Trigger Warning: Violence, Murder

A distinguished woman enters the premises of a district court. A ceremony for her elevation to Bar Council Chief awaits. Out of seemingly nowhere, a man, a peer known to her, stands up and shoots her. Darvesh Yadav dies on the spot.  

The scene could not have been any crueller. Planned to be celebratory, it became the spot of the chief guest’s bloody murder. It became the latest representation of the reality of womanhood. Of the fact that no matter how high we climb, how many achievements we collect on the way to show what we are capable of, we remain women, vulnerable to the murderous whims of men we know.

Growing up as a woman involves subtle and explicit lessons on how to deal with men, be at home or on the streets.

Once more, it brought into stark focus the question that if all these women with public lives, immensely powerful work profiles, and recognisable clout can have their lives snuffed out with such open ease, should all of us ‘common’ women stop dreaming of security?  

Or is that the wrong question to ask at all?

No Space for My Anger

Growing up as a woman involves subtle and explicit lessons on how to deal with men, be at home or on the streets. Keep your gaze low, don’t talk out of turn or at all, give way when walking in a public space, don’t return a stare, and always remember the primary duty of protecting a man’s ego by living as small and as humbly as possible.

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Also read: Are Women Law-Upholders Truly Safe In Our Country?

Women and girls are conditioned to walk on egg shells around men, especially when turning them down or rejecting their violative advances, while men and boys are taught to give full vent to their feelings when slighted, whether real or imagined. It is perfectly normal for men to feel entitled to murderous rage against women and the validity of that rage is also for them to decide.

The brazen nature of many reported attacks on women further prove to us readers that men are fully aware that this is their world still, a world where their anger can and will be justified by many people no matter what they do. They know that most people will not intervene. They know people will question why the woman may have deserved the rage. People and the media will debate his intentions and what may have “pushed” his actions. People will dismiss the results as an angry flash in an otherwise wonderful example of manhood. Headlines will talk about his achievements, his family credentials, his past good deeds, his future potential, constantly alluding to the fact that he is more than a killer. That he deserves another chance. His victim, however, is gone. Destined to be forgotten like thousands of women who are killed every year. If the victim is forgotten, then surely so can the crime. The world and the news cycle will move on. Till another murder happens.

This is Femicide

I first came across the word ‘femicide’ when reading about Mexico. The problem there seemed dystopian, I could not wrap my head around the numbers. And these are the reported cases, with hundreds I am sure going entirely unnoticed. I realised only much later that I had understood the concept of men killing women way before I came across a term defining it – women being killed primarily because they are women. There had been women in my family, in my neighbourhood, in my country who had been killed simply because of their gender, simply because they had refused to comply with the list of rules that aimed to keep them subservient.

It is perfectly normal for men to feel entitled to murderous rage against women and the validity of that rage is also for them to decide.

As the years have passed, a depressing number of cases of femicide have accrued in my head, poking holes in my consciousness. It makes me think – what is the price of a woman’s life? It seems that brutally, mercilessly killing women is one of the easiest things to do in the world. Why is that? What exactly is my position in this world as a woman?  I was taught that I had to prove my ‘worth’ to access any ‘value’. But what value does all my labour come up to? How much of it is enough to save me from murder? What if I am ‘worthless’? If I compare, how small or big will my value be against a man’s anger?

I have no answers. Or more accurately, I know all the answers but I am too despondent to acknowledge them. I seethe just at the thought of having to debate my right to life against a random man’s random feelings. I am tired of having my life being a matter of comparison at all. I am incredibly tired of watching extraordinary lives being snuffed out by men whose egos have been hurt, whose entitlements have been questioned. I sometimes cannot bear the pain of thinking about what these dead women would have become, achieved, gifted to this world. I am constantly being pushed to think if some lives are more important than the others, and who gets to decide that. I am being asked to always question the ‘worth’ of women, the economic validity of a woman being alive. The ‘benefits’ that people can suck out of women to justify them being alive.   

Also read: What Is Killing Kashmiri Women And Why Aren’t We Talking About It?

Who will remember these women? Who will make note of their names and record their achievements for posterity to ponder over? Who will remember whether justice prevailed? Who really cares about women?

Featured Image Source: teleSUR English

About the author(s)

Shruti Sharada is a freelance writer, editor, communications strategist, podcast host and queer feminist based in Bengaluru.

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