One of my older ex-students was telling me, with shock and disgust in her voice, that she had encountered a married woman of 22 who died in a government hospital in Kolkata recently. She had been burnt alive by her husband and mother-in-law, and lived only long enough to accuse them of murder. I hope the law will exercise its full majesty and wrath in punishing the criminals in this instance, but that is not what I wanted to say here.
We know that the law now tilts heavily in favour of the wife and her folks when it comes to cases like this; in fact, it is no joke that a lot of in-laws actually live in terror of their sons’ wives, and we even hear now and then about women who are taking unfair advantage of the law to lord it over their husbands and in-laws in a way that even other women find objectionable.
How then, in the same social landscape, do atrocities against married women still occur with such disturbing frequency? We can’t even blame illiteracy and poverty here, because such things keep happening to
ban, educated women with well-off parents, too, and, though it takes some believing, even to women who earn their own (and quite adequate-) incomes! Doesn’t it all boil down, however politically incorrect it sounds, to the fact that even in supposedly enlightened families, most parents of daughters are still not only desperate to get their daughters married off to ‘suitable’ grooms (and suitable always refers to age, caste, looks and pay, never character), but equally desperate to keep those marriages from failing in the eyes of society – no matter how horrid the in-laws make life for the girl at home? And isn’t it true that most girls are so brainwashed and terrorized that they keep trying to ‘adjust’, and thus encourage growing atrocities – it being one of the most rigorous laws of human nature that the docile are always abused by the powerful – until it sometimes ends up in murder? ur
Let’s face it; murder outright shocks enough sensibilities to have become newsworthy, and to draw the might of the law upon the perpetrators, but don’t many women who have not been and are not likely to be killed by their in-laws/husbands actually live lives so miserable that death would be a welcome release (tragically, even women who married for love, pretty often, as I happen to know)? Isn’t it a fact that a ‘moderate’ amount of wife-beating is, if not openly condoned, at least winked at and ignored by ‘society’ which prides itself on an enlightened Constitution that guarantees basic human rights for all? Isn’t demanding dowry just short of universal (I have actually heard a girl student saying her father would get back twice what he would give for her when he married off her two elder brothers)? Isn’t it a fact that a lot of women are taught to be happy if only their husbands don’t beat them, and give them money for shopping now and then, and restrict them to obsessing over their looks and kitty parties and children’s examination scores – no greater
ependence is either sought or granted (my wife has been told by jealous friends that they cannot dream of their husbands allowing them control over money, so that they pick their husbands’ pockets routinely and without shame)? Two decades after Paroma and eight decades after Tagore’s most ‘daring’ works, don’t the vast majority of our educated males and females alike accept it that married men flirting or even having an affair now and then can be tolerated with a bit of regretful clucking, but for ‘good’ women it must be an absolute no-no? Except when they are dolling up for parties and feasts, aren’t most married women simply living lives of unpaid sex-slaves-cum-domestic helps: and not only okay with it, but insisting that their daughters become exactly like them, so as to uphold ‘family honour’ and ‘respectability’? ind
For whom did women’s liberation occur in this country, and how far has it really gone? Leave alone men (most of whom are understandably scared witless by the prospect), how many of our ‘cultured’ women can think of liberation in all its dimensions without a shudder?
And if they cannot, what is wrong with things as they are – just so long as husbands don’t actually kill their wives?