‘Woman’ – what do you think this word means? While it is a shameful thing that the word is associated repeatedly with submission, abuse & discrimination – in reality the word stands for dignity, beauty and self respect. Read the stories of countless women who suffer in silence, today. Let’s learn more about ‘consent’.
Remember the tale of Ramayana? While the end of the beautiful epic is not what all women would crave for but it is an indisputable fact that Sita is as exemplary as Ram. If there is one thing that we need to learn from her, then it is dignity.
Here are three stories of women of the 21st century – the stories that every woman would relate to.
She had just moved to the city of Mumbai to chase her dreams of becoming a journalist. Her parents came from a very open family who did not believe in imposing restrictions on women. She was well-educated, able and beautiful. She loved reading books that spiked her general knowledge.
That day, was the first day of the third month at her new job. Even though her pay package wasn’t that great, the thrill of working at such a major publication was more than enough to satiate her soul.
That day was when her colleague, Raj, was throwing a party as he was leaving Mumbai for Delhi. Raj had always shown interest in Maithili but her heart was only in her work. She had sometimes politely and the other times firmly rejected his advances but that guy refused to give up.
She decided to go to his party that night to end things with him on a good note and because she felt that she need a break from the routine of her life. But this – she did not know then – was one of the gravest mistakes of her life.
By the time she and her friends got to a posh bar in SoBo, Raj was drunk. He could barely stand, let alone do anything else. Maithili hesitated. The minute Raj saw her, he rushed towards her and gave her a tight hug, which Maithili could not get out of. She struggled and screamed, “Let go of me!” But her screams were muffled by the sound of loud music in the background.
She pushed him hard and he fell on the floor. Infuriated, Raj got up and held her from her waist, touching her inappropriately, calling her names that she had never heard in her life. He molested her.
People at the bar intervened and her friends took her home. But what after that? The rumour mill had began running. People said that Maithili had worn too short a dress and made provocative gestures at Raj. Soon, this began a case of character assassination, not molestation. She considered leaving her job and going back home. Her ‘friends’ asked her to forget about it. But how could she?
Then one fine day, she mustered up the courage to file a complaint. What ensued after, is something we all know. Endless waiting, humiliation, stress and sleepless nights. What happened to Raj? Nothing.
The streets of Kamathipura were filled with men smelling of tobacco and smoke. Some of them stinked of alcohol and prided over having pockets full of money – money that was no longer valid after November 8,2016 in India. Those 500 & 1000 notes that looked as abandoned as the women lying half-dead in the creaking cots in the ‘kholis’. Demonetisation was for every part of the country except the red light areas – they were either paid in the discontinued notes or not paid at all. The old notes went into the accounts of the pimp as most women there didn’t know how to operate a bank account. But, Janaki was educated. She had completed her twelfth grade when her lover had sold her off.
She would accumulate all the cash from the women who worked with her and deposit it into her account, often sneaking out in the day in disguise. Thus, she was happy she was of some use to her ‘family’ in Kamathipura. But that happiness was not to last long. As she lay on her small bed that evening, she revisited the nightmare she had lived the previous night.
A man completely drunk had rushed into her room – the pimp had come running behind him. The man looked angrily at her and then at the pimp and then took out a pink note of ?1000 and threw it at the pimp’s face. Janaki was caught off guard – she was not to entertain customer that day as she was suffering from fever and weakness. “No! Go out! No!” She screamed helplessly as the man finished his business and left leaving her wounded and violated. Her no made no difference. She was raped, once again.
‘A prostitute has no consent. Men pay them for sex.’ This is a widely believed concept in the society. People think a prostitute, is a thing not a human!
Vaidehi was expecting a child in six months, the child was her only source of happiness. She had been married to Ramesh for two years now and those two years were something she never wanted to remember.
