A home-maker’s worth: Madras high court puts a value

A still from The Great Indian Kitchen

The cash really began rolling in after 1983 when Kannaian Naidu got a job in Saudi Arabia. His wife, Kamsala would be staying back with their three children in Neyveli, Tamil Nadu. As a single-parent, she had her work cut out and Kannaian assured her he would send money back home.

It was a tidy sum. Between 1983 and 1994, Kannaian was able to send back enough for Kamsala to buy four properties. Each time he’d come to visit, he would bring cash, gold and jewellery.

By the time he returned for good a decade later in December 1994, his wife had plans of her own, and these included the property bought by her with her husband’s money.

In a case filed in a trial court in 1995, Kannaian said his wife could not claim ownership of the properties purchased with his money. The gold also belonged to him, he said, and had not been gifted to her. And for good measure, he accused Kamsala of ‘wayward’ behaviour and having an affair with a man roughly the age of one of their sons.

Kamsala fought back. After all, she had sold some of her own ancestral land to finance her husband’s travel to Saudi Arabia. One of the properties had been bought by mortgaging the gold she received at her wedding. And, during the time her husband was away, she too had been earning through tuitions and tailoring. In fact, she had been keen to have a career as a teacher but gave up that dream at the request of Kannaian so that she could stay at home and look after the kids.

The trial court agreed with the husband—the properties were his—and the case eventually landed up in the Madras high court. When Kannaian died in 2007, the three children took up the case on his behalf.

Landmark judgement

Regardless of her claims to financially contributing to the acquisition of the assets, Kamsala “played a vital role in managing the household chores by looking after the children, cooking, cleaning and managing day-to-day affairs of the family,” noted justice Krishnan Ramaswamy in a remarkable judgement delivered on June 21. “She sacrificed her dreams and spent her entire life towards the family and children.”

A vintage ad (Source: A Lady Science)

Ensuring a comfortable environment at home, is “not a valueless job, but it is a job doing for 24 hours [sic] without holidays, which cannot be less equated with that of the job of an earning husband who works only for eight hours,” the judge ruled.

And while there is no law that recognises a wife’s contribution, there is nothing to prevent a court from doing so, the judge added.

“No law prevents the judges from recognising the contributions made by a wife facilitating her husband to purchase the property. In my view, if the acquisition of assets is made by joint contribution (directly or indirectly) of both the spouses for the welfare of the family, certainly both are entitled to equal share.”

Accordingly, the judge ruled, three of the four properties belonged equally to husband and wife. The fourth property, purchased by mortgaging the wife’s jewellery, belonged solely to Kamsala. And the jewellery and gold bought by the husband during his time in Saudi Arabia, also belonged to her.

[Read the judgement in LiveLaw here]

Recognising women’s unpaid labour

All over the world, women bear a disproportionate burden of housework. In patriarchal societies such as ours, the gender gap is particularly wide—with women spending 7.2 hours a day on cooking, cleaning and other chores compared to 2.8 hours by men.

Obviously, the more time women spend on unpaid work at home, the less time they have for paid employment outside it. It’s not a coincidence that India has amongst the world’s lowest female labour force participation rates.

Unpaid care work has been on the public radar since the pandemic highlighted the gap. Political parties from Kerala to West Bengal have been promising monthly income support to home-makers. And India is also looking at different methods to quantify the contribution of women’s household chores to the country’s GDP. Some economists reckon women’s unpaid labour to be as high as 39% of global GDP.

Representational Image (Source: Unsplash)

Court judgments too have tried to put a value on the lives of home-makers by awarding more equal compensation in insurance matters. For instance, in motor accident claims where both husband and wife are killed or seriously injured, insurance companies tend to assess the wife’s compensation at a lower value. It is left to the courts to put a value to women’s reproductive labour.

Appellate courts as well the Supreme Court have ruled that “women’s unpaid work amounts to an occupation to be compensated on a monthly basis upon her death,” says Prabha Kotiswaran, a law professor at King’s College, London.

