In some parts of the world it is still considered a fabulous idea for the families of teenage girls to pay for the privilege of their daughters’ legal enslavement to men’s families. Unsurprisingly, it is likewise considered a fabulous idea that, should the indentured girls fail to give satisfaction as cash-generators and spawnbots, they become fair game for abuse.
You will be disgusted to hear that this was precisely the fate of Pooja Chauhan, a young woman, living in the Indian city of Rajkot, who married for ‘love’. Because — whatever the motivation — marriage is an exceedingly rotten system, Pooja soon found herself in dutch with both husband and in-laws for her failure to incubate a male heir and to ‘bring dowry’. Reports vary, but from what I’ve been able to piece together Pooja apparently endured three or four years of mental and physical torture from devoted husband and family.
Her repeated appeals for legal redress fell on deaf ears. It’s always the way when a girl’s personal life goals don’t include incessant beatings by assholes; such a subversive sense of self-worth is at odds with what is popularly imagined to be the essential nature of women, so naturally the cops showered Pooja with indifference. Their blind eye remained turned even when, in protest, Pooja biffed off to the police station, poured kerosene on herself, and attempted to light herself on fire.
The reason we are now hearing about Pooja Chauhan is that, when self-immolation proved insufficiently drastic a measure, she decided to walk through town to the police commissioner’s office in her underwear. Whereupon the city of Rajkot ‘went into convulsions’, the cops finally noticed she was alive and looked into her complaint, and the in-laws were arrested.
Happy ending? Not so fast, Chet. This is 2007. No woman in this day and age goes unpunished for long.
So naturally Pooja’s up on obscenity charges. That’s right. In Rajkot you can burn yourself alive on the courthouse steps, no big whoop; if it’s a stir you want to cause, put on a sports bra and take a stroll downtown. In addition to drawing legal action for ‘indecent behaviour’, this will also cause the townsfolk — including your own parents — to assume you’ve gone nuts, whereupon a psych exam will be mandated and you will be placed in a home.
A Times of India poll titled ‘Is Pooja Chauhan victim or culprit?’ reveals that while many readers aren’t totally down with dowry-related torture, neither are they so outraged that they feel Pooja was justified in shaming the entire nation with her lady-parts. Quoth one Dinesh from Mumbai: “Probably she might have been tortured to an extent; which made her to strip down to semi-nude. But the way she chose to get justice [is] not acceptable. India is a country which worships women as a Goddess. There might be some defaulters. But it should be accepted.”
Pooja’s scenario might seem primitive to sophisticated Americans who delude themselves that women here are ‘equal’, but Western customs differ from this model only by degree, as is demonstrated by the battered women’s shelters in every American town, and the difficulty encountered when you try to get someone into one.
Violence against women is a fucking global humanitarian crisis, yo.
[Thanks, Belle O’Cosity]