In the society we live in, violence can be unleashed against a woman before she is born. Sample this: Infanticide was widespread in several parts of Tamil Nadu in early 1990s and after the State’s aggressive measures to curb it, the practice slyly transformed into foeticide and successfully continues to exist.
A woman is sometimes denied education just because there are no proper toilets in schools. She’s killed for making choices of her own.
Yet as a woman, the last five years have probably been more nightmarish than all the rest of my years of existence put together. For I see an eight year old Asifa raped and killed. I see her rapists defended by those in power. I have had leaders from the ruling party tell me to bear five children to protect Hinduism. I have had the ruling party’s women leaders tell me not to demand equality in all aspects. I have had someone preach to me about how rape can be “sometimes right and sometimes wrong” – and another one babbling about how rapes only happen in India, not Bharat. Probably because, in Bharat women are not allowed to step out of their homes and are advised to suffer marital violence silently – as a “woman of virtue” would.
From Surat to Muzaffarnagar, I have seen women bear the brunt of sexual violence, which is basically an ugly exercise of power over the defenceless.
It makes me sick to the stomach, to realise that I am living the horror of violence becoming normalised. Over the last five years, many have shed even the pretence of protesting against sexual assault. If a woman is raped, they say she “asked for it by staying out late or being dressed inappropriately”. If she is killed by her own family, they say she committed the mistake of “disrespecting” them.
While every government up until now has failed women one way or another, the ruling dispensation is ideologically predisposed to patriarchy. They deeply believe in the regressive idea of patriarchy and the Indian woman’s need to submit to it. If elected in 2019, they will perhaps cement the idea at all levels.
Under the current government which came to power in 2014, my battles became tougher. In 2019, I might lose them all together.
As I begin to write about why women should exercise their choice better in 2019, two women dominate my thoughts. Both of them would have been first time voters this poll season and both were killed by institutionalised forms of violence. S Anitha, a Dalit girl from Kuzhumur in Tamil Nadu, killed herself on September 1, 2017 after failing to pass NEET, despite having done exceptionally well in other exams. J Snowlin was killed by the police on May 22, 2018 in Thoothukudi along with twelve others – all of them protesting against the expansion of Sterlite Copper in their district.
To those women, this country owes a change.
Note: This is a part in a series of articles from writers who are deeply uneasy about the future of the country. They are each an appeal to citizens – discussing what in their view, is at stake in this General Election.
Author Bio: Kavitha Muralidharan is a bilingual journalist with two decades of experience covering politics, culture, literature and cinema. She is also a writer and a translator to Tamil. She has been published in The Wire, The Newsminute, The Hindu Tamil, India Today, The Week, Hindustan Times, HuffingtonPost, Firstpost, and Deccan Herald.