There’s No Offence Called ‘Love Jihad’: Activists Rebut NCW Chief

NCW Chief Rekha Sharma’s past tweets “demonstrates a person who is deeply misogynist,” say lawyers and activists.

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National Commission for Women (NCW) chief Rekha Sharma is being called out for her alleged misogynistic, bigoted and derogatory comments on social media. It all started when the NCW tweeted a picture of its chairperson with Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari discussing a rise in ‘Love Jihad’ cases. The derogatory reference sparked outrage.

Weighing in on the issue, lawyer and women’s rights activist Flavia Agnes explained, “This jargon is used by the right wing against the Muslim community and they speak as if Hindu women are their property and the don’t have a will of their own and Muslim men can entice them. They call this love jihad but what is love jihad? There is no offence called love Jihad at all in the statutory books. There are several such cases that went to court but the women came forward and said, “I’m marrying this man out of my own free will. It is not an inducement”. So what basis do they have to make such comments?”

Twitter users raked up the NCW chief’s old tweets, pointing out that were equally disturbing.

“Now, this demonstrates that a person who is deeply misogynist, has no respect for the feminism that brought the National Commission of women into being or the laws that have been formulated to protect women and to advance freedoms. Throws around the idea of rape with the casualness that is problematic, speaks of opposition political leaders in ways that are hugely gendered and abusive. Slanderous, abusive, just very very lewd. Clearly, this in itself would be enough to disqualify her as a leader of the National Commission for Women.” 
Karuna Nundy, Advocate, Supreme Court 

CPIML politburo member and Activist Kavita Krishnan further added, “When somebody like Rekha Sharma strengthens this kind of patriarchal and communal prejudice by lending the voice of the NCW to it, the body that is supposed to be protecting women, then you can imagine how much more vulnerable it makes women who ascertain their autonomy against this kind of communal prejudice. Against this kind of patriarchal prejudice and that’s why I think the demand to sack Rekha Sharma, which is getting resonance from all over the country should not be seen as some random Twitter Hashtag. This is a question of life and death for a whole lot of women.”

Responding to the question that many people posed asking about the required qualifications of an NCW chief, Advocate Karuna Nundy pointed out that the National Commission for Women Act lays down criteria for the chairperson and essentially somebody who has a very strong and credible history of working in women's rights is appointed.

“You need somebody who is independent. This is obviously not in the statute, but you need somebody who has the strength and the ability to call the government that appointed you to account because they are the largest player when it comes to women’s rights,” she said.

This, however, is far from what happens, pointed out Flavia Agnes.

“The women’s movement who demanded this position has no say in the matter at all today. Absolutely no say. Also, it is under the Ministry of Women and Child Development. So, the boss of this person is the minister and she submits her report to the minister. So, to assume she will not have party linkages is an illusion. 
Flavia Agnes, Lawyer and Activist 

NCW Chief Rekha Sharma has, however, claimed that her Twitter account was hacked and that she has complained to Twitter about ‘suspicious tweets’ from her account.

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