The Madras high court judgment read together with the earlier judgments that place a value to women’s unpaid work “will open the doors for a long overdue reform in Indian law, namely creating a matrimonial property regime to ensure economic justice for married women,” says Kotiswaran.

[Read Prabha Kotiswaran’s paper analysing compensation cases between 1969 and 2009 here]


But the judgment also “renders visible the patriarchal marital bargain struck by millions of married couples each day whereby the woman decides to maintain the household while the husband engages in paid employment outside the home,” continues Kotiswaran.

The husband’s employment “would be impossible without the labours of his wife who herself would have given up an alternate source of income,” she says. “Upon marital breakdown the husband cannot turn back on the bargain struck at the time of marriage. Assets purchased through joint efforts of the couple should therefore also be split equally.”

But beyond granting value and assets, the judgment gives millions of home-makers recognition, visibility and dignity that is often denied to them in their day-to-day life. It tells them their labour matters. It has value. Their status in a marriage is second to none.

It brings to focus the reality of so many women in this country. It empathises with the death of their dreams due to household responsibility. It tells them: We see you and we acknowledge your equal role in the marriage.

[Read Monika Halan’s opinion piece on how the judgment is a giant leap in women’s rights over assets built during a marriage]

In numbers

The number of women who applied to study overseas was up by 150% in 2022 compared to 2019. In 2019, just 10% of all student loan applications for foreign study were by women. Now in tier II and III towns, it’s 50:50.

Source: Economic Times

Can’t make this s*** up

A 16-year-old girl who snuck out late at night to be with her 20-year-old boyfriend at a park in Delhi’s Rohini was, tragically, gang-raped by four men who accosted the couple as they were leaving the park at around 1.30 am on Tuesday morning. The men beat up the boyfriend and then took turns to rape the girl.

Three of the four men have been arrested and police say they are locals from the area, aged between 15 and 20. A fourth is, at the time of writing, yet to be arrested.

But, in a twist, the police have also arrested the boyfriend on charges of rape. The reason? Under POCSO (protection of children from sexual offences), even consensual sex with a girl under the age of 18 is deemed to be rape.

What’s making news

It’s the UCC. Again.

It has long been an article of faith for the BJP. So, prime minister Narendra Modi’s push for a uniform civil code on Tuesday while addressing party workers in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh should not come as a surprise.

The PM’s reference comes on the heels of the Law Commission’s invitation for public comment on the issue. Interestingly, the same commission had stated in 2018 that the time was not right for a UCC as there was the possibility of ‘disprivileging’ weaker groups.

But what will a UCC actually look like? How will it affect tribal groups and areas in the north-east that have the Constitutional promise of following their own practices? Will it accommodate the demand for equal rights from the LGBTQI community? These are questions to which nobody seems to have an answer.

[I had written about the UCC in an earlier newsletter here]

Women at the centre of the Manipur stir

On Monday, the Indian Army posted a video saying women activists in the troubled state are “deliberately blocking routes and interfering” in its operations.

Manipur has a long history of activism by women. The Meira Paibis (literally women torchbearers) also known as Imas are Meitei women who have in the past focused on fighting alcoholism and drug abuse and gradually expanded their focus to human rights violations.

In Hindustan Times, Utpal Parashar on why women are at the centre of the Manipur stir.

…And the good news

106-year-old Rambai shows no signs of slowing down (Source: Twitter)

At 106, sprinter Rambai, who took up athletics just two years ago at the sprightly age of 104, shows no signs of slowing down. Last year, she set a world record in the 100m above-85 category. On Monday, she took home three gold medals (100m, 200m, short put) at the 18th National Open Athletics Championship in Dehradun.

Field notes

Lights, camera and time for action

After the meticulous research on stereotyping in Hollywood films tracked by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, a detailed report on 1,930 characters in Hindi films lays bare a grim picture that’s closer home. The study by the School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai was released earlier in the week.

It finds that 72% of characters, one in three, in Hindi films are played by cis-males, a majority of which fall into the age group 15-45 and belong to Hindu dominant castes. Queer characters make up just 2% of role and only 0.5% of characters are shown to be disabled.

