08/07/2009, 00.00
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For India’s Supreme Court kicking one’s wife is not an act of "cruelty"

by Nirmala Carvalho
According to the ruling the husband and family should not be prosecuted for abuse. An Indian deputy calls for the intervention of the Ministry of Justice. Activist condemn the decision as "an insult to all humanity" and point the finger at the "patriarchal"society that legitimizes violence.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - India’s women are in revolt against a recent Supreme Court decision, which states that "kicking one’s daughter-in-law is not an act of cruelty." Women have branded the ruling as "retrograde" and are demanding the intervention of the Ministry for Justice.

The dispute stems from a family case between a woman and her husband, who lives in South Africa. The highest judicial body in India has ruled that the man and his relatives can not be prosecuted for "cruelty" towards his wife, just because the mother-in-law or other family members of the group beaten and kicked her and threatened her with divorce.  

A branch of the Supreme Court, chaired by the Chief Judge SB Sinha explains that other charges can be laid, but not to Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, which punishes the husband’s - or his relatives - maltreatment of the woman. Brinda Karat, a key figure in the Marxist-inspired Communist Party of India, sent a letter to Minister for  Justice Veerappa Moily, requesting a review of the trial because it is the roadmap "to legalize domestic violence”.

Julia George, a lawyer and activist from Stree Vani - "Voice of Women", an association based in Pune, in Maharashtra - describes the story as "not only an insult to women, but to all humanity”. “Even the act itself of kicking is inhumane - she explains to AsiaNews -It is distressing that, even today, there are honourable members of the judiciary that take this position”.

The lawyer stressed that the question arises within families, where women are "beaten to death not only by husbands, but also by his relatives”. “The question – states Julia - exceeds the boundaries of social class, education or wealth”. It is due to the "patriarchal" logic typical of Indian society, which "encourages women to accept gender oppression."

The activist, reports that during her professional career in Maharashtra she has witnessed many cases of domestic, physical and mental violence. For this reason it is essential to strengthen "education" but it "must not be one sided only,  men too must be educated and sensitized."

"Women - Julia George concludes - face tremendous obstacles and difficulties even to denounce cases of abuse. The same police officers are reluctant to receive complaints. Laws are the cornerstone of the Indian Constitution and what we do is invite women to take a step forward and to help them do so".
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