Saturday, April 5, 2008
For a society often seen to reflect a deeply ingrained bias for "fair skin", a Supreme Court ruling sentencing a man to two years in jail for driving his wife to suicide following taunts over her "dark" complexion will serve as both a warning and a mirror to its uglier traits.
The apex court was firm that ridiculing a wife by calling her "black" amounted to severe mental torture.
It rejected the husband's plea that mere remarks about his spouse's complexion could not be taken into consideration as they did not amount to mental torture and that therefore, the conclusion that this drove her to commit suicide was erroneous.
The court said derogatory and contemptuous remarks about a woman's dark complexion, which could be worse than physical torture for a sensitive person, caused enough mental trauma to drive the accused's wife to take the extreme step.
The order from a Bench comprising Justices Altamas Kabir and J M Panchal for the first time marks a new sensitivity towards a form of discrimination that has been so common that it is not even considered as out of the ordinary.
While the court and legislature have acted against caste-based and, lately against gender-based prejudices, the colour handicap had not engaged its attention so far.
In the facts of the case, Syed Fathima, within two months of her marriage to Farook Batcha in August 1999, got so distressed with the constant quarrels in her matrimonial home because of her dark complexion that she finally decided to end her life by pouring kerosene and setting herself on fire.
In her dying declaration, she said that since her complexion was dark, her husband did not like her and there were frequent quarrels. A day after giving the statement, she died in hospital.
A Madurai sessions court as well as Madras High Court found the husband guilty under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (cruelty to women in matrimonial home) and sentenced him to two years imprisonment.
Picture grab: Sivaji-Tamil Movie
News source:Times of India