“No one can compel a woman to love.” – Supreme Court of India

On 28 April, 2017, the Supreme Court of India dropped the mic, in a stellar performance, on all debates pertaining to the friendzone, road-side romeos and eve-teasing.  Guys, you can curl up in a corner and cry all you want over unrequited love, but the Big Bad Boss of Courts, deeply pained by the plight of young woman forced to end her life at the behest of her ex, has declared that the right to live with dignity is a woman’s fundamental right. She has the same right to her own space as a man does. Moreover, she has the right to choose who to love. It speaks much about the deplorable depravity of the men of our society that this needed to be recognized and laid down by a court of law.

The Judgment in itself is a departure from routine. Instead of beginning with a dour relaying of facts, viz.,what the applicant has pleaded for and the opposition raised by the respondent, the Judgment, very sensitively, provides the background leading up to a young woman’s death showcasing why it is wrong at so many levels and, hence, is a major cause of concern. This sensitive handling has been shown all throughout the ruling, yet, I believe the beginning deserves a special mention and, thus, has been reproduced as follows:

“The present appeal, by special leave, depicts the sorrowful story of a young girl, in the middle of her teens, falling in love with the accused-appellant and driven by the highest degree of youthful fixation, elopes with him, definitely in complete trust, and after the accused is booked for the offences punishable under Sections 363, 366 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), she stands behind him like a colossus determined to support which consequently leads to his acquittal. In all possibility, she might have realized that the accused should not be punished, for she was also equally at fault. Be that as it may, as per the prosecution version, he was extended the benefit of acquittal.
The sad story gets into a new and different beginning. The accused feels that he has been prosecuted due to the prosecutrix and gets obsessed with idea of threatening the girl and that continues and eventually eve-teasing becomes a matter of routine. Here, as the exposition of the prosecution uncurtains, a situation is created by the accused which becomes insufferable, where the young girl feels unassured and realizes that she could no more live in peace. The feeling gets embedded and the helpless situation compels her to think that the life is not worth living. Resultantly, she pours kerosene on her body and puts herself ablaze but death does not visit instantly and that is how she was taken to a nearby hospital, where in due course of investigation, her dying declaration is recorded, but she ultimately succumbs to her injuries and the “prana” leaves the body and she becomes a “body” – a dead one.”

For all men out there who think their gender bestows upon them the birthright of not taking no for an answer and merely relegating it to the friendzone, I would like to draw your attention to the following lines of the Judgment:

“One is compelled to think and constrained to deliberate why the women in this country cannot be allowed to live in peace and lead a life that is empowered with a dignity and freedom. It has to be kept in mind that she has a right to life and entitled to love according to her choice. She has an individual choice which has been legally recognized. It has to be socially respected. No one can compel a woman to love. She has the absolute right to reject.”

For all the men who think their gender gives them the god given right to wolf-whistle, leer and comment on every female on the road, it would be my immense honour to present the following lines of the Judgment to you:

“We are at pains to state that in a civilized society eve-teasing is causing harassment to women in educational institutions, public places, parks, railways stations and other public places which only go to show that requisite sense of respect for women has not been socially cultivated. A woman has her own space as a man has. She enjoys as much equality under Article 14 of the Constitution as a man does. The right to live with dignity as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution cannot be violated by indulging in obnoxious act of eve-teasing. It affects the fundamental concept of gender sensitivity and justice and the rights of a woman under Article 14 of the Constitution. That apart it creates an incurable dent in the right of a woman which she has under Article 15 of the Constitution.”

On a concluding note, the Supreme Court stated that in a civilized society, there is no room for male chauvinism. Furthermore, a man should not put his own ego or, for that matter, masculinity on a pedestal and abandon the concept of civility.
All noble sentiments which, if understood by the men of our nation, would render the establishment of things akin to the Anti-Romeo Squad in Uttar Pradesh quite redundant.
The only problem is that this judgment comes a little too late to sound the voice of reason to ears that have already been deafened by virtue of being raised in this society. I just hope not many more ladies have to die before we begin to raise our men right.