Glorifying stalking results in horrific murders

Young men in India are taught not to take no as an answer from girls they fall in love with. This result in horrific murders.

A 23-year-old woman was allegedly stabbed to death by a man for rejecting his proposal, in fourth such killing in Tamil Nadu in the last three months.
A 23-year-old woman was allegedly stabbed to death by a man for rejecting his proposal, in fourth such killing in Tamil Nadu in the last three months.

Jahir (27) attempted suicide after killing Dhanya last night at Annur near here. He is in a critical condition, police said.

Dhanya, who worked in a private firm, was allegedly being harassed for some time by the accused to marry him though she had spurned his proposal, police said.

This is the fourth fatal attack on young women in the state, who had spurned proposals of their stalkers, since the killing of software professional Swathi at a railway station in Chennai in July.

Last month, an engineering student was clubbed to death in her classroom in a private college by her senior in Karur while a 25-year-old teacher was killed in a church by a man, who later ended his own life, for spurning his love.

Glorification of stalking in popular Indian cinema is a major reason that make many boys think they are entitled to be told yes. Sowmya Rajendran explains this very well.

In a society where there are so many rules for falling in love (No.1 being that you don’t), it is not surprising that our ideas about love are so warped. Good girls and good boys don’t talk to each other. They are strictly heterosexual and marry the person of their parents’ choice, carefully selected after matching caste, class, education, complexion, height, salary, and horoscope. In the movies, romance is the selective disruption of these factors. The hero is an aspirational figure, the go-getter who overcomes any number of obstacles to ‘win’ the girl. And many a time, the obstacle on his path is the girl herself who calls him a ‘porukki’ or tells him in no uncertain terms not to follow her around. By the end of the movie, however, all her nays magically turn into a coy yes and everyone goes home happy. True love has won, consent be damned….

Image credit - Times of India

Image credit – Times of India

In a society like ours where a woman’s sexuality is tightly controlled, everyone’s consent but her own matters. This notion is repeatedly reiterated and magnified in cinema. I’ve lost count of the number of times a hero has proudly declared onscreen that his sister is not ‘that type’ and that she will marry anyone he asks her to.

It is simplistic to blame everything on cinema but one cannot deny that movies transmit cultural codes and behaviours. For instance, right after Swathi’s murder, a Facebook user, who belongs to a star’s fan club posted a comment saying women like Swathi deserved to die. Any girl who ‘spoils’ a boy’s life by rejecting him deserves to die, is this noble man’s thought.

In a land where romance is so fraught with difficulty and moral policing is routine, we often take our cues about how to make the next move from our favourite people onscreen. The college boy who lusts after the girl-next-door does not see himself as the lecherous villain who is assaulting her…he sees himself as the righteous hero who is giving her what she deserves. He has learnt it from the men we cheer for in the darkness of a cinema hall, with the background music manipulating our minds and telling us exactly how we’re supposed to feel about what’s happening.

But everything is not so bleak. Immediately after the Swathi murder  Shree Niketan School at Thiruvallur has started an ambitious project of gender sensitisation among its students.

After the Swathi murder, the students set up a club for discussing gender inequality and spreading awareness about it within their community. The core team came up with innovative ideas like issuing a questionnaire to their schoolmates on gender bias to find out how bad the situation was in their own homes, designing a comic to explain gender inequality, and performing skits about the same in other schools in their district.

The tilted balance

The tilted balance

Their conclusion was for the situation to change, gender inequality must first be addressed at home. The gender club is called “Saindha Tharaasu” or the “Tilted Balance”.

I hope each and every school in India could take up such a project earnestly so that a more gender equitable society can be built.

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