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These women in Iran refuse to be forced to wear Hijabs. They are burning their hijabs, they are chopping their hair in protest to underline that hijab, or no hijab, it is their choice and we must respect it.
These students in Karnataka want to wear their hijab and go to college. It is their choice and we must respect it.
These women in the United States want their right to abortion. They believe it is their choice and we must respect it.
If Pakistan’s National Women’s Football team wears shorts and not leggings, that is their choice and we must respect it.
If Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin chooses to party with her friends at home, its her choice and we have to respect that.
In India, if a husband forces his wife to have sex against her will, it is marital rape, and should be considered a crime. Because to have sex or not is a wife's choice and a husband must respect that.
In Saudi Arabia if a woman wants to get married, should an outdated ‘Guardianship Law’ force her to take permission to get married? No. Because when to marry, whom to marry, even whether to marry is her choice and should be respected.
Yeh Jo Duniya Hai Na, here, if we respect women, we must respect their choice!
But sadly, the news coming out of Iran is tragic. First, it was the killing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini by Iran’s moral police force for wearing her hijab incorrectly in public. And now, many more, including teenagers, protesting Amini’s death across Iran, have also been killed by the police. Do people need to die to explain the importance of choice? These women burning their hijabs and cutting their hair are simply asking for their choice to be respected.
Why is it so difficult even in India to respect the choice of Muslim women students to wear a hijab to school or college? If it is an informed choice, we must respect it. But by banning hijabs in schools and colleges, the Karnataka government is not only disrespecting their choice, it is also denying them their right to education. It is absurd that these students have to fight their own government in India’s Supreme Court for their choice to be respected.
In the US too, over abortion, the country is divided. While some women want their right to abortion, some believe it’s wrong. But some want a ban against abortion. Again, the question is, why not respect both views, why not respect both choices?
And a simple reminder on why a woman’s choice must be respected – its fundamental to gender equality. If you take away a woman’s right to choose, that’s the end of gender equality.
Which is why in India our inability to criminalise marital rape, shows that genuine gender equality is still far far away. What is marital rape? Sexual violence within a marriage, a husband forcing sex on his wife, rejecting her right to choose, taking away her choice on whether she wants to have sex or not. And without this choice, there can be no real equality in a marriage.
It's hypocrisy to moralise over a woman prime minister’s choice to party with her friends in private. It's hypocrisy to moralise over a women’s football team’s choice to wear shorts. It's simply and blatantly unequal for an adult woman in Saudi Arabia to be under the guardianship of another man, by law. That Saudi law does not allow her to choose her own husband. If men and women are truly equal partners on this planet, this hypocrisy, this need to control women, their agency, their every choice – it has to end.
Yeh Jo Duniya Hai Na, here, in today’s world – be it Iran or US or Finland, or India or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia – we have no choice but to respect a woman's choice.
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