Family is a frightening institution. There is no need to travel to a sci-fi dystopia for such an acknowledgement; it is enough to be born a woman in India. Control, coercion, torture, deception, betrayal, violence, murder — this entire sequence was played out in the life and then death of Gomathi, a young woman from Tirunelveli, who was working in a seafood company. Her story proves again that for Indian women earning does not mean emancipation. She fell in love with a Dalit man. Her family first tried to stop her and then tried to get her married to someone else. She eloped and was caught by her brothers, who persuaded her to come back with the promise of being married to her lover, beat her up and allegedly killed her by poisoning and stringing her up. The one mistake she made was trusting her brothers’ pleas. Is there any need to turn to popular movies for the perfect villain?
This murder may perhaps be dignified with the appellation ‘honour killing’, or caste hatred, or whatever, but that would miss the real point. The real point is the undermining of the positive aspects of the family structure by the growing dominance of its negative aspects, control and possessiveness. Within the family, the girl or woman is no less a devalued being, an object to be used and bent to the dominant will, than she is outside. One question that the recent violence and frequency of rapes throughout the country have provoked, is who the rapists are. The story of Gomathi shows how they are bred in every Indian home, for her brothers’ attitude to their own sister reveals the working of young Indian men’s minds. Here there is no rape, only a carefully orchestrated killing, but it is sex that is the issue. Control over the woman’s sex and sexuality — to the extent of murder. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the latest crime statistics show love and sex as the third most common cause for murders in the country.