When women play the lead it’s generally as a romantic interest. But intimacy is initiated by the male character. “Consent is still fraught with ambiguity, specifically because there is a greater emphasis on women remaining demure and expressing consent through non-verbal and symbolic gestures,” finds the study.

When women are shown to be employed, they tend to be teachers, bankers, software engineers, doctors and artists.

The most prevalent skin tone for female characters is fair; body type is thin.

As part of the project, three qualitative research projects—on women directors, screenwriters, and online media critcs—were also undertaken with select directors, screenwriters and online media critics.

Read the study here.

Around the world

The US Supreme Court has in quick succession struck down affirmative action for university admissions, ruled to grant First Amendment protection to online abuse and, on Friday, in a ruling that yet again shows the assertion of its conservative-dominated bench, agreed with a Colorado web designer who is opposed to same sex marriage and said the state’s law requiring her to serve everyone equally was unconstitutional in obliging her to create messages she is opposed to.

On Tuesday, the apex court reversed the conviction of a man who had made relentless online threats to a stranger on the grounds that the threats are protected by freedom of speech guarantees under the Constitution. Activists are outraged, reports Washington Post.

(Source: AFP)

The United Nations, has announced the appointment of Aarti Holla-Maini, an Indian-origin satellite industry expert as the director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs headquartered in Vienna. Perhaps this is as good a time as any to remind the UN that in the 77 years since it was founded in 1945, it has never been led by a woman.

In France, children under 15 will require parental consent before getting on to social media platforms. The new law approved on Thursday is an attempt to protect children online from cyberbullying and other crimes.

In Nepal, the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the government to temporarily register same-sex marriages. The apex court had allowed such marriages via an order 15 years ago, but in the absence of a specific law, it could never be implemented. The new order to register the marriages ‘temporarily’ till a law is passed

Iceland still #1 for women. India at 127

(Source: UNICEF)

India’s improvement by eight places, or 1.4 percentage points, to 127 out of 146 countries is a result mainly of the recognition by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which conducts the annual rankings, of women’s participation in local governance where 33% of seats (50% in some states) are reserved for women.

Last year, India had ranked 135. This year it continues to lag behind its neighbours Bangladesh (59), Bhutan (103), Sri Lanka (115) and Nepal (116). Pakistan comes in pretty much at the bottom at 142.

The WEF gender ranking of countries is based on four parameters: Economic participation, education, health, and political participation.

Education is India’s biggest achievement with gender parity at all levels. However, the country falters when it comes to economic participation with only 36.7% parity and a dismal female workforce participation rate of 29.4%, according to the latest Periodic Labour Force Survey.

While there have been improvements in parity in wages and income, there’s been a decline in the number of women in senior positions and technical roles.

At the local level, women are taking up leadership roles in panchayats. But women’s participation in Parliament and the assemblies still remains embarrassingly low, even though at 15.1%, India’s Parliament is seeing the highest participation by women ever.

Globally, the largest gaps to have been closed are health and survival and education with 96% and 95.2% parity. But the gender gaps in economic participation (just 60.1% parity) and political participation (22.1%) remain wide.

At this rate, it will take another 131 years to achieve gender parity in the world.

[Read the Global Gender Gap Report 2023 here]

How Iceland does it

In her book, Secrets of the Sprakkar, Canada-born Eliza Reid, writer, entrepreneur and wife of Iceland’s President Gudni Johannesson, writes about her first job soon after moving to live in the country in 2003. Johannesson was still a post-doc student and she needed the job to support them both.

Like most tech start-ups, the company where she got that job was dominated by men. Of the 15 employees, only four, including Reid, were women. So was the CEO, Halla Tomasdottir.

At the first board meeting Reid attended there was Tomasdottir, newly returned from maternity leave, her baby daughter at her breast. “No one batted an eye, no one made a ‘joke’ and at least one male board member later bounced the wee one on his lap while Halla addressed a point on the agenda,” she writes.

