Recently, Salman Khan in an interview said he felt like a raped woman.
“While shooting, during those six hours, there’d be so much of lifting and thrusting on the ground involved. That was tough for me because… When I used to walk out of the ring, after the shoot, I used to feel like a raped woman.”
The twitterati went abuzz taking umbrage to this remark: One person asks, ‘how does he know what a raped woman feels’. Amir Khan thought it was ‘insensitive’. Kangana Ranaut thinks his comments were ‘horrible’. Anurag Kashyap felt they were ‘very thoughtless’, while Freida Pinto takes ‘offence’.
Such a reaction is quite understandable. This is definitely an insensitive remark in the modern context. Now, with so much awareness in gender discrimination, sexual harassment of women, and child abuse, these statements sound very insensitive and callous.
Yes, insensitive and callous, statements of bad taste. Agreed.
But are these statements illegal?
An FIR was launched against Salman Khan for this remark under the Section IPC 294 (obscene acts or words in public) and IPC 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman). These sections have provisions for three months and one year of jail term.
National Commission for Women (NCW) has summoned Salman Khan to appear before the Commission, or they ‘may proceed to take such appropriate action as it deems fit’.
They further write:
It is important to drive home the point that just because you are a celebrity you can’t make off-the-cuff remarks. The comment he made is very injurious to the esteem of a woman
A gang-rape victim from Haryana sent a legal notice to Salman Khan seeking 10-Crores in damages for ‘belittling rape victims’.
What is the problem?
What I find problem with the current India is that they don’t know the difference between actions and words of bad taste versus actions and words which are illegal.
There is a big difference between morality and legality. While Legality can be enforced through law of the land, morality cannot be enforced. And the fact the most Indians do not see the difference between these two seems to be creating lot of problems in this country. Many statements are considered seditious, anti-national, illegal, and so on, worthy of prosecution, harassment and life-long persecution.
In a petition filed in Lucknow, a social activist, asked for legal action against Salman Khan, for showing “disrespect to rape victim” and which “revived the ugly memories of such heinous crimes”.
Someone may say, ‘Man, the kids from neighbourhood were on a rampage at my home. It felt like a terrorist-attack on my home’. This does not necessarily mean ‘disrespect’ to terrorist-attack victims or that it amounts to reviving the ugly memories of such heinous crimes.
Words and phrases have many meanings. Like how erstwhile HRD Minister reacted, rather sheepishly, to the word ‘Dear’, many of these words don’t have one-track mind like peevish Indians do. The word rape itself connotes many meanings.
After coming out of a brutal and horrific interview, one may say, ‘I was literally raped in there’, which does not mean he is being insensitive to thousands of rapes happening in the country, or that he is trivializing those rape incidents. It only means, he is saying, ‘The torture they were inducing onto me was being enjoyed by the interviewers, but I was not enjoying it. I had to endure it against my will’. Instead of saying that long winded description, the guy says, ‘I was raped in my interview’.
This is no different from saying, ‘those parliamentarians murdered our Constitution on that day’. It does not mean trivializing the sacred concept called murder, or being insensitive to thousands of murders happening in this country.
In fact, the word Rape is used in many contexts, like Rape of Nanking, Rape of Belgium, Rape of Europa, Rape of United States Constitution, and so on.
The usage of word Rape in that context does not trivialize the word rape.
You may get into a bar, get groped around by other men, and come out say, ‘Man, I was being sexually molested in there’, or ‘I was being child-abused in there’. This does not necessarily mean you are trivializing Sexual Molestation or Child Abuse.
Freedom of expression includes Freedom from frivolous prosecution. Slapping every insensitive remark made by someone with legal charges leads to curbing of freedom of expression. Freedom of expression allows for making insensitive remarks, which can then criticized and lampooned. But making it a legal matter is altogether a different matter.
Some of these insane laws which allow for frivolous prosecution have to be scrapped.