The value of girls’ lives in our society reflects in the fact that they face grave consequences for trivial transgressions. Numerous girls in our country get physically assaulted by their loved ones for defying the code implemented on them. Wear a short skirt, talk to a boy, refuse to cover your head or go to a party without taking permission from the patriarch. All these are valid reasons in the eyes of orthodox men to resort to violence against wives, daughters, sisters and even mothers. The blood on their hands represents their entitlement to have it their way, or to have the last word in any argument, be it with force.

SOME TAKEAWAYS:

  • A father from Virar set his daughter on fire for allegedly speaking on her mobile phone.
  • Orthodox men in our society cannot even tolerate the slightest of dissent from women.
  • They see something as trivial as refusing to cut the call as massive disobedience.
  • Often patriarchs force women into obeying norms to ensure that they don’t bring a bad name to the family.

The Times Of India reports that a man from Virar set his 16-year-old daughter on fire at their home, for allegedly speaking on her mobile phone on Monday. According to the police, the girl’s father came home to find her talking on the phone. He asked her to put it down, suspecting that she was having an affair and speaking to her lover. But when his daughter refused to obey, he lost his temper and began to beat her. He then pulled her into the kitchen, lifted the stove and poured kerosene from it on her and set her on fire. The girl has suffered over 70% burns and is now fighting for life.

It seems like orthodox men in our society cannot even tolerate the slightest of dissent from women

They see something as trivial as refusing to cut a phone call as massive disobedience. The defiance is worth beating your child mercilessly and setting her on fire. This incident and many more like it speak of the god-complex among many patriarchs. They think that their word is the rule of the world. So women who do not obey their command must face death or a fate much worse. Such harsh consequences will not only put women in their place but will also be a great example for other girls, about what happens when you do not obey elders, especially men, and risk the family’s honour.

The thing is, to these men, women aren’t their wives or daughters, they are wombs which either marry into your homes or you marry into another man’s clan. They are only vital to society because they bear progeny and help sustain a family’s name for generations. The identity of women is attached to their wombs, thus men begin to see them as objects. They must be guarded just to guard that womb. Often patriarchs force women into obeying norms and regulations to ensure that they don’t “stray” and bring a bad name to the family.

When women begin challenging these norms, conservative men take it personally. They see insubordination from wives, daughters and sisters as a personal threat

And when verbal threats don’t do the trick, men resort to violence. According to National Family Health Survey (NHFS-4) 2015-16, released by the Union Health Ministry, every third woman, aged 15 and above has faced domestic violence across the country, in various forms. Also, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) study released in November last year says that 58 per cent of female homicides in 2017 across the world were committed by the victims’ intimate partners or family members. These numbers tell us a story of gender dynamics in our society. Of how the acceptance that men are superior to women puts them in harm’s way.

The Mumbai girl who was set on fire yesterday will only be another number in this statistic, unless we stop this mad rage that fills men in our country when they face insubordination from women. Falling in love, marrying outside of your community, talking on a mobile phone, wearing short clothes and even wanting to study further rather than getting married are not crime. But patriarchy sees them as threats and it goads men into a false sense of insecurity. You will lose your name and your honour if you do not control your women by hook or by crook. The day we manage to cure men of this sense of insecurity, they will stop seeing women’s agency as insubordination.

Picture Credit: VK Singh and Company

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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