KOCHI: Urging the governments of South Asian countries to do away with archaic and obsolete laws, Bangladeshi litterateur and feminist Taslima Nasrin said such laws curtail the freedom of expression.
Taslima picked out Article 295 A, which she said was enacted to ensure religious harmony but had become obsolete, as a case in point. The act which ensures punishment for insulting religions and religious beliefs, however, curtails the freedom of expression, she said.
"Democracy has no meaning if such laws prevail. Secularism means separation of state from religion. But politicians interpret it as respecting all religions. In the process they protect the barbarism of religions," she said while interacting with writer N S Madhavan during the release of her book 'Split: A Life' at Centre Square Mall here on Monday.
Referring to fellow-writers' reaction to the attack on her from Islamists, Taslima said,"If a writer is attacked by Islamists no intellectual will support her. But if the attack is made by other communities there will be an outrage. I am used to such protests and ban. Now a days I am surprised to hear somebody extending support to me."
Recalling her early days as a writer, Taslima said it was the plight of women, who were treated as child-bearing machines by the misogynist society which inspired her to fight for their rights. "Men believe they have the right to unleash violence against women. They don't like feminism because they fear women will take over their role. In Kolkata, the male intellectuals favoured a ban on my book as I wrote about sexuality. Men writers think it is their right to write about sexuality. If a woman deals with such themes they will term it obscenity,"she said.
Expressing strong reservations against bringing in a law to ensure death penalty for rape of minors below the age of 12 years, Taslima said such laws will not stop rape.
"I think violent masculinity is the root cause of rape culture. Death penalty will not deter rapists. We should think about steps to change the mindset. The government should instead educate men on women's rights. It is easy to kill a rapist. Men should understand women are also human beings and they have equal rights. If we educate men women are not mere sex objects and they have the right to a dignified life it will solve the problem," she said.
On the Kathua horror, Taslima said it is sad to see such violent crime against children. "How can people rape and murder a small child? No body asks what made the men commit such atrocities against an eight-year-old child. When rapes happen people blame women for wearing skimpy outfits. What reason can they attribute to those targeting a child?. It reveals the mindset of the rapists. But at the same time it is good to see so many people taking to the street against the violent crime. It is the first time after the Nirbhaya incident a rape has evoked widespread outrage," she said.