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Remember the age-old axiom, that no matter how old we are, we are still our parents' children? This statement gathers a somewhat different dimension if the child happens to be a girl who is born and raised in India. No matter how liberal the families we come from may be, there is always that slight hitch in letting women be, and live life on our own terms; even if we can very well fend for ourselves.
The Supreme Court has now announced that an adult woman is entitled to lead a life of their choosing and yes, that includes what they wear, and when they go out, whom they choose as their partner.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud asserted, "It needs no special emphasis to state that attaining the age of majority in an individual's life has its own significance. S/he is entitled to make her/his choice. The courts cannot, as long as the choice remains, assume the role of parens patriae (legal protector).
The daughter is entitled to enjoy her freedom as the law permits and the court should not assume the role of super guardian being moved by any kind of sentiment of the mother or egotism of the father. We say so without any reservation."
This ruling was first given to the case of a 24-year-old medical student Hadiya (formerly Akhila Ashokan), who had eloped and married a Muslim man, Shafin Jehan. Her family alleged that she was "brainwashed" and forced into the marriage even when Hadiya claimed that she had consented to it.
Hadiya's marriage was annulled by the Kerala High Court and handed her custody over to her father stating, "As per Indian tradition, the custody of an unmarried daughter is with the parents, until she is properly married." This was famously also referred to as 'psychological kidnapping'.
Shafin Jahan then appealed to the Supreme Court which gave the ruling that as an adult woman she is free to do whatever she pleases.
And recently with a mother seeking the custody of her 19-year-old estranged daughter in Kuwait, the judges on the bench said that if the teenager wants to stay with her father in Kuwait and pursue her career, so be it.
With the Supreme Court encouraging young women to forge ahead and seek their own truths, we really hope that all our families also let us do the same.