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If Hadiya Had Been a Man

Public discourse has consistently skirted around the core issues of gender equality and justice.


From Shah Bano and Roop Kanwar in the 1980s to Hadiya three decades later, some things never seem to change: the public debate about these women’s private lives is less about them as individuals and their rights as citizens, and more about their families and communities, about religion and politics, tradition and culture.

In 1985, an elderly, indigent, deserted and later divorced woman’s modest quest for a paltry amount as maintenance from her lawyer husband was turned into a political hot potato concerning religious freedom, identity and jurisprudence. In 1987, the gruesome death of an 18-year-old on the funeral pyre of her husband of just seven months was seized upon by her community as an opportunity to assert political power on the back of a long outlawed practice. And now in 2017, with Hadiya, a young but undeniably adult woman’s constitutionally guaranteed freedom of conscience and her right to choose a life partner have become entangled in politically charged anxieties about religious radicalism, terrorism and national security. At the heart of each of these instances is the question of women’s status and rights as citizens. But the public discourse skirts around the core issues of gender equality and justice.

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Updated On : 11th Dec, 2017


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