India is shaken up by the recent murder of Shraddha Walker, whose body was chopped. Another horrific report surfaced of a girl whose throat was slit by her boyfriend, Abhishek, on grounds of infidelity. The man took to social media, declaring his undying love and intolerance for anything that violates his idea of right versus wrong, adding to that was his deluded idea of punishment for his undying love. The list goes on every day, as women are raped, molested, acid being thrown and endless crimes.
Most recognise Urfi Javed, a social media influencer known for her outlandish clothing and fearlessness. She too has been warned of dire consequences if she doesn’t maintain propriety in her clothing by another social media influencer, a self-proclaimed social moral keeper called Bhau.
Bhau is popular, with his red tilak on his forehead and lots of gold chains. He represents a universal brother who loves his sisters. He expects his sisters to toe the line of decency, which bases his idea of womanhood. Urfi, who herself has a huge following among her fans, took to social media and challenged Bhau. She publicly told him to mind his own business. Most of us were worried about Urfi’s safety. In this case, she is a known celebrity.
There are multiple women across cities and towns who are threatened every day with consequences if they don’t dress in traditional clothing or if they are seen returning late from work or a social gathering. These girls are reprimanded by the local goons to stay in place. They claim they do this for the safety of the women. Among their circle of friends, this social moral keeper is the quintessential good guy, whose actions are guided by concern for women. Most of them are unaware of the trauma they cause to women who want to live freely but are constantly concerned about their safety.
Nearly 31,000 complaints of crimes committed against women were received by the National Commission for Women (NCW) last year, the highest since 2014, with over half of them from Uttar Pradesh.
Supriya (name changed), a Delhi University student, said “I was so harassed by a locality goon for wearing jeans to college, that I had to take the longer route back home after class so that I don’t bump into him”. It angers me that my mother everyday suggests that I must give up wearing jeans with a sweater and stick to a shalwar kameez with a dupatta. I feel violated, by the way, he looks at me”.
Women who experience gender violence also suffer from different human rights violations. For example, the right to life, freedom from torture and degrading treatment, freedom from discrimination, and the right to safety and security. All of these fall under the umbrella of basic human rights, and many women remain in the dark forever.
Mohua Chinappa is an author and a podcaster of a show called The Mohua Show.