Not long ago, when my son was still at school, and caught up in gender discrimination issues asked me a question, which on the face of it appeared an innocuous inquiry to ascertain facts. So while we were at a restaurant near NANDINI on St. Mark’s Road, Bangalore, he asked me, ” Dad,, did you notice that there is a tobacconist at the entrance of NANDINI HOTEL?”
I said, “Of course, and I have many friends who had stopped by at that tobacconist to buy cigarettes. So what is strange about it?” I asked wanting where he was driving at.
So he said, “Did you notice that that tobacconist’s shop is abutting the compound wall of BISHOP COTTON’S GIRLS’ SCHOOL on St. Mark’s Road?”
I said with an air of accepting an uncared for piece of fact, “I know..”
“So, having a cigarette shop within 200 metres of any school was an offence, and near my school there are no cigarette shops and some of my smoker friends have to walk quite a bit to have a smoke and it is an unfair advantage for the girls!” he said.
Yes, it is a law which is in force, but may be this tobacconist had had his shop even before the law came into force, or worse still the school “CAME INTO NUISANCE”!
CAME INTO NUISANCE- what the hell does that mean? he asked.
“In England, once an elderly couple bought a house in a lane abutting a cricket ground. So during the weekends the house was left with a few broken window panes to the annoyance of the couple. So the couple filed a suit in the civil court claiming compensation from the Cricket Club for damages. Lord Denning, who decided the case on appeal, succinctly raised a point and settled the issue in favour of the Cricket Club by stating that, the couple knew before they purchased the house that there was a cricket club in the vicinity and that there was a locational hazard which they willingly assumed, so effectively by purchasing a house thus located was COMING INTO A PRE-EXISTING NUISANCE! So no damages!”, i said.
Dad don’t bull shit me, this Cotton’s for Girls have been in existence for close to a century, if not more and there is no way a tobacconist was there prior to the establishment of t6he school. So please think up another one.
So I shifted track, seeing the sense in his point. I said, “There are laws which cannot be uniformly enforced, as there are not enough people in the government to check everything and take corrective steps. So certain illegalities pass off for want of governmental notice!”
He said, ” Dad, that is not the point. Girls are generally thought of not to be smokers, whereas boys are thought of to take to such addictions. That is why this cigarette shop is allowed to be next to a girl’s school. This is nothing but GENDER DISCRIMINATION. And let me tell you dad, there are more girls smoking around than boys, at least in Bangalore!”
I thought of my school days when we also, as boys thought that, girls had it easy- ALWAYS! The gender discrimination issue is nothing new and in the metamorphosis of human evolution, one has to face it sometime and fight for one’s space- ALWAYS!