Earlier this week our President gave his assent to a long-pending bill that effectively bans the sale and consumption of beef in the State of Maharashtra, the violation of which carries a fine of Rs. 10,000 & a 5-year prison term.
While vegans, Greenpeace activists and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis may now uncork the champagne (provided they all have the valid liquor permit issued by the State of course), the motives of our government are not exactly PETA-centric. The law aims to protect our sacred cows and the sentiments of the vast majority of Indians who consider her a "mother" (although water buffaloes are sisters from another womb).
The politics of religion in this pseudo-secular democracy is a topic that's as passe as Paris Hilton's chihuahua. Every major political party has pandered to the religious sentiments and fairy-tale beliefs of either one of the two mainstream faiths that have dominated all areas of life in India since independence. Flogging the proverbial dead horse (or bullock in this case) is not the point of my diatribe.
What really gets my dander up is the priorities of our lawmakers.
Over six decades after independence, we victimize newspaper vendors for selling papers covering a Charlie Hebdo article, under archaic blasphemy laws of the early 1900s; we hound actors and comedians for cracking jokes on each other, using murky legislation put in place to protect our inherently fragile "Indian sentiments"; we ban movies that even slightly overstep the "Lakshman Rekha" of our chaste and pious Indian morality (no 50 shades of grey for us; saffron and green are the only two colours having the right wavelength for the pious Indian retina).
If that sounds ludicrous, consider this: It's the year 2015, and the largest democracy in the world still refuses to criminalize marital rape! Time and again the issue has been brought up in front of our lawmakers (most recently by the Verma Commission) only to be brushed under the vibrant rug of Indian hypocrisy.
According to the UN Population Fund, more than two-thirds of married women in India, aged 15 to 49, have been beaten, or forced to provide sex. Sadly, the reason for denying Indian women this basic human right, which most countries have now accorded (with the exception of Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and a few other beacons of secularism) is to a large extent religious and cultural.
The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 states that a wife is duty-bound to provide sex to the husband, a view that may have its roots in the androcentric patriarchal nature of our culture. On examining scriptures, the Sahih Al Bukhari, the most authoritative Islamic book after the Quran, clearly mentions in Vol. 4, Book 54, Hadith #460:
"If a husband calls his wife to his bed and she refuses and causes him to sleep in anger, the angels will curse her till morning."Of course apologists of Islam will argue that rape in any form is strongly condemned in scripture. But the Arabic word "Zina" which they use to support their argument simply means "sexual indiscretion". There is no Surah or Hadith where you will find an explicit mention condemning forced intercourse with a spouse (or a word that explicitly means "rape" for that matter).
It is no wonder then, that the Indian government prioritises the rights of its bovines over that of its female citizens.
Disclaimer: The title of this post is purely satirical (lest some imbecile takes it literally). I have no intention of being the next victim of a draconian Indian gag law.
Marital Rape and Hindu Marriage Act
Quranic reference from Marmaduke Pickthall's 'Meaning of The Glorious Quran' published 1930.