” by Nupur Dogra says:
“Currently, Prostitution in India is a Rs. 40,000 crore annual business. Nobody knows what use this money is put to. This black money further leads to a vicious circle of crimes and thus leads to irreparable damages to the society and economy. According to a survey, there are approximately 10 million sex workers in India out Of which 1, 00,000 are in Mumbai alone, Asia’s largest sex industry centre. There about 300,000 to 500,000 children in sex trade in India, among which Bangalore along with five cities together account for 80 % child prostitutes in the country. This is the extent to which prostitution is prevalent in India.” Source
The official figures recognise only the registered “sex workers” but even that number is staggeringly high. According to a Times of India report,
“In 2007, the Ministry of Women and Child Development reported the presence of over 3 million female sex workers in India, with 35.47 percent of them entering the trade before the age of 18 years. The number of prostitutes rose by 50% between 1997 and 2004.
“There are a whopping 6,88,751 “registered” sex workers in the country and it’s not mandatory for them to have a health certificate on sexually transmitted diseases. Put together, these two pieces of information — revealed by the government in an RTI reply — should send the alarm bells ringing as unprotected paid sex is the main driver of the HIV epidemic in India.
“The reply by the ministry of health and family welfare also reveals that the southern states have the largest number of sex workers, at least on government records. Andhra Pradesh leads the list with more than one lakh registered female sex workers while Karnataka has 79,000. These two states are followed by Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
“Jammu and Kashmir has the least number of registered sex workers — 259.
“Among the metros, Delhi leads the list. Though the capital has only one known red light area, GB Road, there are 37,900 sex workers — more than those in India’s financial capital, Mumbai.”
Not only are the prostitutes women, the trade indirectly affects tens of thousands of other women and their families. More than 300000 people in India have HIV/AIDS. Among them are not only prostitutes themselves but also women who have contacted the disease from their husbands or boyfriends who had contact with the prostitutes. Many others are wives of these patients who are going to be devastated in one way or the other on account of the disease.
But why should Government do anything against prostitution, promiscuity and pornography when banning them would be against the interests of the market. They can only support the agenda of market sponsored feminism, not the true rights of women.
The same applies to the issue of Alcoholism, which is one of the major factors in violence against women and third family and social deprivation. According to T T Ranganathan Clinical Research Foundation, Chennai,
“62.5 million Alcohol users are estimated in India. Due to its large population, India has been identified as the potentially third largest market for alcoholic beverages in the world which has attracted the attention of multi-national liquor companies. According to the report, the market of alcohol has been growing steadily at 6% and is estimated to grow at the rate of 8% per year. alcohol and public health” by Dr Vivek Benegal reports: “Alcohol related problems account for over a fifth of hospital admissions but are under recognized by primary care physicians. Alcohol misuse has been implicated in over 20% of traumatic brain injuries and 60% of all injuries reporting to emergency rooms. It has a disproportionately high association with deliberate self-harm, high-risk sexual behaviour, HIV infection, tuberculosis, oesophageal cancer, liver disease and duodenal ulcer. A study from the state of Karnataka in South India estimated that monetizable direct and indirect costs attributable to people with alcohol dependence alone, was more than 3 times the profits from alcohol taxation and several times more than the annual health budget of that state.”
Alcohol kills not only the drinkers themselves but is also the major factor in accidents, murders, suicides and rapes. A report says, “With India reporting as many as 1.34 lakh fatalities in road accidents every year, a vast 70 per cent of them being due to drunken driving, questions are now being raised on whether the mushrooming growth of liquor vends along the highways is responsible for costing precious lives in an untimely manner.”
Moreover, the overwhelming majority of Indians including Hindus and Muslims want ban on alcohol. Almost all but a few women want ban because again alcohol affects them badly and is responsible for most of the cases of domestic violence and rapes. A Times of India report, entitled, “98% women and 86% men support liquor ban in Kerala” says: “A TOI-IMRB survey conducted in Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi, the state’s leading metros, revealed that 92% of the respondents supported the liquor ban. Gender-wise, 98% women cheered the decision of the Kerala government to phase out alcohol consumption in the state in 10 years, beginning with shutting down bars, while the percentage of yes-sayers among men was 86%.”
If the Government is truly concerned with women and its supporters are practisers of Hindu Dharma, they have no option but to impose Prohibition in the whole country without delay. But as it is more loyal to Market than Dharma, even in case of the status of women, it will follow the Market-driven feminism. The depiction of nakedness and vulgarity in TV Serials and Advertisements has only increased in last few years. They would also not like to put any curbs on sexually provocative materials and dresses because the Market and the Media would not allow it despite galloping rates of rapes in the country.
Let the feminist organizations run campaigns for the full realization of their rights in property and let their solicitors in the political parties support their cause. This will be the test of how genuine their interests are.
[Head of Chair in Islamic Studies & Research, Yenepya University, Mangalore, Dr Javed Jamil is India based thinker, proponent of Applied Islamics and writer with over a dozen books on Islam and scientific and social issues. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org]