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The story of a violent subjugation

Is the world kind enough for women to no longer be victims of patriarchal violence? This is a rhetorical question that holds up fairly well even in our current reality. The countless reports of violence against women in the last few days have prompted me to reflect on the various forms of violence and prejudice that continue to be and have been perpetrated against women as a community.

While the headlines in India reported the rape case of two women of the Manipuri Kuki-Zomi community in the North-east according to which two women of the Kuki-Zomi tribe were paraded naked and were groped by the men present, another such case was reported from Manipur of two young women being gang-raped and killed. A report by India Today stated that “the FIR revealed the unknown miscreants to be members of various organisations including that of the Meitei Youth.” Another report by the Times of India spoke of how a mentally impaired 62-year-old woman was shot dead in the violence-hit Manipur and no one had been booked for the case. In contrast to this was the case of M Lucy Maring, another mentally disabled woman who was killed on the 15th of July in Manipur, in her case nice accused were arrested immediately and her family was compensated in no time. Such cases that were reported in Manipur which is burning in a round of ethnic violence were also similar to the ones reported in West Bengal where two women were paraded naked and were beaten up by a mob. Another case of violence was carried out by women against two tribal women who were beaten up after having stolen someone's valuables. Finally, a last case that I would like to draw attention to is of a brother lynching his sister over a love affair in Uttar Pradesh. All these cases of violent acts being carried out against women and more so in certain cases against women of a particular community hint towards the use of gendered violence in patriarchy primarily to establish dominance by the male.

The history of women being used as objects to be achieved to establish dominance or of women being the victims of violence further validates the hypothesis of women being subjected to violence for the male to establish a dominant hold in the society thus aiding Patriarchy. Furthermore, the blatant sexualisation of women through the years has added to the sheer dominance of patriarchs in society. Women hence are reduced to a prey to be hunted with the man assuming the role of a predator. Moreover, people including women themselves in some circumstances often link women to being birthing machines, or as one famously put it, "a walking womb", as someone who is always used, whose body is "polluted by being consumed" hence giving birth to practices of virginity tests and also of female infanticide. In this male-dominant society, a woman hence becomes the victim of all forms of violence only because of her biological morphology.

This tragedy of women at different points in history has been beautifully encompassed by literature, a fine example of which is Saadat Hasan Manto’s prose ‘Open it’ or famously called ‘Khol do’ that depicts a scene during the time of the India-Pakistan partition of 1947 when a woman named Sakina is abducted and gang-raped. Sakina here became the symbol of countless innocent victims who were subjected to barbarity by their male counterparts. Indian writer, Urvashi Butalia further reported cases of young women jumping into wells and taking their own lives during the partition to protect themselves, thus further validating the point of women being used as targets by the patriarchs.

Even in recent times, the constant fear that women face of something ill happening to them shapes society. The paper, geography of Women's Fear by Gill Valentine, further solidifies the idea of how the world has an advantage over women as a result of which they are terrified of going out late at night, taking lone allies, or just being alone in an area full of men. Despite movements such as Me Too and women's rights finally being recognised to some extent, society subjugates us unconsciously. Because of centuries of abuse, women often refrain from taking dark allies alone, wearing certain clothes and being out late at night, or simply walking alone at night because of the centuries-old abuse they have been subjected to. But this makes me wonder why things are the way they are, and while trying to get to the bottom of it, I was forced to acknowledge the shift in society that occurred from the early Vedic age to the Rig Vedic age.

In the historical context, the early Vedic age demonstrated evidence of women's prevalence in the social sect, in the sense that women played an active role in the society outside the household, but as we progressed to the rig Vedic age, there was a rapid shift from this involvement of women in the social sect to them being constrained in the household domain. With this came a social hierarchy in which men took precedence over women, and the stronger took over the weaker. This is what we call Patriarchy. As 'the man' took over the social structure, women were only seen as daughters, then wives and mothers. Even before the Indian independence, social reformers worked to end the practices of Sati, wherein a widow sacrifices herself by sitting atop her deceased husband's funeral pyre, and to launch the widow remarriage movement, primarily because they saw women as a "birthing machine." Women's portrayal as being confined to the household is also reflected in how women of nobility in Britain were made to accept that studying was not for women and that they should instead focus on the season's balls or maybe should indulge in singing or stitching.

However, as we enter the twenty-first century, we still see traces of the subjugation of women by the world's moral policies. Following a rape case, society investigates what the girl was wearing rather than why the perpetrators did what they did. The length of a skirt becomes a national debate, but teaching men that no means no remains a minor issue. Women's residences have posters stating that consent is important, but male residences do not. I find society's dominance over a woman's decisions repugnant. Women, though are now present in almost every sector are still questioned if they should be there. I have been informed in a conversation of how taking a finance course in college made girls doubt their abilities due to the sector's male dominance. Women are asked if they can have a career in political science or if they are capable of serving on the front lines due to preconceived notions that men are more capable than women. The late Bollywood actress Sridevi's line in the Indian film 'English Vinglish' that "if a man cooks, it's an art, but if a woman cooks, it's a duty" struck a chord with me. It made me wonder why there was a distinction between cooking being a duty for a woman and being an art for a man, and this investigation also took me back in time to the numerous occasions when a woman was reduced to nothing more than a household entity.

As we move forward in time and witness how women are raising their voices against perpetrators and gradually finding their voice, I hope that there will come a day very soon when the world will not unconsciously subjugate a woman simply because of her anatomy. As paternity leaves become more common, and families and schools teach children that 'no means no,' and how important consent is, the hope to see a day when I can walk around at night with my friends freely, even if it is in a remote location, stay bright within me. I hope to see the sunrise over a day when there are no mothers telling their daughters that women are meant to endure. That will be the day when society will truly become equal with respect to men and women, it will be the day I will be truly free and liberated as an independent woman.

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