Unnur Bra Konradsdottir nursing her baby (Source: Video ScreenGrab)

This nobody-cares-that-you’re-breast-feeding approach is what led to probably the world’s first live telecast of a member of Parliament (MP) nursing her baby. The year was 2016 and MP Unnur Bra Konradsdottir had a new baby. With Parliament in session, Unnur was feeding her baby daughter when called upon to stand and address a point of order in the agenda.

She had two choices. One to pluck the baby from her breast and put her screaming into the stroller. And two, just leave the baby latched on and get up and speak. Unnur chose the latter. The TV cameras were relaying the proceedings live and, so, to Unnur Bra Konradsdottir goes the credit of being the first MP in the world to breast-feed her daughter live on TV.

It takes a village

“The debate is no longer whether gender equality is an important objective but how best to achieve it,” writes Reid. Iceland’s parental leave policy is one of the cornerstones to that equality: Three months leave, paid by the government, for each parent and an additional three months that can be taken by either parent or split between the two.

A near obsession with fresh air means that children are often left sleeping in their strollers outside cafes or restaurants while their parents enjoy a coffee inside. By the age of eight or nine, most kids take public buses on their own. After-school programmes, subsidised by the state, are encouraged. This investment in childcare shows in women’s workforce participation with over three-quarters of Icelandic women over 15 economically active outside their home.

And yet, even Iceland hasn’t achieved 100% parity. Women on average earned 30% less than men in 2019. And only 13% of the country’s CEOs in the top 800 companies are women. Only 1.4% of funding from investment funds goes to companies founded by women.

In 2018, Icelandic women walked out of their respective workplaces at 2.55 pm, a time chosen to highlight the gender gap in wages in addition to gender-based violence and harassment. The women’s strike was following a tradition begun in October with the first strike to demonstrate the indispensable work of women for Iceland’s economy. As many as 90% of Icelandic women participated in the “day off” by either not showing up to work or refusing to perform any housework.

Dark side

Lisabeth Salander, the heroine of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy was also a survivor of domestic violence (Source: Video ScreenGrab)

Domestic violence and sexual assault are alarmingly high, and while this might partly have to do with higher levels of reporting there is no masking the taint of the “Nordic paradox” that shows up in the hospitals of Reykjavik.

[Read the study in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health that analyses the prevalence of hospital visits due to intimate partner violence]

2018 survey by the University of Iceland found that one in four Icelandic women had been raped or sexually assaulted during her life, yet only 12% press charges and amongst those who do, three-quarters will have their cases dismissed.

But, legislation has been largely progressive. Laws refer to parents and not mothers and fathers. In 1996, Iceland became the fourth country in the world to recognise same-sex unions and same-sex marriage has been legal since 2010. A year earlier, in 2009, Johanna Sigurdardottir became the world’s first openly gay head of government and the country’s first female prime minister.

[In September I interviewed Eliza Reid in Iceland for Mind the Gap. You can read that interview here]

In numbers

Just 47 of the 382 heads of multilateral organisations since 1945 have been women. Thirteen of these organisations including the big four development banks, the International Labour Organisation, and the United Nations itself have never been led by a woman.

Source: GWL Voices for Change and Inclusion

Can’t make this s*** up

In 1996, a daily wage worker employed by Himachal Pradesh since 1987 took maternity leave for three months. That year, she was able to work only 156 days instead of the 240 days required by the administrative rules to be considered a regular employee. Even though a tribunal ruled that her maternity leave should be considered ‘continuous service’ under the Industrial Disputes Act, the state of Himachal Pradesh objected saying there was no provision to grant maternity leave to a daily wage worker.

Fortunately, justices Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Virender Singh of the Himachal Pradesh high court have ruled: “Maternity leave is a fundamental human right…which cannot be denied.”

The baby for whom the daily wage worker had taken maternity leave is now 27 years old.

The long(ish) read

In August last year, the US Army announced that it was developing an Army Tactical Brassiere (ATB) for the 15% women who made up its active-duty force. So, how is it different from a sports bra? The team’s project engineer—yes, actually—says it will “reduce the cognitive burden on the wearer” while a military website claims an improvement in “overall soldier performance and lethality”.

Exactly how? This New Yorker story by Patricia Marx has the nitty-gritty.

