Trigger Warning: Violence, Abuse
On November 25, 1960, three sisters, Patria Mirabal, María Mirabal, and Antonia María Mirabal, were assassinated in the Dominican Republic on the orders of the Dominican ruler Rafael Trujillo as they fought hard to halt Trujillo’s dictatorship.
Since 1981, women activists on the death anniversary of Mirabal Sisters observe the day as a reminder of violence against women, and the U.N. announced their date of death to be observed as the ‘International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.’
This year, at home, the agonizing tale of violence continues and the day serves as a brutal reminder of society’s penchant of violence against women. Only, killers aren’t stranger dictators– but fathers, husbands, boyfriends and other family members, conventionally considered as safe spaces. But these men have spoken– “Women are safe only till Women retaliate.”
A moment, a mere fragment of time when women do not nod their head in agreement with men associated with them, might be the last time they have a head.
The grotesque details of the gruesome Shraddha Walkar murder case brought an eerie chill down the entire country’s spine. But it wasn’t even a week after Walkar’s murder by her partner Aftaab Poonawala was broadcasted when the bulletins were dominated with headlines of a father— shooting her 21-year-old daughter, Ayushi, fitting her body in a suitcase and leaving it on a highway in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura. The reason was, he was unhappy with her daughter’s marriage as the man she chose belonged to another caste and wasn’t approved by him. Shockingly, the mother aided her husband in disposing of their daughter’s body. A dead daughter, afterall, is better than the one who makes her own choices.
Also read: Shraddha Walkar Murder: A Grave Reflection On Unaddressed Issue Of Intimate Partner Violence
Continuing the discourse of terminating women literally, in Madhya Pradesh, a man who identified himself as Abhijeet Patidaar, later found to be Hemant Bhadaude, not only murdered his girlfriend citing infidelity, but filmed it on camera and uploaded it across social media. In an uncanny resemblance to the Shraddha Walkar Murder, in Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh, a man named Prince Yadav, strangled his ex girlfriend in a sugarcane field and chopped her body in pieces as she married someone else. His own cousin, Sarvesh and family members, who are still absconding played accomplice in murdering a woman who made a choice they did not agree with.
These blood curdling stories terrify us to the core because they sound familiar. We all know someone who is in an abusive relationship, someone whose parents do not approve of a relationship, or someone who decided to end things with her partner for some reason. The circumstance is elementary, sometimes it’s the father that kills, and at times it’s the partner, but what stays consistent is the victim– ‘A Woman’.
But of course, rather than acknowledging the fact that all these gruesome murders demonstrate the subconscious notion of “Violence Against Women” being a rudimentary learning in homes, the patriarchal society has decided to take this as an opportunity to advertise it as a cautionary tale— telling women if they dare to make choices of their own, this is how they’ll end up.
If they marry someone against their family’s will, they’ll be murdered by their parents. If parents are merciful enough to not kill, they’ll isolate themselves from their own daughter. She goes to live with her partner anyway, she will be strangled, and dissected into pieces by her partner and the family won’t bother till it’s very late. Politicians weighed in, all powered up with Misogyny stating, “These incidents are happening with all those girls who are well-educated and think they are very frank and have the ability to make decisions about their future. Why are they living in live-in relationships?”
Also read: Victim Blaming, Love Jihad And Islamophobia: Is There A Room For Justice For Women In India?
As the society fails to recognise, this is prominently a case of “Violence against Women”, which hadn’t stopped, and continues to transpire. Instead of making this world a safe place for women, politicians, sexist uncles and aunties are using this as an opportunity to dictate women how to live. Social media users have dominated the platforms demanding women adhering to stricter norms and parents to be more vigilant of choices their daughters make. But all this ridiculous bustle around policing women does is chiming chauvinism.
The creature of misogyny seeps within us at home, since the time we’re toddlers. Hailing from a small town in Uttar Pradesh, from what I’ve seen and observed in a family, Brothers have female friends and girlfriends when they are in schools and colleges, which seems a pretty normal thing. Only, those brothers themselves will not take a second in slapping and hitting their own sisters if they find out about their love interests while their parents agree in tandem with them.
From a very young age, this gives a subconscious belief in women that getting slapped is okay, even from a person you love, and signals men a message that thrashing a woman is okay, even if it’s a person you love– Especially if it’s a person you love. Movies like Kabir Singh and Toxic Masculine Figures like Andrew Tate take it upon themselves to promulgate this ridiculous notion.
When a woman has seen her parents thrashing her for her choices, her brother slapping her courses of action, even if she follows a rebel trajectory and marries someone against their will, she has a subconscious belief that a person she loves might hit occasionally. And when, in fact, her partner hits her, rather than thinking of it as domestic violence, she thinks of it as something normal, which is deeply problematic. What starts with speaking in a disrespectful tone becomes abuses, which then transforms into slaps, and in some cases like Walkar’s, turn fatal.
As per the Institute of Family Studies, the reason why women choose to stay in abusive relationships is primarily because of “distorted thoughts”, “damaged self worth”, “The urge of playing the role of a saviour”, and “Isolation”. So the Question of “why can’t she leave” isn’t as simple for women especially when they have nowhere else to go. In Indian Society, if a woman marries a man of her choice, she is usually kept out of the family and loses relationship with them, just like in the case of Walkar.
Lack of punishment is also what supplements this cruelty further. We have heard the gruesome details of violence against women within a week of Shraddha Walkar murder case, and all these horrific murders deserve no punishment other than the capital one, but due to our justice fallacies, justice is rarely delivered, and even if it done– it’s late– too damn late. Many have already lost their lives by the time a meaningful decision arrives. There needs to be a “Zero-Tolerance Approach” if we need to work against fighting consistent violence against women with actions, and not mere shallow words.
As per the United Nations, The theme for 2022 is ‘Unite: Activism to end violence against women and girls‘ which will aim to mobilise all society to become activists for the prevention of violence against women, to stand in solidarity with women’s rights activists and to support feminist movements around the world to resist the rollback on women’s rights and calling for a world free from VAWG (Violence against women and girls).
Also read: In The Invisibilisation Of Domestic Abuse, Is Home Really A Safe Haven?
Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in the world today. Furthermore, it still remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it. The belief reinforces when a woman victim is cemented as a precautionary tale for other women to embark on the choices someone else makes for them.
Earlier this week, Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, pointed out that a woman or a girl is killed every 11 minutes by an intimate partner or a family member and that violence against women is the most pervasive human rights violation in the world. Blaming women’s choice is a part of the larger scheme of patriarchy that shamelessly uses violent crimes committed against women as a reason to control those very women it targets eventually.
After Dictator Rafael Trujillo got the Mirabal Sisters murdered, a public outrage was caused which triggered his own assassination. The question remains, after over 60 years, how many more women need to be murdered and sacrificed before we come to senses. Before that, we need to acknowledge violence against women as violence against women and not as “This happens when you don’t listen to your father”. Well, guess what, fathers and brothers have shown no mercy in slaughtering their own blood if the woman defies regulation the men deem fit.
Also read: You Do Not Have To Forgive The Person Who Abused You
If she dares to have her own choices that aren’t synonymous with societal conventions, she cannot be the Angel of the House, and if she ain’t that she can only be one thing– A Madwoman In The Attic, that no one cares about. It takes one woman to do something morally gray and the entire society is ready bashing “Feminism”, cementing women as “Gold Diggerrs”, and Outcry “but men feel the same too.” The question is how many more men murdering women do we need, so that the society stands in tandem playing their part in eradicating cultural violence against women and not using this as an opportunity to send women back to the kitchen.