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A free human being?

  • Published at 07:05 pm November 14th, 2018
Women
Free birds? BIGSTOCK

Let’s not abuse the laws meant to protect women

“I am no bird, and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will,” said a famous quote by Charlotte Bronte where she beautifully described her perception of a woman. But was she right? Can a woman speak her mind and do things as she wills even in these modern times? 

A woman develops in beautiful forms as she passes from one stage to another. She starts as a beloved daughter, a kind sister, and later as a loving wife, caring daughter-in-law, best mother, and finally as an angelic grandmother. 

While displaying these different roles, a girl transforms herself into a woman carrying values, ethics, and works with instincts in her lifetime to love, care, and overcome obstacles that come her way. 

And as we celebrate Women’s Day every year on March 8, this does not limit or confine us to that day only, but empowers all women that all the other days of the year also belong to her to stand out and live her life to the fullest.

In Bangladesh, we speak of different dilemmas faced by women in every step, starting from eve-teasing, molestation, rape, acid attacks, trafficking, kidnapping, but her issues are not only limited to these aspects. 

She is taught to secretly hide her feelings, accept a lot of unwanted things, and accept silently what is not right. She makes sacrifices, submits herself totally, and adjusts as demanded by various situations. 

The point I am trying to make here is: There are laws such as “Prevention of Women and Children Repression Act 2000” to take care of the issues I discussed before, but deep-seated social problems cannot be combated with these laws alone. 

We need to be socially aware, teach our children to respect women, accept for women for how they are, and not discriminate against them or force them into anything.

The other side of the coin

In the 21st century, when everyone is aware of their rights, there are also women who are making wrong use of the laws and social norms.

For instance, it has been observed, some women use the Prevention of Women and Children Repression Act as a tool to file false cases for harassment. False general diaries are also lodged in the police station.

There have been instances where men and women were involved in physical relations. For example: When the man did not want to marry the woman, the woman filed a false rape case. Alternatively, a man raping a woman later forced her to marry him to avoid legal hassles, or to withdraw cases filed against him. 

And as we all know, women in our country who have been raped or gang-raped, are looked down upon, and society seems not to accept them. Not only rape victims -- society or family members refuse to look at acid victims.  

The physical pain, coupled with the mental torture, leaves these women helpless. Instead of being carefully nurtured, taken care of, being loved, these women are degraded morally and socially.

These laws and social values are there not to harm others, but to protect them when required, and hence should not be misused.

In recent years, we have seen a rise in the divorce rates, both from the husband’s side as well as from the wife’s side. It is to be noted here that as per Muslim marriage and divorce rules, irrespective of whoever divorces, the wife is entitled to her dower money. Many men think that if they call for a divorce, they need to pay the dower money, and thus force their wives to divorce instead.

In the case of custody of the child, sometimes the father is reluctant to pay the mother for the costs of raising the child/children, and it becomes a big hardship for a divorced woman who is not stable financially, and finds a tough time raising the children if the custody is not taken up by the father.

Martin Luther King Jr said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” -- the case of discrimination against women is no different. And the creator has made man and woman, and has bestowed rights individually, and one complements the other and one completes the other. 

The most important thing is that we are all human beings, and women have stood and have held their heads high in every sphere -- in scientific, social, political, legal, and other fields.

Charlotte Bronte’s quote, though centuries old, is far from reality. Women are still unable exercise their free will. It’s up to us to stand up for our rights, and learn about and spread the laws which would help empower us.  

But at the same time, we also have to be responsible not to harass innocent people using the very laws which exist to protect women. 

Sabrina Zarin is Partner at FM Associates and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.