Stating that guardians of law should not become guardians of women's morality and behaviour, rights groups, writers, activists and academicians have penned an open letter to Justice Krishna S Dixit of Karnataka High Court, criticizing some of his remarks in an order granting bail to an accused in a rape case.
While granting bail, the order termed the complainant's claim of having slept "after the perpetration of the act because she was tired" as "unbecoming of an Indian woman".
"That is not the way our women react when they are ravished," the order stated after making statements related to the conduct of the woman in accompanying the accused to a hotel and not objecting to have "drink with the accused".,
Taking strong exception to these remarks, the letter stated that "instead of looking at the legal merits of granting bail, a woman's conduct has been judged on moralistic and misogynistic grounds that have nothing to do with the law".
"By doing so we believe that the Order has totally violated constitutional values apart from betraying a nineteenth century Victorian morality that has no place in these times", said the letter backed by organizations such as Stree Jagruthi Samithi, Mahila Munnade, Gamana Mahila Samuha, AIPWA (All India Progressive Women's Association), Sadhana Mahila Sangha, PUCL Karnataka, AIPF, AICCTU, Swaraj Abhiyan etc.
Clarifying that they are not opposed to granting bail to accused in accordance with law, the activists stated that their objection was with respect to the moralistic observations in the order "betraying a nineteenth century Victorian morality that has no place in these times".
"...using term like "ravished" instead of the legal term "sexual assault", blaming the woman for the delay in filing her complaint, although she did it the next morning and casting aspersions on the character of the woman on account of her behavior is part of a continuing historical narrative which has legitimised different forms of violence be it domestic, sexual or economic and granted social if not legal impunity to the perpetrators of this violence", added the letter, endorsed by individuals such as famous historian-author Ramchandra Guha and several others.
The letter states that the order reminded of the SC observations in the infamous "Mathura case" of 1979, and that it reflected the "deeply patriarchal mindsets of the judge".
"It is indeed a matter of shame that such an order coming from within the portals of the Karnataka High Court sets the Indian judiciary and the struggle of women's rights movements back by decades", said the letter.
The order also reflects the same patriarchal, classist and casteist mindset that wrote the Rameeza Bi and Bhanwari Devi judgements in the eighties and nineties, the letter added.
"We do not accept that guardians of law and order and the Constitution become guardians of women's morality and behaviour, claiming us as "our women" violating our own fundamental right to choose and express our emotions, thoughts, anxieties, fears, opinions in our own way and of our own volition. We will not accept that we are told time and again that "we ask for it" every time we choose to protest the violation of our bodies and our persona. We do not accept victim blaming and victim shaming when we are "punished" for "unladylike" behavior like socialising with men, being out late at night or drinking alcohol. And we can not accept when judicial officers abandon their role as Judges with constitutional obligation and responsibilities but instead express opinions that justify the worst of patriarchal norms and practices", the activists urged.
They urged the judge to expunge the "toxic and misogynistic statements from the order" and deliver one that is based on law and not on prejudice.
"We call upon you to prove that the judiciary infact does stand by the women and all concerned citizens of India in their struggle to build a more equitable, just and democratic society that shows zero tolerance to violence against women and all marginalised genders", they said.
Click here to download letter