“Why are they living in live-in relationships? If they have to do so, there should be proper registration. If parents are not willing to publicly support such relationships, you should have a court marriage and then live together,” commented Union Minister Kaushal Kishore on the Shraddha Walkar murder case. Further adding fuel to fire, he said, “Educated girls should not get into such relationships. They should learn from such incidents. They should stay with someone with the approval of their parents.” A cold-blooded gruesome murder of this proportion and we get a comment like that from a Union Minister.
Shiv Sena's Priyanka Chaturvedi reacted sharply in a tweet, “Surprised he didn't say girls are responsible for being born into this nation. Shameless, heartless, and cruel, blame-the-woman-for-all-problems mentality continues to thrive.” She called for his sacking.
Delhi Police arrested Aftab Amin Poonawalla for the murder of his live-in partner, Shraddha Walkar. After an argument, Aftab strangled Shraddha on May 18, then chopped her body into 35 pieces. He then dumped her mortal remains in the Mehrauli forest area over 18 days. The two had met through a dating app and had been living together since 2019. They had eloped to Delhi after her parents objected to their being together.
Why are we surprised? There has always been victim blaming in our society. A lot is being said about Poonawala but unfortunately, it’s only because of his religion. Nothing is being talked about the circumstances and environment that made him a monster.
The comment the worry
What is worrisome is the “Educated girls should not get into such relationships” comment, he meant live-in. First of all if not educated girls then who should get into such relationships? What did he mean by ‘educated girls’? Educated meaning really educated or from ‘good families’? Let’s be clear that educated or uneducated, ‘good family’ or normal family, girls can choose a partner. And what is wrong if a girl chooses whom she wants to be with, may I ask?
There is an argument also going around. The respected minister also pointed out that girls or youngsters today should get into relationships only if the parents approve of it. Or that they should have married instead of a live-in relationship. So, it’s a comment on ‘love marriage’ on the whole and ‘love jihad’ and ‘live-in’ in particular.
What if they had married? Would he not have slaughtered her in a fit of anger? Don’t girls get burnt and killed for dowry after marriage? Can marriage or parents’ consent prevent intimate partner abuse and dowry deaths?
Statistics point to something else, as many as 13,534 cases were registered in the country under the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 in 2021, a 25% rise compared to the cases registered in 2020 (10,046), the data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has revealed.
This not to say that I am making a case for ‘love marriage and ‘live-in relationships’ it’s just that these type of relationships do not always mean abuse or murder in the same way ‘arranged marriage’ does not provide a sure shot safety net.
In this case, had their parents accepted this relationship, then maybe, just maybe Shraddha would have been alive today.
Why are men left off the hook?
In this case and numerous other such cases, the men’s mental state, upbringing, values, and character are never questioned. Whether it’s divorce, eve-teasing, sexual assault, rape or murder due to passion the blame lies with the woman. She must have done something to provoke him, her dress must have been too short or revealing, she must not have cared for her husband and kids, she must have consumed alcohol, she must have ventured out alone and finally - she did not listen to her parents and other members of her family so this was bound to happen.
All rules, and boundaries apply to women, not men. Why?
It’s the male entitlement that our patriarchal social set-up provides which makes them feel they are invincible, a gift to womankind, and can get away with anything.
Why do women endure abuse?
In this case Shraddha wanted to get married; she wanted permanency in her relationship.
But there are other reasons why women stay in abusive relationships. Sometimes, women don’t realise it is abuse for a long time, mostly it is social conditioning that you need to stick it out no matter what, one needs to work on relationships they’re told, women should compromise for a relationship to work, lack of financial independence is a very big factor. Women are groomed so they lack confidence that they can take care of themselves. In case of separation and divorce – lack of support systems
But we expect a better thought process from elected members who are supposed to look out for the welfare of every section of our society.
The views expressed are the author's own.