What’s making news

We need to hang our heads in shame that dowry remains India’s ugly reality

(Trigger warning: suicide, dowry death and harassment)

On Tuesday, holding her twin children, just 18 months old, in her arms Gandam Soundarya jumped off a multi-storey building in Bansilalpet in Telangana’s Secundrabad. Her parents say she was a victim of dowry harassment with fresh demands made by her husband leading her to take this desperate step.

Three days later, in a separate incident, a 36-year-old housewife, M Mahalaxmi, set herself and her 22-month-old daughter ablaze also apparently a death by suicide due to dowry demands.

Despite the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, dowry not only persists, it thrives. In 2021, there was a 31% increase in registered cases over the previous year, according to National Crime Records Bureau data. As many as 28,279 dowry-related deaths, over 77 day, were reported for the same year.

We need to start calling these deaths for what they are: Femicide, and we need a nation-wide response involving law-makers and civil society to tackle this.

Want protection from the police? Get married first: Allahabad high court

An interfaith live-in couple went to the Allahabad high court, to get protection from what they say is harassment by the Uttar Pradesh police. According to the plaint, the police has filed a first information report based on a complaint by the 29-year-old Hindu woman’s mother. But the court has turned down the request for protection noting the couple “had not expressed their willingness to marry in the near future.”

Justices Sangeeta Chandra and Narendra Kumar Johari added that observations by the Supreme Court on the rights of live-in couples “cannot be considered to promote such relationships”. The law, noted the judges has “traditionally been biased in favour of marriage. It reserves many rights and privileges to married persons to preserve and encourage the institution of marriage.”

…And the good news

Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshee Malikkh and Bajrang Punia with supporters during their candlelight protest march, at India Gate (Source: Hindustan Times)

A small reprieve for India’s leading wrestlers who were caught up in protests against sexual harassment by Wrestling Federation of India head Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshee Malikkh will be given an opportunity to appear in a one-bout selection trial for the upcoming Asian Games from September 23 in Hangzhou, China.


Pia Klemp (Source: The Morning Star)

Sea rescue missions, are the topic du jour so this is as good a time as any to talk about Pia Klemp, a German sea captain who faces a 20 year prison sentence for helping to rescue 1,000 migrants at risk of drowning in the Mediterranean sea. Describing her as a “victim of the far-right Italian government’s crackdown on desperate migrants trying to reach Europe by sea”, The Morning Star reports that the captain of luventa, along with the Sea Watch III rescue ship, saved migrants from a “possible watery grave”. Klemp insists her actions are lawful and protected by the 1982 United Nations law of the sea, has vowed to fight her case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

In Slovakia, Zuzana Caputova, the country’s first woman head of state, announced on Tuesday that she will not be running for a second term. She said she did not think she had the strength to take on another mandate.

Caputova’s logging out follows that by other women in politics including Finland’s Sanna Marin in April, Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon in February and New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern in January.

The Catholic church is preparing for steps to promote women to decision-making roles and for the “radical inclusion” of the LGBTQI community. On Tuesday, the Vatican released a working document, the result of a two-year consultation process that will form the basis of discussion for a meeting of bishops and laypeople in October.

…And the good news

Estonia has become the first Baltic country to approve same-sex marriage starting in 2024. Meanwhile, in India, we’re waiting for the Supreme Court judgement on the same issue.

How India’s raja betas are using weaponised incompetence to wriggle out of housework

I am on the phone with the wife of one of my oldest friends, let’s call her ‘A’. It’s April 2020, I remember this because we’re marooned in our homes (and we’re the lucky ones who aren’t trudging back home on foot) just days into the nationwide lockdown that began on March 24. ‘A’ tells me she’s doing it all, the cooking, the cleaning, the washing—while working from home. I get on the phone with her husband my pal and yell at him. Surely he can make the bed and wash his clothes (and his wife’s too)?

You Should Have Asked by Emma (Source: The Guardian)

And then A tells me with a resigned sigh: “He will do it so badly, that I will just have to do it all over again.”

