Sir — It was interesting to read that Hindustan Unilever has decided to drop the word, ‘fair’, from the name of its cosmetic product, Fair & Lovely. There is no doubt that this decision was taken in the wake of renewed global conversations around racism and skin colour-based prejudice as a result of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. However, should not the company be doing a lot more than just dropping a word from a product name? For decades, it has peddled the idea that fairness is the only route to any kind of success for girls. The extensive damage wrought as a result cannot be easily undone.
Sir — It was deeply distressing to read the recent judgment by the Karnataka High Court, in which it granted advance bail to a man accused of raping his employer. In her statement, the complainant had reportedly said that she fell asleep out of exhaustion after the crime was committed. The high court, in its bail verdict, said “that is not how our women react when they are ravished”.
The order also said that the complainant did not specify “why she went to office at night i.e. 11.00pm” and that she did not object “to consuming drinks” with the accused and even allowed him “to stay with her till morning”. While the matter is indeed sub judice, in the larger context of rape in India, it raises important and worrying questions. It is curious as to why such factors are often considered worthy grounds for disbelieving the word of women who allege rape, or for dismissing their plight. Women face these prejudices from even before any investigations start — at police stations, they are asked invasive and humiliating questions, looked at with suspicion and, very often, their complaints are not even recorded. How are women to put their faith in the institutions meant to protect them from sexual assault if all of them — from law enforcement to the judiciary — make the quest for justice so difficult? Is it any wonder that women are so reluctant to report rape?
Sir — The courts in India are looked at by the people as the ultimate symbol of hope and justice. It is in the judiciary that they repose their faith, believing that it will grant them their rights even if all other institutions fail them. In the light of this, it was puzzling to read the Karnataka High Court’s order granting bail to a 27-year-old man who allegedly raped his employer. The woman’s actions before and after the crime was reportedly committed seemed to be the grounds on which the bail was granted, given that it “is unbecoming of an Indian woman”. It will be interesting to note that a city court had earlier rejected the accused man’s bail plea; it was only after this that he approached the high court.
Women in this country are no stranger to regressive societal attitudes; they are familiar with the experience of having aspersions cast on their character when they are the victims of sexual assault. They encounter these attitudes at home, in the workplace and at the police station. Can Indian women continue to look to the judiciary for correcting the wrongs done to them by society?
Sir — The increase in prices of petrol and diesel for 20 consecutive days is baffling. When crude oil prices are not increasing, why is there a need to increase the prices of fuel in this manner? The spike in the costs is because of the value added tax, the amount for which will go straight into the Centre’s kitty. When the country is going through an economic crisis of overwhelming proportions, why are ordinary citizens being unduly burdened with more expenditure?
After 18 days, petrol prices had risen by Rs 8.5 while diesel costs had gone up by Rs 10.49. In the past six years, the excise duty for diesel has increased by more than Rs 28. Interestingly, in Delhi, diesel prices are higher than those of petrol. Is it not clear that the government is only trying to make money for itself in this period of crisis when it should have been slashing the prices for the benefit of the people?