In One Startling Week, India Showed How It Treats Its Daughters

Here, we talk about the way the country's ingrained sexism and misogyny were exposed time and again through the course of the week

Dear Reader, if you happen to be a female citizen of this country, our empathies. It goes without saying that the past week has just been emotionally exhausting for all of us.

Before doubting Devs swoop in and ask us why did we choose to ignore other heinous rape cases that happened around the country, let me clarify that this is not a rant piece about the Unnao and Kathua.  Here, we talk about the way the country’s ingrained sexism and misogyny were exposed time and again through the course of the week.

From the lawyer who deems the Kathua rape investigation as shoddy because it was done by a woman officer to dismissive, cheek-patting governors, it’s hard to keep the raging hulk, in all of us, from unleashing mayhem.

The variety of naysayers in public, whose voices women constantly need to drown out in order to function, seem to test every ounce of patience Indian women have. You can kung fu a glass ceiling all you want, ladies, but patriarchy is the King Kong to your simpering ladki, holding you in his palm, gently patting your cheek in light moments.

While trying to look up intelligence serums online, five news items in the recent past made me think if India would rather sweep off the women under the rug.

1. TN governor’s cheeky pats

Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit patted senior journalist Lakshmi Subramanian’s cheek when she asked him a question at a Chennai press conference. The journalist voiced her anger in a tweet, claiming she tried to wash “her face several times but was still not able to get rid of it”. What Subramanian could not get rid of was the feeling that, firstly, her personal space was violated by a head of a state. And, secondly, this has NEVER happened with a male journalist. The governor later claimed that he was being appreciative of her question and that he later realised (after nearly 200 journalists wrote to him) that he was out of line. Patronising lessons for free, anyone?


2. Lawyer says women are not intelligent

The defence lawyer of the Kathua rape case, in his infinite wisdom, claims that the lone woman investigator of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) Shwetambri Sharma was, after all, a woman, so she may have been misguided during the course of the probe. Now, this is not some random rookie. He’s talking about the Deputy Superintendent of Police in Crime Branch of J&K Police. Evidence tampering, harassment, humiliation and threats, Sharma had to face all kinds of obstacles during the probe and was even asked to stop midway with the excuse that the accused belonged to the same cast as her. Sharma persevered through all of it.

3. Madhu Kishwar and the poorly connected theory

And then there’s the odd case when a woman’s comment makes us facepalm. An influencer like Madhu Kishwar decided to tweet out that the Kathua rape was the handiwork of Rohingya refugees and that the family of the rape accused has been “scapegoated”. Without even a single bit of evidence, she decided to paint the episode in a communal colour while trying to redirect the debate on Rohingyas. The only way to respond to her false allegations is by slapping a criminal complaint against her like Prashant Bhushan did.

4. All is fair in love and dowry

Just when we think that we’ve seen the most horrific crime, Uttar Pradesh will creep up on the news. Women are still held hostage for dowry by their husbands. A viral video shows a man beating up his wife, who is tied to a fan. The man apparently sent a video of the episode to the woman’s family, claiming there would be more such episodes.

But wait, there is hope.

1. Kathua victim’s lawyer fighting against all odds to get justice

Deepika Singh Rajawat is representing the family of the victim in the heinous gangrape and murder of an eight-year-old in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir, back in January. While politicians and right-wing leaders try to take over primetime debates, using every second of screentime to give you a fresh skewed perspective on the case, this woman is defiantly pursuing the case. Rajawat claims even her colleagues at the Jammu Bar Association had threatened her not to take the case

Image Courtesy: Twitter/ @ashwaqM

2. Biggest online petition for the Kathua rape victim by women

Women’s Initiative for Justice for Kathua successfully mobilised the support of over 17 lakh (and counting) people. The petition started by a group of women from Jammu and Kashmir voices concerns over the politicisation and communalisation of the incident and requests state Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to fast-track the probe to ensure justice is delivered with immediacy. The petition is said to have stirred the conscience of the nation. Women are capable of triggering movements in the 21st century as well!? I am scared.

3. Activists raise money for families of Kathua, Unnao rape victims

A crowdsourced fundraising campaign was launched by Shehla Rashid along with several other activists for the families of the victims. The campaign, which was launched after a few lawyers stopped the police from filing the charge sheet raised Rs 35 lakh in just four days and has garnered support from influential people. While writing this article, over Rs 40 lakh has been raised.

Manika Batra poses with the medal at the CWG

4. Monika Batra powering through in CWG

Sportswomen have faced systemic misogyny from sports enthusiasts and sportspersons in equal measure. Batra has become the toast of the nation after her win at the Gold Coast Games. Her historic win may have triggered a table tennis revolution in India, but do we really care?

4. Flying solo feat. Avani Chaturvedi
All of 24, Avani Chaturvedi became the first woman fighter pilot to complete a solo flight on MiG-21 Bison. This woman has achieved new levels of badassery.  Note to the lawyer who said women are not intelligent: She plays chess, likes to paint and flies planes.

Well, even after this there will be reports of misogynistic politicians or people with a microphone who will spare no thought before they let their tongues lose and walk all over women’s achievements. To them I say, we’ll take a remote island, heaps of cash and stay out of your way. Maybe you can be spared the burden of these historic wins or mass movements that a woman can set in motion.