I didn’t know it then, but there’s a term for this. It’s called weaponised incompetence. Basically, it’s a partner (mostly a man) claiming that he would love to help out with housework but lacks the skill to run a washing machine, or rinse a few dishes in the sink or even cook a simple meal. In other words, weaponizing an incompetence that follows the script: “If I do a simple job so badly, nobody will ever ask me to do it again.”

Whose job is it anyway?

It’s no secret that all over the world, women bear a disproportionate load of the housework that includes cooking, cleaning, chopping, caring for the elderly and the sick and so on. The first consequence of this imbalance is on women’s workforce participation. A 2018 International Labour Organisation report found that in 90 countries the #1 reason why women were not in paid jobs was because they were so busy with the unpaid labour of running their homes. If you want exact numbers then 606 million women (and 41 million men) around the world cited housework as the reason for not being employed.

[For a more scholarly discussion on the impact of unpaid care work on economic development please read this paper by economist Mitali Nikore and others here.]

The impact of weaponised incompetence can also be seen on marriages, writes feminist writer Mahima Vashisht on her Substack, Womaning in India. But for the presence of domestic helpers, women (and subsequently marriages) would simple collapse under the load.

Examples of weaponised incompetence include men who can’t figure out how to operate a vacuum cleaner, or what kind of milk to pick up at the store.

This can, and does, get so frustrating that very often women will just throw up their hands and say: “Forget it. I’ll just do it myself.”

[If you haven’t yet signed up for Mahima Vashisht’s Womaning in India on Substack you can do it here.]

You should have asked

If you haven’t yet seen this 2017 comic by French illustrator and feminist Emma that so brilliantly captures the idea of mental load, please do so here.

Housework is not just a physical act of labour. Beyond the cooking of a meal is the mental labour of planning it: Are the ingredients available? Have you remembered to restock? If you have guests over, have you catered to specific dietary requirements? What about the left-overs, freeze or give away? If give away then to whom?

“A lot of women feel that they are bearing the emotional load when it comes to planning,” says psychologist and author Sonali Gupta.

“I have 250 tabs open in my mind at all times, most of them are to-do lists for the house and family,” says Vashisht who adds that even though she’s married to a man who identifies as a feminist, “our life is not untouched by gender roles’. “After our child came into our lives, I found myself shouldering a lot more of the domestic and caregiving responsibilities,” she says.

The Raja Betas

Vashisht echoes what my friend Samar Halarnkar, journalist and author, The Married Man’s Guide to Creative Cooking calls the Raja Beta syndrome.

Put simply it’s how Indian boys are cosseted, fussed over and spoilt by moms, grand-moms, elder sisters, sisters-in-law all of whom believe without any irony that said Raja Beta has been born to save the world and so must be spared the humdrum business of putting his plate in the sink after eating the meal so lovingly cooked for him.

“Boys are pampered and put on a pedestal, and for this their mothers are to blame,” says Halarnkar. “They believe that any housework by them is a great favour or achievement.”

When men help out with simple tasks—clearing the table after a meal, for instance—they can expect to be teased about “helping out in ‘womanly’ tasks,” writes Vashisht. And women who accept this help are also shamed for “letting my man indulge in such trivial pursuits. After all, it should be clear to all of us that men were put on the planet to do bigger things than clearing the table.”

While working on a year-long series on women and workforce participation I often asked the women I interviewed about whether their husbands chipped in with housework. Yes, all of them insisted. When I asked for specifics the answers varied from ‘plays with child while I cook’ to ‘fetches water from the handpump’ and ‘buys vegetables on his way home’. These were women who toiled at home, cooking twice a day, because how could Raja Beta eat ‘stale’ leftovers from lunch?

But of course there’s a flip side. Sonali Gupta who counsels couples says the complaint can work both ways with men shouldering the lion’s share of banking, managing finance and administrative work. “Ultimately, relationships are complex and you have to see the context in which statements are made. I often get couples where both say they would like the other to share more responsibility.”

