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Woman Under Pressure

By Amil Niazi

Friday March 18, 2005

The Gender Gap Of Justice


In a trial that has taken nearly twenty years to reach a conclusion, BC Supreme Court Justice Ian Bruce Josephson found Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri not guilty of the Air India bombings which killed 331 people. The verdict stunned victims, families and observers, but Josephson’s reasons behind the decision are equally jarring.

One of the Crown’s star witnesses was a woman who had been intimately involved with Malik. She testified Malik had confessed to the attacks several times in private conversations and despite the fact that he had shared details of a horrific crime with her, she professed to still love him. This fact, in light of her calm and studied demeanor, Josephson found, was impossible to believe. And as a result, her testimony was deemed inconsistent.

A woman, who Josephson himself stated was strong and intelligent on the stand, risks both her life and sanity to do what she believes is her moral, civic and personal duty and when she reveals herself to also be human is suddenly disregarded. To admit to the entire country, to mothers, fathers and lovers of victims that she still loved and respected a man who openly admitted to murder must have been terrifying. To rip open facets of your emotional life to strangers is difficult, to know that you loved in spite of yourself, in spite of grave reality is raw, human and honest. For her to put aside the trauma of irreconcilable feelings, gather herself to a point of decipherable speech and open herself up to crucifixion by a mob of judgment should be revered, not dismissed.

It’s not impossible to believe that the breadth of human emotion regularly devolves in to the questionable. Not hard to fathom that in the face of genuine malice, one can become clouded and conflicted pushing that malice against truths learned through intimacy, secrets and flesh. In relationships most of us make sketchy decisions and are willing to forgive the dalliances of our lovers, when the shit hits the fan we leave, but memory, disbelief and naiveté linger. Fortunately, most of us are never taken to task in front of our peers because in hindsight, all of our decisions may look inconsistent.

Because a woman stood up and said, yes he confessed to me these brutalities and yes, part of me still loves him, she becomes unreliable. Because she was unable to deny that she is capable of being more than doormat or deceptress, more than liar and thief, she is considered wasted. Because the judge saw her as disengaged from her reaction, an experience fifteen years in her past, he disregarded her claim. It seems women only come in a handful of personalities, and any other range of complexity doesn’t fit in to his description of femininity.

In the trial of Susan Smith, a woman accused and later found guilty of drowning her two young sons, the father of her children stood by Smith in the early days of the trial. He tearfully pleaded for the death penalty months later when a verdict had been reached. Not once was he tarred for his inconsistency. He was admired for his compassion, trauma and humanity. In this instance, it was just that emotion which drew people to his words in court. Lucky for him Judge Josephson wasn’t presiding in that case.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago women were being institutionalized, vilified and berated for exhibiting traits outside the societal norm. Hunted like witches for their hysteria and hormonal imbalances, they were creatures of clouded judgment and emotional spirals. Now, when a woman sits down with all semblances of rationality and self-control, she is unbelievable. Her choice lies between irregularity and honesty, neither one of which will be acceptable in the eyes of her judge. Literally in hiding as a result of her testimony, she serves as an example to any woman who dares stake her claim as a capable member of the patriarchy. Justice is blind, unless you have tits.