How ironic is it that just a day after Navratri, when girls are worshipped as goddesses, two women are attacked by the men they rejected. While one succumbed to her injuries, other survived. On October 27, two violent incidences occurred against women. Both were crimes of passion. One of these cases is getting a political hue as it is an inter-faith case, but I don’t want to dwell on that now.
A CCTV-footage caught a 21-year-old college girl being harassed and then shot in broad daylight in front of her college by a former classmate who was infatuated with her in Faridabad on the outskirts of the NCR. Tomar was declared dead at the hospital she was rushed to.
The second incident occurred in Mumbai when a television actress was reportedly stabbed by a producer after she allegedly rejected his proposal for marriage. The victim has been identified as Malvi Malhotra. She was attacked with a sharp knife leading to stab injuries. But thankfully she survived.
There are two issues here, first, the men concerned could not take ‘no’ for an answer and second these two incidences have raised the debate yet again over women’s safety.
Why can’t men take ‘no’ for an answer?
Label it social conditioning or patriarchal favouritism but our men are not ready to take ‘no’ for an answer. That’s because boys in our society are denied nothing and given everything they want. They are an entitled lot from birth and so they don’t learn to accept rejection, disappointment or failure. Not that girls don’t face any of this but they are conditioned to accept whatever is meted out to them whether its praise or rejection.
So what does a ‘no’ really mean to a man?
Firstly, I really think often men who are pursuing women just want their answer to be 'yes', more than they want their affection. That they must respect the agency and autonomy of women is seldom on their mind. That’s because men prioritise their own needs and desires and exclude that of others. Secondly, they feel a need, or even an entitlement, to control and believe that hearing a ‘no’ threatens that control. Thirdly, let’s remember they’re not really asking, they’re demanding, and so ‘a no’ is irrelevant. One of the best ways to tell the difference between a request and a demand is in how the person reacts to a ‘no’. Finally, some underlying jealousy, insecurity, or other psychological factor makes hearing the ‘no’ unbearably painful. The 'no’ may, for example, strike at their sense of self-worth.
Film industry to blame
I would also blame our film industry and not just Bollywood here. They have put it in our heads that first girls play hard to get and so one needs to pursue them relentlessly for them to "agree". Most importantly films in India have time and again normalised stalking, harassing and blackmailing women. Take movies like Raanjhanaa, Darr, Tere Naam, Wanted, Saawariya, Fan, Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Besharam, Sultan and Kabir Singh among many others as a case in point.
One can’t overlook the lyrics of some of our songs that normalise and romanticise stalking either. I can never get over disturbing lyrics such as ‘tune English mein jab humko daanta, toh aashiq surrender hua; pyar se maara galon pe chanta toh aashiq...’, from Badrinath ki Dulhaniya, where an uninterested Alia Bhatt is being chased by Varun Dhawan or Arjun Kapoor chasing Illeana D’Cruz singing ‘tu hi lage sohni tenu mari jawa line main….boyfriend bana le’, from the film Mubarakan. Even Toilet: Ek Prem Katha which was touted to be an inspiring movie keeping Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in mind also has a believe it or not a proper song ‘hans mat pagli’ showcasing stalking. In it, the hero can be seen stalking and clicking pictures of Bhumi Pednekar without her consent.
Whether we accept it or not, our films are major influencers. Major part of our nation’s population depends on movies for entertainment and consider them serious business. In such a scenario it becomes the responsibility of the film industry to give out the right message.
Women’s safety a concern
A recent data released by National Crime Record Bureau’s ‘Crime in India’ 2019 report reveals that crimes against women increased 7.3 percent from 2018 to 2019. According to NCRB - “A total of 4,05,861 cases of crime against women were registered during 2019, showing an increase of 7.3 percent over 2018 (3,78,236 cases). Majority of cases under crime against women under IPC were registered under ‘cruelty by husband or his relatives’ (30.9 percent), followed by ‘assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty’ (21.8 percent), ‘kidnapping & abduction of women’ (17.9 percent) and ‘rape’ (7.9 percent). The crime rate registered per lakh women population is 62.4 in 2019 in comparison with 58.8 in 2018.”
In such a scenario the authorities have to sit and deliberate as to what’s going wrong, why aren’t women safe? What needs to be done to make our cities and streets safe for them?
As for the mindset that women are men's property and need to be controlled and protected starts at homes. The change has to begin from our homes which will eventually spill out to society as a whole. There is frankly no other way.
Women are goddesses not just for those nine days but each day, I hope we remember that.
Image Credit: Reuters
The views expressed are the author's own.