The headlines this morning have thrown up four truly horrifying incidents of husbands violently attacking their wives, all just over this one weekend. The supposed “reasons” for the attacks are as astounding as the brutality of the attacks themselves.
In one case that comes with accompanying notes of evil sadism, a Bangladeshi man returned home on holiday from work in the UAE and found that his wife had enrolled in college courses “without his permission”. He then told her that he had a “surprise” for her, blindfolded her, tied her hand and gagged her, before chopping off the fingers of her right hand. She vows to continue her studies, and says she’ll learn to hold a pen and write with her left hand.
In the second case, a 60-year-old man from Ghaziabad came home and demanded dinner from his wife. Wen she refused to serve him immediately, he whipped out a gun he owned illegally and shot her in the head. She was rushed to the hospital by her children Rinku and Tinku, and pronounced dead on arrival.
In the third, a Vizag man smashed a mirror and used a shard to slit the throat of the 19-year-old woman he had been in a four-year-long relationship with, before smashing her head in with dumbbells. He murdered his partner because he was suspicious that she was cheating on him.
In the final case (that we’ve heard of), a Guntur man attacked his wife with an axe and cut off his son’s finger in the course of the altercation. He was drunk.
Of all of these reasons, the last is the only one that people in the country seem to know of and take seriously.
The others, of course, are much more pertinent and systemic, and really put the toxic and fragile back in masculinity. These first three cases show how deeply mired we are in a culture that believes that women are the property of men and exist solely to do their bidding, and have no agency of their own. While these specific cases might have culminated in headline-grabbing, gory violence, the point is, “reasons” like women making decisions without their husbands’ permission, or men’s insecurities in their relationships, lead to varying degrees of violence in households across the country every day.
Men being “suspicious” of their partners and threatened by the other men in their lives, for example, is one of the most common reasons for men to attack their partners, and is emblematic of how fragile their masculinity and sense of self really is. In fact, this idea has been normalised to the extent that judges in different countries, including the senior-most judge in England, have said that “juries should be allowed to consider whether a victim’s infidelity was a possible provocation for murder”. Sorry, but why? Since when did fragile and toxic masculinity become a reason that anyone should accept for murdering women?
Addressing such noxious cultures, of course, takes much more effort than just banning liquor in different places (which, by the way, does not actually reduce cases of domestic violence), and would require us to take a step back and look at how the most basic aspects of our mindsets and attitudes towards men and women contribute to systemic violence against women. Perhaps it’s that extra effort and uncomfortable introspection that makes us choose to look at these incidents as isolated aberrations instead of seeing them for what they really are: the violent by-products of a culture mired in patriarchy.