Weigh in: What will it take for men to bear a greater share of housework and why does it matter? Write to me at: namita.bhandare@gmail.com

In numbers

Six out of 10 households used LPG as their primary source for cooking in 2021-22. But in rural areas only half, or 49.4% use it, with over a third of households in India still relying on firewood as their primary source for cooking.

Source: Dhruvika Dhamija in Ashoka University’s CEDA

The big update

Sports persons of Bengal in a protest rally over alleged police attack against India’s top wrestlers (Photo: Samir Jana/Hindustan Times)

Here’s everything you need to know (and also what you wish you didn’t) about the world’s largest ongoing protest by athletes against sexual harassment.

  1. On Monday, the father of a minor wrestler recorded a fresh statement before a magistrate saying Wrestling Federation of India head Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh “had not sexually harassed my daughter but his approach was biased against her.” India has extremely strict laws against the sexual assault of minors and the clarification is likely to impact the weight of the charges against Brij Bhushan. The father conceded that he had been receiving threats on the phone, but did not clarify from whom.
  2. On Wednesday, Union minister of sport Anurag Thakur finally held a six-hour meeting with the wrestlers, including Olympians Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik who have been demanding action since January.
  3. Following the meeting, the wrestlers agreed to postpone their agitation until June 15, which is the deadline for filing of a charge-sheet against Brij Bhushan.
  4. On Friday, Delhi police told the court that there is no evidence that the wrestlers made any hate speech and charges against them on this ground should be dismissed.
  5. Also on Friday, Delhi police took one of the wrestlers to Brij Bhushan’s house to ‘recreate’ the crime scene. Well done, sleuths.
  6. Meanwhile, Brij Bhushan has announced plans to hold a grand rally at Gonda, UP to mark nine years of the Narendra Modi government.

Elections for a new head to the Wrestling Federation of India after Brij Bhushan’s tenure ended in March could be fraught. During his 12 years at the helm, Brij Bhushan had packed the body with family members. One of the assurances by Anurag Thakur to the wrestlers is that Brij Bhushan’s proxies will not succeed him.

Rest in power

The death of Gitanjali Aiyar, a former newsreader with Doordarshan, at the age of 71 on Wednesday signalled to me an end of an era. In these days of shouting matches and haranguing anchors, not to mention openly partisan journalists, it would seem ironic to be nostalgic about an age of sarkari-approved news where news readers could not deviate from the script. News of Indira Gandhi’s assassination was, famously, broken by BBC well before Doordarshan confirmed it.

And yet, that era marked a softly enunciated refinement that people like Aiyar brought to the job. Despite the blandness of their script, they remain to a generation of Indians instantly recognised names, a part of our nightly dinners, their faces still embedded in our collective memory. Aiyar along with Minu of the one name and brilliant smile, the late Tejeshwar Singh of the impossibly deep baritone and Rini Simon, now Khanna, who spoke with the sort of authority that brooked no nonsense made impressions and had a following that not one anchor in today’s raucous “news TV” can claim.

Seen and heard

“Ask your mother or great grandmother…by 17 years, they would have already had their first child…you haven’t read it, but do read Manusmriti.”

Justice Samir Dave of the Gujarat high court has some words of wisdom about the good old days when girls got married at 14 or 15 and were mothers by 17. He was responding to a 16-year-old rape survivor who was seeking permission from the court to terminate her pregnancy at 7 months of gestation.

The long(ish) read

Françoise Gilot in an interview (Source: AP)

Of all of Picasso’s many mistresses, Francoise Gilot who died on Tuesday at the age of 101 was the only one who famously walked out on him.

She was an accomplished artist in her own right. But when she left Picasso with their two children after a decade together, the older artist scoffed: “You imagine people will be interested in you?” The inference was that without the Great Man, “They won’t ever, really, just for yourself. Even if you think people like you, it will only be a kind of curiosity they will have about a person whose life touched mine so intimately.”

Free from Picasso’s shadow, Gilot thrived, painting every day well into her nineties, publishing two books including, Life with Picasso and a marriage with Jonas Salk, who developed the polio vaccine.

The New York Times pays tribute here.

Can’t make this s*** up

Two truly weird stories from the alternate world of faking news.

