‘Shameful that incidents of crime against women happening in the land of Ramayana’

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New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) In its order acquitting journalist Priya Ramani of charges of defamation in a case filed by former Union Minister M.J. Akbar, a Delhi court said on Wednesday that it is shameful that incidents of crime and violence against women are happening in a country where mega epics such as ‘Mahabarata’ and ‘Ramayana’ were written around the theme of respect for women.
“The victim of sexual ¬abuse not even speaks a word about the abuse for many years because sometimes she herself has no idea that she is a victim of abuse. The victim may keep believing that she is at fault and may live with that shame for years or for decades,” the court said in its order.
Ramani had accused Akbar of sexual misconduct in 2018.
“Most of the women who suffer abuse do not speak up about it or against it for the simple reason ‘the shame’ or the social stigma attached with sexual¬ harassment and abuse. The sexual abuse, if committed against woman, takes away her dignity and her self-confidence,” the court said.
“The woman cannot be punished for raising voice against sexual ¬abuse on the pretext of criminal complaint of defamation as the right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of the right of life and dignity of woman as guaranteed in the Indian Constitution under Article 21 and right of equality before law and equal protection of law as guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution,” the court observed.
The court in its order cited epics like Ramayana. “It is shameful that incidents of crime and violence against women are happening in the country where mega epics such as ‘Mahabarata’ and ‘Ramayana’ were written around the theme of respect for women.
“In Balyamiki Ramayana, the reference of great respect is found. When Prince Laxman was asked to describe about Princesses Sita, he answered that he remembers only her feet as he had never looked beyond that,” the court observed.
“The Indian women are capable, pave the way for them to excel, they only require freedom and equality. The ‘glass ceiling’ will not prevent the Indian women as a road block for their advancement in the society, if equal opportunity and social protection are given to them,” the court added.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement in 2018, Ramani had made an allegation of sexual harassment against Akbar. Pursuant to this, he filed a criminal defamation case against her and resigned as the Union Minister. The trial began in 2019 and went on for almost two years.
In 2017, Ramani wrote an article for the ‘Vogue’ where she described her ordeal of being sexually harassed by a former boss during her job interview for his publication. One year later, she revealed that the person alluded to as harasser in her article was Akbar.
The judgement in the case is important as it sets a precedent for similar cases which arose from the discourse-changing #MeToo movement.

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