She lay down in her bed, dreaming about her baby and feeling it kick her stomach from the inside. It had been ages since she smiled. That life inside her body, made her smile. Just then she heard the sound of the door unlocking. It was eleven in the night and Ramesh had come home. She fidgeted with the light switch and turned it off, pretending that she was asleep. She didn’t know why she felt afraid of her own husband. Sweat dropped down her temples.
The door of the bedroom opened and the light turned on. “I know you are awake”, screamed Ramesh. She didn’t answer. He walked towards her side of the bed and shook her. Vaidehi opened her eyes.. Ramesh smiled and threw a packet at her. “Wear this and come out. Move, fast.” She began shivering with fear and in a feeble voice she mumbled, “No…not today, I am tired. My back is aching terribly…”
Ramesh who smelled of expensive cologne and clothed fake sophistication to fit into the role of the CEO of a company, shed it all as soon as he heard her protest. “How dare you? You are alive because of me. If I stop feeding you, you will die! No one will take care of you. You live on my money. Who gives you these expensive clothes? Get up at once. Wear it before I loose my temper…”
“Please no….please Ramesh not today…” She begged. Her fears were now manifesting – what had happened for years was to happen again. He pulled his belt and thrashed her till she almost fainted and then he turned off the lights, silenced her screams and fulfilled his desire that sucked the life out of her. Whom would she complain to against her own husband? Was marriage a license to rape?
LEGAL AND SOCIAL CONSENT
The above two incidents are not entirely imaginary – they happen in our society rampantly. We hear a lot of about rapes – 92 women are raped in India everyday – but marital rape and rape on prostitutes in never reported. In State of Maharashtra v Prakash & Another, the court held that even in the case of prostitutes, consent is essential. Section 13 of The Indian Contract Act, 1872 defines consent as:
“Two are more persons are said to consent when they agree with the same thing in the same sense .”
SAME THING IN THE SAME SENSE. Vaidehi and Janaki agreed for sex with consent not rape. Right after Nirbhaya rape case when the rape law was amended it was recommended to criminalize marital rape but that did not go down well with those elements of the society who do not believe in equality. The Indian law is tilted in the favour of victims, who can come up and report a violation of their dignity even against their own husband. Wives, who do not have protection due to non-criminalisation of marital rape can claim protection under Section 498 (a) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
The Verma Report highlights when there is deemed to be no consent:
1. When consent is obtained by threats to the safety of a third party,
2. Where the victim is mistaken to the identity of her husband,
3. Where there is a lack of conscious mind, or
4. When the victim is under 16 years old.
It also states that consent cannot be presumed simply because there is a marriage between two parties and that simply because the victim does not resist the rape it cannot amount to her consent.
No Means No!
All of this boils down to one simple thing – consent has to be communicated CLEARLY. It is a widely accepted belief in the society that women mean a yes when they say a no. That is utter nonsense – a woman is a human with a mind capable of speaking exactly what it feels – a NO MEANS NO and a yes would mean a yes. She is not someone’s property or right to claim, she is a being not a thing.
When we speak of women, we are not forgetting the fact that men too can be victims. There are instances of homosexual rape where one man is left helpless due to the act of another. There are also instances of women abusing men – although lesser in frequency but existent. The law is not gender-specific. A citizen of India, irrespective of their gender has the right to consent and the right to claim relief from the courts of law during it’s violation.
If a person consents to sex on a Thursday and does not consent to it on a Tuesday – it would amount to rape. Consent is not perpetual, it is objective, specific and momentary. A person once consenting to sex with his or her lover in 2015, does not necessarily consent to sex in 2016 simply because he/she once consented. SAME THING – SAME SENSE – SAME TIME amounts to CONSENT.
In our attempt to spread awareness about consent and rights, we also urge you to report crimes to the police and not suffer in silence. Because, it is the silence that gives strength to offenders, it is your submission that makes them powerful. Understand that you have to consent, your voice is important. Raise it!
Article first appeared on Knowlex.
Pictures are for representational purposes only.