First, came the bizarre announcement that Sweden had officially declared sex as a sport and was kicking off its maiden sex tournament on June 8.

The facts: Dragan Bratic, founder of the Swedish Sex Federation, had applied to be a part of the Swedish Sports Confederation in January this year. That application was rejected and sex, thankfully, remains out of the realm of competitive sport.

The second concerned a reported data breach at Zivame, an e-commerce store, that caused no small amount of consternation given that Zivame sells women’s lingerie. The personal details of 1.5 million users were reported to be up for sale. But on social media, Sanjay Soni who uses the handle @Cyber_Huntss, and said to be a popular Hindutva influencer, made the startling claim that only Hindu women’s data was up for sale.

False, as it turns out. Rajasthan police have arrested Soni on charges of leaking women’s private data, extortion and hatching a communal conspiracy.

News you may have missed

Indian men, please stop killing us

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Yes, not at all men. But when one in three women report being subjected to domestic violence, then it follows that one in three men commit that violence.

Last week the scale of that violence was off the charts with the latest in the series of murderous men from India’s financial capital, Mumbai. The gory details of how 56-year-old Manoj Sane killed and disposed of the body of his live-in partner, 32-year-old Saraswati Vaidya are here, should you choose to read them.

Then, in Hyderabad, Sai Krishna, a married priest from the Bangaru Maisamma temple killed his girlfriend and dumped her body in a manhole reportedly because she wanted to legalise their relationship. His mother has said she should not have pestered him.

Sadly, every time a new horror story emerges, instead of introspecting on the real issue, i.e. intimate partner violence, we are distracted by extraneous noise either about love jihad (if the man happens to be Muslim and the woman Hindu) or a morality tale of the dangers of live-in relationships.

There is only one question to ask: How do we stop this epidemic of violence?

Body of art

In the video posted on social media, two children, a girl and a boy, are painting on their mother’s upper torso–erm, naked upper torso. The video so offended some people that the police in Ernakulam registered a case against the mom under POCSO (protection of children from sexual offences) in 2020.

The 33-year-old mum explained that the video was made to challenge patriarchal notions and to send a message against the over-sexualisation of the female body. Justice Dr Kauser Edappagath of the Kerala high court agreed. Nothing wrong in a mother allowing her body to be used as a canvas by her own children in order, says LiveLaw, to “sensitise them to the concept of viewing nude bodies as normal”.

“The male body is displayed in the form of six-pack abs, biceps etc. We often find men walking around without wearing shirts. But these acts are never considered obscene or indecent,” the judge said about double standards.


report by Stanford University and the Wall Street Journal, has found that Instagram is the main platform used by pedophile networks to promote and sell content showing child sexual abuse. A simple search for sexually explicit keywords referencing children leads to accounts that use these terms to advertise content that shows the sexual abuse of minors.

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A Financial Times expose into sexual assault charges made by 13 women against Crispin Odey, one of the biggest figures in UK finance is causing ripples. The Financial Conduct Authorities has ordered an investigation. Morgan Stanley has cut ties with his hedge fund and Goldman Sachs also stated it is “reviewing” its relationship with the firm. Gift link to the story here.

In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has appointed the first woman to head the country’s central bank. Hafize Gaye Erkan is a former US banker who has held senior roles at Goldman Sachs. She will, reports Al Jazeera, “play a key role in efforts to boost the country’s crisis-hit economy”.

…And the good news. On the morning of May 1, a Cessna 206 took off from the town of San Jose de Guaviare for Araracuara in the Amazonas province of Colombia. On board were four siblings ranging in age from 11 months to 13 years. The plane never made it.

It took two weeks to find its wreckage in the inhospitable terrain known for predatory animals. Alongside the wreckage were three adult bodies, including the childrens’ 33-year-old mother. But no sign of the kids.

Finally, on Friday afternoon, 40 days after that ill-fated take-off, the children were found. Dehydrated, malnourished, but, miraculously, alive. No one knows how they survived, but perhaps the knowledge the indigenous kids gained from their community, including their grandmother, held the key.

Read more in The Guardian here.