Assault surge on women

Alexandra Billinghurst

Calcutta: A global epidemic of violence against women and lack of empathy were in focus at a conference of academicians, social scientists and psychoanalysts on Friday.

Alexandra Billinghurst, former vice-president of International Psychoanalytical Association, described a paranoid-schizoid environment that the world is engulfed in.

"It is an extreme condition where there is a lack of empathy for others. For extremists, the world is divided into black and white with no shades of grey. Women are always under threat in such an a regimental set up," said one of the two keynote speakers on Day I of a two-day meet organised by Committee on Women and Psychoanalysis (COWAP) at The Gateway Hotel on Friday.

Billinghurst highlighted how controlling behaviour is often camouflaged and women fail to perceive it as abuse. "The man begins by courting the woman in an attentive way. When he shows sparks of jealousy, it is perceived as love but that is the start of his controlling behaviour," she said.

Supriya Chaudhuri (Sanjoy  Chattopahyaya )

Billinghurst described campaigns such as the #MeToo movement as essential. "In Sweden it led to a lot of resignations from people in power," she said.

In India, where 70 per cent of domestic abuse and sexual violation go unreported, it has forged a new sisterhood.

The second keynote speaker of the day, Supriya Chaudhuri, said campaigns like #MeToo "expose the extent of psychic damage done to women by this toxic culture of sexual violence engaged by men".

She cited instances of a recent gang rape of a tribal woman in South Dinajpur, rape of a minor in Raiganj and war crimes against women to prove how sexual violence was an expression of power equation against women.

"Instances of physical and sexual violence have surged worldwide," she said. "The recent assaults have a similarity as if the perpetrators are learning from one another."


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