Why women like Monika Ghurde pay with their life for speaking up

Her rape and murder are a warning sign for a country where men dare think a woman needs to be taught a lesson if she says 'No'.

 |  6-minute read |   14-10-2016
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In the past week, reports of the sexual assault and murder of 39-year-old Indian perfumer Monika Ghurde dominated the news cycle. Monika lived alone in a posh 3BHK flat in an apartment building in North Goa. The crime was committed by a security guard of the apartment, 19 years junior to Monika. He nursed a grudge against her because she had complained about his conduct. While there were more than 20 complaints against the guard, Monika’s account filled the 21-year-old man with an uncontrollable desire to seek revenge.

The brutal ordeal lasting nine hours, which Monika went through before being murdered, is very disturbing. Just a month back, it was reported that the man convicted for Pallavi Purkayastha's murder had jumped parole. To refresh memory, Pallavi was a successful 25-year-old lawyer living in a posh society in Mumbai, also killed by her security guard.

She had scolded the guard after she noticed him making lewd gestures at her. More than two decades ago, in 1990, Hetal Parekh, a 14-year-old, too was murdered and raped in Calcutta by the security guard of the society she lived in. A few days before her murder, Hetal had told her father about the indecorous behaviour of the guard towards her. He had snooped into their flat when she was alone, and raped and murdered her.

All the women were bright, confident and spoke their mind. They questioned the wrongdoings of their perpetrators and it was too much for the fragile male ego to handle. The accused in all the cases admitted that their intention was to "only" rape the women, not murder them. We must notice the usage of "only" before "rape" — uttered with utmost ease. This is appalling, and a warning sign for a country that needs to change the attitude that a woman needs to be taught a lesson if she says "No".

The perpetrators murdered the women because they fought back till their last breath and scared the men out of their wits. It was risky to keep them alive because they would have fought for justice. They were overpowered by the men who resorted to their most primitive instinct and ended these bright lives.

Why is it so difficult in India to be smart, confident, attractive and single? While Bollywood reaffirms that akeli ladki ek khuli tijori ki tarah hai (a single woman is like an open locker), it is up to us to think beyond the laughter and banter that lace these sexist jokes.

How do we accept it so candidly that men have the tendency to resort to beastly behaviour if a woman deviates from the norms set for her? If you put the three cases through gender-neutral lens, a man would have responded exactly the same way had he found the security guard incompetent.

Filing a complaint against the security guard is no big deal, but it became one here because the objection came from a woman.

These cases remind us that repercussions are faced by a woman when she objects to the behaviour of a man in a grave manner.

While people don’t bother to know what their sons are up to, they want to monitor every activity of their daughter. You may say that you want to do so in the interest of their safety. Being a man in this country, one should feel ashamed that we live in a country where first the girl child must be saved from being killed in the womb, and then be protected if she makes her way out in this world.

If she ends up living the life a human deserves, it's her good fortune. If she fails to internalise the patriarchal code of conduct for so-called virtuous women, she is doomed to face the repercussions. The "great" Manusmriti, a scripture in Hinduism, says this about women:

“Balye pitorvashay…….” – 5/151. Girls are supposed to be in the custody of their father when they are children, women must be under the custody of their husband when married and under the custody of her son as widows. In no circumstances is she allowed to assert herself independently.

It is a matter of utter disgrace and shame to a culture that is such a firm believer of protection of women by men and won't advocate behavioural change in men.

It accepts that women are the objects of lust and it is absolutely natural for men to commit carnal sins.

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One has to pay a huge hidden cost for being a woman in this country. 

When you walk alone on the street in any Indian city, it is easy to encounter abuses loaded with references to women. While your abuses talk about f*cking someone’s sister or mother, be sure that your friend would intend to do the same with women in your family. The "protection" psyche begins here. You produce such dysfunctional men whose mind patriarchy has destroyed for ages.

One has to pay a huge hidden cost for being a woman in this country. She compromises each waking moment on when she should walk on a street, the clothes she wears, the way she expresses her sexuality, the place where she chooses to live and how far she should fight in her defence. She has to have male chaperones around her to remind her that she has no escape without the opposite sex. Please look around to see the plight of women, starting from your home. Who are you protecting these women from? Maybe from your own friends and relatives.

While we proudly talk about our soaring GDPs, we can’t afford to ignore this tragedy. As per a report by The World Bank, if the workforce participation rate for women in India was the same as for men, roughly 217 million women would join the labour force. At 53 percentage points, India has one of the worst gender gap (disproportionate difference between the sexes) records in the world. While women are bound to earn more to ensure their economic welfare, it is surprising that they do not go out and work for various social and cultural reasons. According to our culture, must be "protected", but a strong woman wants anything but protection.

The other day I happened to see Pallavi Purkayastha’s mother from a distance when I was rushing to a neighbouring room for a meeting. I suddenly recalled all these murder cases and a shooting pain ran through my spine. I don’t call them victims, but martyrs. Their death has exposed the deadly misogyny patriarchy has loaded men with. A 21st century woman demands a change in a man's attitude, not his protection.

Writer

Priya Tripathi Priya Tripathi @enigmaticlluvia

Priya Tripathi identifies herself as feminist, blogger and a long distance runner. Professionally, she is working as Climate Change and Sustainability Consultant for half a decade.

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