I read it somewhere, Shilpa Shetty said, any man willing to date her should first seek her father’s permission.

Really? Why Ms Shetty? Because you are your father’s property? Or would ‘chattel’ be more appropriate word? And what about seeking your mother’s permission? Oh I forgot, your mother was just the baby dispenser and is devoid of all her role, responsibilities and rights vis-à-vis you once she has dispensed the baby.

If you thought I am just being over cynical to imply that daughters are chattel, you are wrong. That’s what the law believes in. We have Section 497 of Indian Penal Code, which defines the crime of ‘Adultery’ in such a way that the crime can only be committed by a man against another man. The exact words of the section are:

“Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case the wife shall be punishable as an abettor.”

The section lays down provisions for man ‘A’ to file criminal charges against man ‘B’ for having seduced and thereafter slept with A’s wife. There are three presumptions in this law.

  1. That A’s wife probably cannot voluntarily have sex with B, she must have been seduced by B, which in effect means women don’t have sexual desires and it’s only men who drag them into it. What crap.
  2. That A’s wife is actually A’s chattel, which have been manhandled, trespassed, messed with by B and therefore A has the right to get B punished.
  3. If the relationship happened with the consent of the husband, then there is no crime. Which husband gives permission to other men to have sex with his wife? When the husband rents her out for price; gets her raped and make porn films; humiliates her and seek voyeuristic pleasure etc in all such case a husband may “allow” other men to have sex with his wife, but Adultery not committed because he gave “consent” to the act. The woman’s consent is not even mentioned anywhere in the section 497, her consent has no role.

If however A, whose docile wife lay still on her empty bed while he was away on an official tour, slept with an unmarried woman he met through Orkut, no crime of adultery is committed. Simply because this unmarried woman is a chattel with no owner, so anybody can mess with her.

Of course she would have an owner if she is below 18, her father being her ‘natural’ guardian according to law. Another of the many crude jokes played by our laws on womanhood, how is the father the ‘natural’ guardian of a child, when, he cannot even be sure if the children are actually the results of his own sperms or not, unless they go for a DNA test? Isn’t it only natural to call the person who ‘naturally’ bore the child in her womb the ‘natural’ guardian?

Coming back to the girl who let’s assume is 17 year and 360 days old and her father is still the natural guardian. Now, the father too gets to exercise a lot of serious rights over his property. Assume she has eloped with her boyfriend one day, the law gives daddy the right to get his daughter’s 18 year old boy friend arrested on charges of kidnapping and abduction. Straight away arrest, no bail, no warrant. And the guy can make no arguments, the girl’s consent just doesn’t matter.

But daddy’s insecurity begins the moment girl has completed 18 years. That explains all daddy’s eagerness to get daughter’s married off as soon as she is 18 at times even before that.

Point is we woman cannot be on our own, we are to be passed from one safe custody to another, ownership changes from one man to another, father to brother to husband to son. How safe are those custodians is anybody’s guess.

Should Shilpa really reaffirm these shameful traditions. Doesn’t she and all of us have a greater role to play?

Oh educated Indian woman.
Living life on your own terms
Earning thousands to millions
Do you realize
Sheer luck is what kept you alive?
Luck that they didn’t kill you in your mother’s womb.
Oh woman it’s for that luck that I beg you
Celebrate womanhood more than anything else
Because not daughter or wife
Not sister or mother
You are a woman first.

You have the power to make a change so go ahead, represent the causes of those who are not as lucky as you are.