A young Infosys employee, Swathi in Chennai was hacked to death by Ramakumar, a stalker (earlier a neighbour) while she was waiting at a local railway station to catch a train to work. At a press conference, Chennai Police Commissioner said that the stalker was infatuated with her. He likely committed the murder when he realised his feelings were not reciprocated by Swathi. Her family said he had been stalking her for months.
This incident brings to fore, once again, the deeply conceived social prejudices that inflicts acrosss the spectrum of Indian culture. It has sparked an intense, yet only a nervous murmured discussions. Most of the TV debates and press reporting that has followed is focused mainly on law enforcement issues.
But is it one? I don’t think so. Courts can act only after crime has been committed. Police presence and public surveillance isn’t possible in every place in such a densely populated country. People at the station could have come to the rescue. But they didn’t!
Was there no ‘human’ strong enough left or was it just another regular event at a busy place? Why have women increasingly become the targets of criminals? I think that the very foundation of this menace is societal. Our culture, politics, religion and family life promotes a very solidly thin-sheeted misogyny that dwells deep into our mental fabric. That is where the problem stems from.
Conversations and relationships between opposite gender is very crucial in this, whether in public (a coffee shop, trains etc) or the privacy of our homes. Often times, they are immature, skewed and contracted to an acute social stigma. Movies and television passively demean women abundantly, as a object of consumption, of entertainment. Political discourse is no different (e.g. boys will be boys). In most religion, unfortunately, women do not find a very prominent place. In history wars and conflicts have been fought over the ‘ownership’ of women.
A casual conversation between strangers can be misconstrued as something it is not. A brother and a sister chatting in a cafe is viewed as a romantic relationship without the ‘judge’ having the slightest of information. And even when it is a romantic couple on a date, people brood at their table as if they are about to set off a bomb.
So, most of the time men and women do not know how to ‘relate’ to one another, given these stereotypes. Movies show actors persistently pursuing actresses even after denials, they fall in love in a gentle brush on a train etc. These things unintentionally get inculcated into our mindset and people behave accordingly when he should be mature enough to realise the fallacy of it. Most inter-gender relations in popular culture are portrayed as either romantic or sexual. It is NOT so.
This is common also on college campuses. A very skewed female population also doubles down on the deep-seated stereotypes, even amplifying them in many cases.
Boys see gender inequality right from their childhood. Their mothers and aunts cleaning up their ‘mess’, cooking food, washing clothes, even violently abused in many cases. They are passively taught that girls are subservient to them. Accepting a rejection is something they are never taught. Simultaneously, they see their female relatives regularly derided. When family life is so ill-conducive to a gender equality, how then do we expect the results to be any better?
Still I fail to understand why this has become so ubiquitous the world over.