Unsafe Land: Why India is infamous as the most dangerous country for women
**TRIGGER WARNING: GENDER BASED VIOLENCE**
I was scrolling through my social media feed after work as is my routine. While looking at stories I noticed someone had put up a post titled “Why being a woman in India is not easy” and I thought, “This should be interesting”. As a woman living in India, I’m extremely aware of this fact and I do not need another blog post enumerating the reasons to me. But, nonetheless, my curiosity piqued. It was a post by thetatvaindia, an independent news curator. Just below this question was an explanation which read “Hundreds of people watch a man kill his wife in broad daylight in Delhi, because she chose to work at a hospital and not leave her job to become a ‘Housewife’. People recorded videos, but NO ONE came forward to stop him”.
I was horrified; however I was curious if the perpetrator was caught. Despite the disclaimer of sensitive content from Instagram, I swiped right to find the following slides show the crime caught on a CCTV. It also showed how many others had caught it on their cameras, yet no one dared to stop him.
The reason for committing such a ghastly crime was because the victim wanted to continue working. Crimes of this nature have been committed against women in India for so long. The justifications given by the perpetrators for their violence is often just victim blaming.
1) Girls should not roam around at night!
And if they did, they asked for what came their way.
Six men gang raped a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus in Delhi on 16th December 2012. They beat up the man who was accompanying her and left both of them for dead on the side of the road.
In a famous documentary by Leslee Udwin titled ‘'India's Daughter', the perpetrators narrated the events of the fateful night. One of the accused, Mukesh Singh, went on to say how it was the girl’s fault.
Here’s translation of an excerpt of his interview:
“It takes two hands to clap. A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming around in discos and bars at night, doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes".
He even said that the death penalty would make things more dangerous for women as culprits will not leave their victims alive now. The advocate who represented them, Manohar Lal Sharma, even said, “Women are more precious than a gem, than a diamond. If you put your diamond on the street, certainly the dog will take it out. You can’t stop them.”
2) How dare she reject a man?
In India, it is almost commonplace to hear of a woman who was harmed or killed because she rejected advances from a man or insulted his ego. Acid-attacks, setting the victim ablaze, murdering the intended victim or/and their loved ones has become rampant in this country.
A man hired goons to attack Aarti Thakur in 2012, twice with a knife and the third time with acid. The man was later found to be her ex-landlady’s son, whose advances and marriage proposal she had rejected. This is just one among lakhs of cases in India. In October 2020, a 23-year-old man was arrested for murdering a transwoman, M Sangeetha, for rejecting his sexual advances.
The patriarchal society has managed to convince these men that they are entitled to reciprocation of their feelings from the unwilling subjects of their obsession. And a rejection sends them into a rage, and they punish the victim and, often, people closest to the victims, for the slight to their ego. In cases where their primary intention is not to kill, they attack the faces. A statement made to isolate the girl socially, and mark her as if to say, ‘If I can’t have her then no one else can’.
3) Our prestige is more important than your life.
You’d think such things would cease to exist by 21st century. But honour killing is still a reality in many places in India, especially in rural or backward regions. There are many triggers for honour killings, including, refusal of arranged marriage, seeking divorce, being a victim of rape, homosexuality, and forbidden male partners (an umbrella term for anyone not approved by the family).
Though men and women commit and are victims of honour killings, in most communities, standards of morality are set differently for men and women. The standards are stricter for women.
In July 2015, Kausalya (from an OBC community) eloped with Shankar (from a SC community). In a few days, she was abducted by her family, tortured, and put through some rituals. She, however, was rescued by the police after her husband filed a complaint. Nearly a year later, the couple was attacked at a bus stop. The husband was killed and Kausalya was nearly dead. In 2017, the trial court sentenced her father, Chinnasamy, and five others to death. Two people were sentenced to life imprisonment, and three people, including her mother, were acquitted. But in a shocking turn of events last year, the High court reversed the decision the trial court had delivered for the father and exonerated him completely of all charges.
These gruesome cases stem, again, from a feeling of possession of women.
While the motives for all these cases are varied, the underlying cause is the same. It is a result of centuries of conditioning by a patriarchal society that lead these perpetrators to believe that they have the right to define boundaries for all women, judge them if they didn’t adhere and execute them for perceived transgressions.
It starts at the grassroots; it starts at home. When women are not allowed to eat before their husbands and sons have finished eating and they clean up their leftovers; when the sons in the family get more to eat than their sisters; when sisters have to forgo their comforts and necessities to accommodate their bothers’ comforts, and even when men can roam around half-naked at home while women have to be completely covered; each of these things has ingrained an idea into the fabric of our society - “Women were put on earth to serve and obey men”.
While there are laws in place to deal with the aftermath of such situations, they are not nearly enough as deterrents. The numbers have only been rising, and no number of amendments seems to drive any fear into the perpetrators. These crimes are going nowhere unless we, as a society, fix the mentality that has been sown into the very fabric of this country. All these efforts being made will not make any difference if we do not impart the correct and, more importantly, uniform values to the future generations. This was best explained in the movie Pink when Amitabh Bachchan said, “Till today we have been making all our efforts in the wrong direction. We should save our boys, not the girls. Because if we save our boys, our girls will be saved.”
Teach your boys to see women as humans with equal rights and teach your girls to never think less of themselves or accept the unfair conditions that will be thrown into.