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Casualties in the war against women show what is wrong with us. (Photo: AFP)
Casualties in the war against women show what is wrong with us. (Photo: AFP)

Opinion | We must remember the women we lost in 2019

  • From sex-selective abortions to dowry deaths and honour killings, there are many ways to end an Indian woman’s life
  • For every murder that was brought to our attention, there were thousands that slipped by us unseen

Every year, Indian women get more confirmation that their country doesn’t respect their right to a life free of violence. From sex-selective abortions to dowry deaths, honour killings and intimate partner femicide, there’s no shortage of ways to end an Indian woman’s life. Every year, new phrases are added to our vocabulary that serve as reminders of this: the Unnao rape case (2017); Kathua rape case (2018); Hyderabad gang rape (2019).

From start to finish, this last crime highlighted everything that is wrong with us: the gruesome manner in which a Hyderabad-based veterinary doctor in her mid-20s was stalked, gang raped, smothered, burnt and disposed of casually near a highway; how Indians searched for the video of this horrific crime, making it the top trend on a porn website; the killing of the four accused by the state’s police shortly after; and, finally, the ferocity with which Indians—even a lawmaker—cheered their killing.

This story was punctuated by the tragedy of the 23-year-old rape survivor in Unnao who was set on fire by men accused of gang raping her as she was on her way to testify in court against them. How can we even believe in justice, was a question on many minds. The young woman died in hospital.

This was also the year that Nirbhaya’s mother broke down when she heard that it would take a little more time before the men convicted of raping and murdering her daughter in 2012 were hanged. And 2019 was the year a Bharatiya Janata Party politician, since expelled, got a life sentence for raping a teenager in 2017 and other assorted charges.

But for every murder and murderer that was brought to our attention, there were thousands that slipped by us unseen. At the year end, we owe it to all the women we lost to take time out to remember them. Here are just some ways in which the lives of Indian women ended in 2019.

A sexagenarian widow who lived alone was assaulted and murdered in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district by her neighbour. The killer threw chilli powder all over her body and in her house to camouflage his scent.

A woman was gang raped and killed in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district. Her body was hung from a tree. Another woman was raped, burnt and hung from a tree in a forest near her college in Karnataka’s Raichur district.

A 75-year-old woman was murdered with an iron rod in Mulky, Karnataka, after a dispute over wages with a man who had completed some civil work outside her house. A 55-year-old woman who lived alone in a one-room shop from where she sold puja materials was raped and murdered in north Delhi’s Gulabi Bagh, allegedly by a 22-year-old roadside vendor in the area.

Most perpetrators of violence are known to their victims, and this year too there were enough stories of women whose lives were ended abruptly by people closest to them. I have intentionally left out the horror stories that involved children.

A 22-year-old woman was killed by her father. He chopped her body into pieces, then deposited parts of it in a bag in Kalyan in Maharashtra’s Thane district and threw parts in another bag in a creek.

A 21-year-old man shot his wife, an event manager, and disposed of her body with the help of two associates in Haryana’s Panipat district. The police suspect she was murdered for dowry.

A woman was murdered by her father and brother in Gheora village in Patiala because she married a man from the same village. Her two male family members beat her in front of the panchayat, then strangled her and cremated her body secretly. They confessed they killed her because she had brought a bad name to the family.

A National Award-winning bodybuilder allegedly shot his 22-year-old girlfriend multiple times in Rewari, Harayana, after they fought in a cab. Later, he killed the cab driver who witnessed the murder.

A 20-year-old Dalit woman from Kancheepuram was found hanging in a private garden. Her father told the police he suspected that her married boyfriend and others had gang raped and murdered her.

A 20-year-old woman was stabbed several times in the neck with a chopper by her father in Ghatkopar, Mumbai, because she refused to marry a man of his choice and eloped with someone she loved.

A 29-year-old hairdresser was beaten to death by her live-in partner in Kalina, Mumbai.

A 37-year-old police officer in Alappuzha, Kerala, was burnt to death, reportedly by a fellow police officer she had known for years because she rejected his marriage proposal. He hit her scooter with his car, attacked her with a knife when she tried to escape and then set her on fire.

A 25-year-old engineer in Hyderabad was killed by her boyfriend, who stuffed her body in a suitcase and dumped her in a drain.

They were all casualties in the war against women. We owe it to them to remember them. Remembering them is the first step to understanding why we must fight back.

Priya Ramani shares what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable.

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