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Confident women in India are not welcome. Sometimes, when they ask uncomfortable questions, the hurt male ego even results in murder, as the case of Monika Ghurde shows.
In the past few days, the murder of 39 year old celebrity perfumer Monika Ghurde has been in the news. The accused, a young man, committed the heinous crime as he nursed grudges against Monica for filing a complaint against him. While there were more than 20 complaints against the security guard, Monika’s complaint filled the 21 year old man with such angst that he decided to take revenge. The brutal torture of nine hours which she went through before death is very disturbing.
Just a month back, it was in the news as to how the man who murdered Pallavi Purkayastha had escaped from parole. To refresh your memory, Pallavi was a young, successful 25 year old lawyer living in Mumbai. Pallavi had scolded the security guard after she noticed his lewd gestures towards her. Back in 1990, a 14 year old girl was murdered and raped in Calcutta after she refused to give in to his obscene comments at her. He crept into her flat, raped and murdered her.
All these women were bright, confident and independent. They questioned the wrongdoings of these men and it was too much for the fragile male ego to handle. The accused in all the cases admitted that their intention was to ‘only’ rape the women and not commit murder. We must notice the usage of ‘only’ before ‘rape’ with so much ease. All these men had a psyche that a rape or sexual assault is the way you teach outspoken women a lesson. They ended up murdering these women because they fought fiercely and scared the shit out of these men. It was risky to keep them alive because they would have fought for justice. So they were overpowered by these men who reverted to their most primitive instincts.
Why is it so difficult in India to be a smart, confident, attractive and single woman? While Bollywood reaffirms that akeli ladki ek khuli tijori ki tereh hai (a single woman is like an open locker), it is up to us to think beyond the laughter around these sexist jokes. How do we accept it do candidly that men have the tendency to revert to their beastly behavior if women deviate from the norms set aside for them?
There is so much protection needed for women to live as human beings. If you put a gender neutral lens in all these cases, a man would have done the same thing as the women in these cases did. Filing a complaint against the incompetence of a security guard is no big deal but it became a big deal here because the complainants were women. These cases remind us that the repercussions faced by a woman when she objects to the behavior of a man are graver in nature than vice versa.
So while people don’t bother to know what their son is up to, they want to monitor every activity of their daughters. Being a man, you may say that you want to protect the women for their own safety. However it is a matter of shame that we live in a country where first we have to save the girl child from getting killed, and then have to protect her through her life. If she ends up living a life any human being deserves, it must be the game of her lucky stars. A woman does not need a man’s protection but behavioral change which patriarchal values may not allow him to do.
Being a woman, if you walk on the street alone in any Indian city, it is so easy to hear the abuses loaded with words against women. While you use these abuses and talk about f&#%ing someone’s sister or mother, be sure that your dear friend is intending to do the same to women in your family. That is where the ‘protection’ psyche starts. For the male fraternity, the competition starts from talking about f&#%ing each other’s sisters and mothers. In the process you produce such dysfunctional men whose mind patriarchy has f&^ked for ages. These men consider it a matter of pride to belittle everything related to womanhood.
One has to pay a huge hidden cost for being a woman in this country. She compromises on the time she should walk on the roads, the clothes she wears, the way she expresses her sexuality and how much she should fight in her defense. She has to keep male chaperones around her to remind her that she has no escape without the opposite sex. While we proudly talk about our soaring GDPs, we can’t afford to ignore this issue – please look around to see the plight of woman starting from your own homes.
If the workforce participation rate for women in India was the same as for men, roughly 217 million women would join the labor force. At 53 percentage points, India has one of the worst gender gaps (disproportionate difference between the sexes) in the world. In a scenario where women are bound to earn more for ensuring their safety, it is surprising that they do not go out and work for various social and cultural reasons. As per the culture, they have to be ‘protected’ and a strong woman wants anything but protection. Thus the absence of strong and independent woman should not come as a surprise to us. Against all odds and with support from friends and family, if a woman reflects radiance and confidence in her personality, it hurts the fragile ego of many men. Some of them end up losing their lives to keep the masculinity of these men intact.
The other day I happened to see Pallavi Purkayastha’s mother from a distance when I was rushing towards a neighboring hall for a meeting. I wondered what must she would have gone through in these four years. A shooting pain ran through my spine – the pain of these women’s families is unimaginable. The hidden cost of being a woman in this country is remarkably high.
A version of this post first published here
Top image via Pixabay