“We have found your daughter,” says the voice on the other end of the line.
You follow instructions to reach the place and identify the female. There she lies, her body twisted like a rag doll. You struggle to recognise her. The smiling face you knew, disfigured by the anger of a man she trusted. The limbs that gave the warm hugs severed from her body. The ripped clothes tell you the story your child can’t tell you anymore. As the lifeless body is cleaned and stitched up to be fit for a burial, Twitter is flooded with hashtags demanding justice; justice for a girl whose only sin was that she was a female who was not killed in the womb.
Tonight, thousands of women who had never met this girl will have another sleepless night while they hear strong concerned men tell them that it is their fault. Why were they out this late? Why did they step out of the house. What were they wearing? Why did they go with this man?
They will bury their dreams in the nightmares they get tonight. Tomorrow, it will be a heated fight over who is right and who is wrong. A few tabloids and online offerings will give loud headlines while they get the traffic they so desperately require. By the evening, the noise will exhaust the concerned and the nation will sleep.
The pace of progress of domestic violence bills in parliaments across the world would make a snail look good. In all countries, it will be the right making the wrong choices for women. In some places, it will be religion; in others, the fear of immigration. The love of hate-politics and war will win while sensible voices will be lost in the din. The conflict that these strong loud men love to initiate will create more violence against women. While they magically find money for guns and nukes, the money for protection of women will never be available. And what can women like me do against these powerful boys with their even more powerful toys and their huge egos?
There are days where I wake up with the feeling that I should perhaps just accept that a woman is meant to know her place her in this world. Should I resign myself to the fact that I, as a woman, am just a vessel? A vessel to be used against my will? To be discarded and replaced when wished? To be grateful to be allowed to live?
Am I to accept that I’m to make myself available for compliments or punches as the mood of my man requires? Isn’t that the definition of a good woman? Had I behaved would I not have been cherished and not been divorced? Had I kept my mouth shut I could still have had a husband to flaunt? Are the Aunties right while I am wrong?
Why do I question a society and rules that I feel are oppressive? Why do I ask for my voice to be heard? Is that what a good woman would do? Why am I visible? Why am I speaking? Did nature give me a brain to think and a tongue to speak up?
Oh no, sir! Of course not! Look pretty, ask no questions, and certainly do not make any demands. Treat your man like a king. Be the slave.
How dare I suggest that objectifying or commodifying a woman is not as nature intended but a social construct?
How dare I dream of a world which treats me like a human if I’m not a Mrs of a Mr who will respect me?
Will I conform? Will I be grateful for the right to exist? A cup of coffee is all it takes to reset my resolve and to snap out of the negativity society broadcasts to me. Can I leave this world the same as I found it? Every generation of women has pushed the boundaries bit by bit to get their due share. This generation will take us to the finish line. The suffragettes got us the vote. The Bandranaikes Indiras and Benazirs showed us the way.
And now, the anti-Aurat brigade laments that their feelings are hurt by paper placards…as they rush to unite for narratives on anti-divorce and anti-domestic violence bills. But they are unaware of the anger rising in women across the globe. The tactic of shaming and silencing women will soon become obsolete. We reject advice from the concerned men on what we should wear and whether we should be allowed to go to “sleepovers”. How many hashtags will it take for parliament to wake up? How many incidents will it take for better laws to be strictly implemented? How many daughters need to die for society to get their priorities right?
You want to help keep women safe? How about campaigning for a full disclosure of past history of violence and abuse when employing men? How about providing refuge facilities to women regardless of their migrant status? How about training politicians and the media on gender sensitivity and the words they choose. How about investing in better mental health facilities? How about being man enough to stand up for effective and immediate domestic violence bills?
Are you man enough to not bend over backwards to please the right-wing vote bank?
If you are NOT, let me educate you: this is 2021. We have an army of young women who will find a way to to get what was always theirs to begin with: the right to equal rights. The right to walk home safely. The right to socialise safely. The right to work safely. The right to be safe in their own home.