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The GendV Project

Urban Transformation and Gendered Violence in India and South Africa

Article written by GendV's Taanya Kapoor and Edex, Indian Express. Read the article online here. 

"Neha Hiremath, a 23-year-old student of BVB College, Hubballi was murdered by jilted lover Fayaz Khondunaik on Thursday, April 18. Almost immediately, "love jihad" started trending on Twitter.

A rejected lover resorting to such violence is not new. But what EdexLive is trying to understand the deep-seated issues surrounding gender-based violence, twisted notions of love and relationships among young adults, as well as the pervasive influence of male ego.

Here Taanya Kapoor, a DPhil scholar at the University of Oxford, lends more depth to the circumstance.

Reading for a PhD on the contradictions of modern daughterhood and persisting son preference in middle class India, she was also part of an ESRC project Gendv hosted by Cambridge sociology, which is looking at urban transformation and gendered violence in India and South Africa. This makes her take a nuanced and insightful one.

Taanya explains, "This case is symptomatic of a deep seated malaise of male entitlement in a patriarchal society that normalises, and even glorifies men claiming 'ownership' of women in relationships, aggressive behaviour in the face of rejection and a desperate desire to show women their place if they do not submit."

It also shows how limited our current understanding of how to promote women’s safety in India remains, Taanya points out.

"The onus of maintaining respectability and reputation lies squarely on women’s shoulders, such that any rumours can effectively mean women are locked up or their mobility restricted in order to 'keep them safe', instead of checking men’s behaviour," says Taanya, the researcher from India who is passionate about the subject of gender discrimination and women's rights.

The DPhil scholar also says that what is even more unfortunate is that such incidents of violence further reinforce protectionist discourses.

This case, at its core, is about male mentality and normalised violence in Indian society, the scholar emphasises. So what is it that we need?

"What we need is a much more sensitive understanding of how systemic and ingrained such violence is in everyday life, rather than episodic, spectacle-like tragic events to serve as reminders of what women are subjected to. It starts with a more gender-sensitive education, awareness issues like consent, de-glorification of stalking and harassment in cinema as expressions of 'love'," she suggests.

"As a society, on the whole, we are still very far away from treating women as equals. Reducing cases like these to identifiers of class/caste/religion is to miss the point about how universal the experience of violence is, across all strata," concludes Taanya."