The fight for gender equality has to constantly tackle one major problem: the sense of entitlement of the man and his perception of the woman as a weak object, a property to be owned.
A common crime that has been on the rise in India and has blatantly exposed the privilege of the Indian man is an acid attack, against an ex-lover, wife or a woman who has refused to acknowledge the sexual advances or a marriage proposal aggravating the masculine need to get what he wants at whatever cost and assert his power. Possessiveness, territoriality, insecurity have been entitled to men in a patriarchal society where they are seen as the custodians of women’s bodies and their rights.
We have been rocked by innumerable incidents of acid attacks in the past which have shown an increase from 83 in 2011 to 349 in 2015 (Research by Acid Survivors Foundation India). India has the worst convictions rates for acid attacks and much like the other crimes against women, these cases are treated with societal indifference and official apathy.
Revenge crimes are born because of this misplaced sense of entitlement and power. An incident that shocked me recently happened in Kottayam, Kerala where a jilted lover barged inside the classroom at the School of Medical education with a bottle of petrol pouring it on his ex-lover and setting her ablaze. The attacker who was a student of the same medical school then got out of the classroom and set himself on fire. The girl and the accused were admitted to Kottayam medical college where they succumbed to their injuries.
According to the victim’s friends both had been in love with each other for some time until the girl backed out because of her parent’s opposition to the relationship. The accused, a resident of Kollam stalked and threatened her on several occasions after which he retorted to this extreme step.
Entitlement is a privilege in a patriarchal society where women do not have the agency to refuse. Revenge is sought for rejecting a marriage proposal or sexual advances. Women are also been attacked for not bringing enough dowry, for bearing a female child and for not cooking a good meal or the refusal to do it.
Every crime against a woman is based on the deeply rooted bias that they are dependent humans who do not have the liberty to exercise the freedom to live their life which is a fundamental right. Women are struggling to claim their subjectivity as a fully formed human subject who have the right to say a no to a man.
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Picture credit: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-24012424