Like my friend just said on social media, it feels like the Supreme Court has gone full WhatsApp.
To be fair, the Supreme Court only seems to be trying to untangle the patriarchal and bigoted mess the Kerala High Court created in May this year, where it ruled that a case involving a 24-year-old woman who had converted to Islam and married a Muslim man was one of “love jihad”, which is an imaginary phenomenon where people demonise Muslim men who marry women of other faiths, accusing them of brainwashing women from their communities.
Crazy right? It isn’t just that the Kerala High Court gave recognition to an idea as bizarre and bigoted as “love jihad”, but it also reveals just how little the Court thinks of women and their agency. The Court exercised parens patriae jurisdiction in this case, which is defined as “any authority, regarded as the legal protector of citizens unable to protect themselves”.
Yes, the Kerala HC clearly thinks that 24-year-old women are unable to protect themselves. As though worried they didn’t infantilise her enough, the court also called the woman a “gullible person”, and further observed that “a girl aged 24 years is weak and vulnerable, capable of being exploited in many ways.” They speculated why a woman in her twenties who was studying Homeopathy would choose to leave everything and convert to another religion (?), considering that “normal youth is indifferent towards religion and religious studies”. The Court “permitted” her to continue her studies, and also handed over “custody” of the woman back to her parents.
Except she’s 24, and 24 year olds are adults who don’t need to be “handed over” to anyone, least of all their parents. They literally said that 24-year-old women are weak and vulnerable! The horrible Kerala High Court judgement managed to be bigoted, sexist and insulting all at once, and it’s this judgment that the Supreme Court is currently trying to make sense of.
The woman’s lawyers in the Supreme Court, Indira Jaisingh and Kapil Sibal, argued that it was the liberty of a woman couldn’t be curtailed in this bizarre way. The woman has not yet been produced before the Court, and the judges reportedly told her lawyers, when they insisted on her presence, that “Heavens will not fall down…she has been with her father since 24th of May after the High Court order. We will call her if there is a need.”
Which is strange, considering the fact that the case revolves around her, her independence and her choices, and it continues to be that everyone but the grown woman herself gets to decide what happens to her and her life.