Women suffer in marriages, why talk about beating: Judge #Vaw #Gender #Justice


Hon'ble Dr. Justice k.Bhakthavatsala

Maneesh Chhibber : Indian Express, New Delhi, Wed Sep 05 2012,

On August 9, during the hearing of a matrimonial dispute, Karnataka High Court Judge K Bhaktavatsala told a young woman lawyer that she was unfit to argue the matter since she was unmarried. “Family matters should be argued only by married people, not spinsters. You should only watch. Bachelors and spinsters watching family court proceedings will start thinking if there is any need to marry at all. Marriage is not like a public transport system. You better get married and you will get very good experience to argue such cases,” he advised her.

Last week, hearing a case between a separated couple, in which the woman accused her husband of regularly beating her, the judge told the woman, “Women suffer in all marriages. You are married with two children, and know what it means to suffer as a woman. Yesterday, there was a techie couple who reconciled for the sake of their child. Your husband is doing good business, he will take care of you. Why are you still talking about his beatings?” He then pointed towards the lady judge — Justice B S Indrakala — sitting next to him, suggesting to the lawyer, “I know you have undergone pain. But that is nothing in front of what you undergo as a woman. I have not undergone such pain. But madam (Justice Indrakala) has.”

These are just two instances of Justice Bhaktavatsala speaking his mind on what he thinks is an acceptable viewpoint on matrimonial issues.

But woman rights groups are not amused. Mumbai-based rights activist Kamayani Bali Mahabal has sent a petition signed by over 500 people to Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia, requesting him to “conduct an inquiry into the remarks passed by the judge and intervene to ensure that there is no miscarriage of justice in all cases relating to women because of such biased views”. The petition contains a list of statements made by him in court. These include asking a woman in a matrimonial dispute to ask her father — in open court — if he had never beaten his wife!

Bali told The Indian Express, “We have sent the petition to the CJI. The judiciary needs to be sensitised on how to deal with woman issues. I am shocked at the comments made by him. Judges are supposed to protect and enforce human rights of citizens, but here we have a judge who seems to be against women rights and is even encouraging them to continue to stay in a violent relationship.”

National Commission for Women Chairperson Mamata Sharma agrees: “On one hand we talk of gender equality and on the other we have such statements. Judges should be more careful with what they speak, especially when it comes to issues related to women,” she said.

“This is very disturbing. More so, because he is not the only member of the judiciary holding such views. The CJI must intervene,” said Flavia Agnes, founder of woman rights group Majlis.

Married Women in Maharashtra can keep maiden name need not take husbands’ surname


MUMBAI: Women in Maharashtra have another reason to celebrate as International Women’s Day approaches.

It is now perfectly legal for a woman to retain her maiden name after marriage. The Bombay high court recently amended a crucial rule under the Family Courts Act to prevent a woman from being compelled to file any marriage-related proceedings only in her husband’s surname, thus offering relief to many seeking a divorce. It will also help a married woman file proceedings in other courts under her maiden name, say legal experts.

The radical rule says that “a wife who has not changed her name after marriage, by publishing in the official gazette, may continue to use her maiden name”. The law is clear now: a woman is not obliged to take her husband’s name after marriage.

A woman can file proceedings either in her maiden name or another name she may have adopted as long as it is officially registered in the gazette. If she retains her maiden name, a woman cannot be forced by a court to write her name as her first name followed by her husband’s first name and his surname while making a marriage-related petition.

Flavia Agnes of the women’s rights activist group Majlis, whose efforts led to this change, sees the amendment as a “progressive new addition to the law for women”. Majlis’ efforts ensured that a woman can continue to use her maiden name and surname if she so desires after marriage for all official purposes. She is not bound to use her husband’s name and can initiate proceedings in any court using her maiden name. The ‘after divorce’ status, meanwhile, does not force a woman to revert to her maiden surname if she had been using her husband’s surname all through the marriage. She can continue with the ex-husband’s surname, unless her intention is to defraud him, as was held by the Supreme Court.

Unknown to even lawyers, the new law stands published in the state gazette since last November, after the Bombay high court amended a crucial rule under the Family Courts Act in September 2011.

The law has been hailed by women’s rights activists and lawyers. “A woman cannot be compelled while seeking divorce to adopt her married surname if she hadn’t been using it, just as she cannot be compelled to drop her married name and revert to maiden surname after divorce, if she had been,” said a lawyer.

“Prior to the amendment, the Bandra family court staff would not accept divorce or related applications from hundreds of women until they added the first name of their estranged husband as their middle name, and also his surname,” said Agnes. The court staff would compel the quarrelling couple to bear only one surname-the husband’s-in the court case to be filed.

A year ago, Majlis took up the cause with the Bombay high court because it supervises functioning of all lower courts. The issue, said Majlis, was that in Maharashtra, many communities practised the custom of a new wife changing even her first name after marriage and adopting her husband’s full name. But other communities from states across India do not usually follow this custom, though it’s common for women to adopt the husband’s surname.

Read TOI article here

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