CHENNAI: In Salem, a 21-year-old woman committed suicide after her pictures were doctored and uploaded on social media. In Vellore, a woman was murdered by her husband’s parents for marrying outside the caste, eight years after their wedding.
In Madurai, a 20-year-old woman was stabbed for allegedly lodging a complaint against a man who was eve-teasing her. The patterns are clear — women are victims of male aggression in society, and Swathi was not the only one — it has happened and will happen again unless there is a change in society, say experts and activists.
One of the key reasons behind this is the portrayal of men and women in media and films, they opine.
Professor V Bharathi Harishankar, women and gender studies department, University of Madras, says that popular media projects several women achievers to give a progressive image, but this is an illusion. “The reality is that there has been a manifold increase in gender-based violence in the recent past, with women becoming victims. This indicates that the society is losing its balance — this is unacceptable,” she says.
B Jayashree, a social researcher, says that violence has been a definition of masculinity, whether in films or reality. “Even in a recent movie with a ‘U’ rating, there was a gory scene of an arm being cut off. This culture of glorification of violence and desensitising people to the consequences of it has shaped the current mindset,” she rues.
The hero pulling out an aruvaal (sickle) to attack the enemies in style is a run-of-the-mill Tamil cinema scene, she says, adding that this would perhaps ring a bell with what happened at the Nungambakkam station.
S Rajalakshmi from the All India Democratic Women’s Association points out that only grievous crimes like murder and suicide get highlighted in the media and come up for public discussion, and most atrocities women face are invisible. Cases of domestic violence, for instance, mostly go unreported and women continue to suffer in silence, she opines.
Much of the violence against women is the result of issues that are often dismissed as insignificant, say experts. In many Tamil homes, sons are compared to lions (aambla singam). Comparisons like these, even in good humour, reinforces the idea of male superiority. In cases like these the family is not aware of the long-lasting repercussions, says Dr M Murugeshwari, a researcher on gender.
K R Murugan, head, women studies department in Alagappa University, says the Nungambakkam murder stresses the need for developing a proper social mechanism to safeguard women.
Campaigns like ‘he for she’, which discusses gender equality, are gaining momentum in the IT sector, and experts feel the need for more such campaigns. But Bharathi says, “For this we need to educate young minds on gender right from the school level and not at the workplace. This should involve multiple stakeholders, including students, parents, teachers, academicians and bureaucrats.”