The Court Failed To Protect Their Own Female Judge Against S.A.

So where does that leave the commonfolk?

joono
Pop Desified

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This tweet (that’s what we’re still calling it right?) sums up an open letter written by a lady judge from Uttar Pradesh to the Chief Justice of India, who holds the highest position in the Supreme Court of our nation. The letter is not accusatory, it is suicidal. And the way it is worded is even more heartbreaking than can be imagined.

She claims to have been sexually assaulted in open court, by her seniors. And no matter where she looked for justice, she was disappointed. If a woman in court, a woman with connections, a woman who knows how things work, how to ask for justice, who knows the internal and external functionalities of the nation’s system of justice, and most importantly, an educated woman was rendered so helpless, where does it leave any other woman without these privileges? She highlights this bit herself.

“I wish to tell all the working women in India: Learn to live with sexual harassment. It’s the truth of our lives.”

“If any of the women think that you will fight against the system, let me tell you, I couldn’t.”

She had tried everything. From the Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment Act, a complaint to the Chief Justice of Allahabad (the state) High Court and the Administrative Judge, a complaint with the Internal Complaints Committee of the High Court, to the Supreme Court itself, everything failed her. The (justice) system is tightly built against women to the point that even women who are a part of it, feel alienated in times of need. After fighting for justice through her suffering for a whole year and a half, she decided to ask for permission to end her life from the CJI.

I’d like to explain the permission bit. Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code penalizes abetment of suicide. It reads as:

"306. Abetment of Suicide: If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding ten years, and shall also be liable to fine."

(Yet not a death penalty.) (Dark humour, don’t mind me.)

Not that she held herself back. Even in a country where suicide attempts are punishable crime by law, she, as an enforcer of law and order in her letter, admitted to attempting and failing before. Maybe because she failed to do so, she asked the CJI to “dismiss” her life, the same way her pleas for justice were.

“Kindly permit me to end my life in a dignified way. Let my life be: DISMISSED.”

In not succeeding in her attempts and finally resorting to writing to the CJI, she has managed to get the nation’s attention. Although as a citizen living here, I am still unsure if anything is to become of it, this issue has reached a lot of the right people. It was important for us as women to know where we as common civilians stand in the eye of the law. I have very vocally advocated against victim-blaming all my life. The act of asking questions like “What did you do that such a thing happened to you?” has been an utter monstrosity to me, but whenever I find myself in a position of compromise, my internal dialogue poses the exact same questions. “Why am I dressed up?” “Why am I alone?” “Why didn’t I think it through?” etc. etc. etc. And I’ve tried to keep my answers along the lines of “Because it is a free country and I can.” “Because I am an adult woman who doesn’t need to be babysat.” “Because I couldn’t possibly have.” respectively. But the more I see such cases, I feel the need to justify my choices in my answers. “I know right, what was I thinking anyway.” “I should’ve brought my boyfriend along.” “I should’ve known better,” respectively. I realize that this is because I desperately want to be in control of my situation. After all, if it isn’t under my control, there is no other way to ensure my safety. Because if I am not to blame, he is. And if he is, he needs to pay for it. But who will make him pay? Not the justice system. Either I take things into my own hands and make the mission of my entire existence revenge, or easier, blame myself and be careful next time I walk out “asking for it.”

This is no longer an issue of internalized misogyny, but rather a part of the systematic misogyny that has vandalized women’s and victims’ through and through. Feminists can work all they want, but the efforts aren’t going anywhere. It is more external than internal and it is high time someone was held accountable. And as long as justice is a joke, victims will take the bullet.

India is home to over 186 million illiterate women and by illiterate I mean, those who cannot even read or write in any language. So roughly 186 million women clearly cannot even imagine asking for justice. Among the literates, are those who are under societal pressure, those who cannot afford the legal fees, those who are in their 3rd year of travelling up and down to court for one meeting, one hearing, one signature- closer to giving up than to justice, those on whom the legal proceedings have become more than anything, a liability and the minority of those who, like this judge, know every bit, are doing every bit, but the system is busy protecting the perpetrator. In all of this, how do I, or any victim for that matter, trust the judicial system at all?

The Law that she was supposed to protect, has wounded her.

In a country where no one trusts the justice system, there is bound to be no justice. Because victims would rather be silent than ask for justice. Victims would rather blame themselves than ask for justice. And every victim can’t and won’t react this way. Some will take matters into their own hands and become the perpetrators. And can we really blame them? Such a system doesn’t just fail at protecting victims but also gives birth to criminals. A country is better off without it.

Justice wouldn’t be such a complicated, subjective issue if it were as just and as swift as it needs to be. Let’s hope the victim gets justice. Let her seniors, who are also part of the justice system, have justice served to them, in prison.

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joono
Pop Desified

With everything going on in my mind, writing is the only way to keep track of it ^^