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Seeing Gender Based Violence In India Through The Lens Of Kabir Singh

Gender-based violence is nothing less than a global pandemic affecting most countries and civilizations. The gender-based violence stems from patriarchy system of dominance with objectives to exercise power and authority over others. The greater concern than this violence is the normalization of the gender-based violence and how the victims are playing the role of a conformist to the violence. Indian movies are also messaging that violence is part of our society. This whole writing deals with the situation of the patriarchy system gender-based violence in India by reviewing the movie “Kabir Singh”.

Shahid Kapoor as Kabir Singh

While criticizing the movie Kabir Singh, this article also deals with various Acts and Legislation like Prevention of Women from Domestic Violence Act, POCSO Act, The Transgender Person (Protection & right) Act, 2019 to protect people from gender-based violence, its success and failures. This article is also about how gender-based violence has been normalized in our society and how the mass media (movies, News, cartoon), the victims own and the system is acting as the pillar of this patriarchal system. There is a need for overall reform in this system.

The entire world including India is going through a tough time as the COVID 19 is affecting 210 countries and territories around the world and two International Conveyances. This killing Corona Virus pandemic is so recent and thankfully there are so many prevention, rescue, treatment and relief work are undertaken to deal with this pandemic. One good thing with this virus is that it doesn’t discriminate between male and female while infecting them.

The reason I am writing all these here is just to mention that there is one other pandemic in our lives which has been affecting us since the hunting-gathering time- the Gender-based Violence (GBV).  According to the World Bank, this is a global pandemic and every 1 in 3 women experienced violence once in their lifetime.

According to data by World Bank

  • 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.
  • Globally 7% of women are affected with sexual assault by someone other than the partner in their lifetime.
  • Globally as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.
  • 200 million women worldwide have experienced female genital mutilation.

Though the clearly shows the pathetic condition of gender-based violence what more dangerous than the gender-based violence is the normalization of violence that they are facing.

In the context of India, television and films are also playing an important role in normalizing violence in society. Let’s take the example of the movie “Kabir Singh” and how it promotes patriarchy in society and normalize gender-based violence.

How Kabir Singh Promotes Patriarchy

The movie Kabir Singh has shown how slapping your girlfriend is actually okay in a relationship and it has normalized sexual assault also.

At the very starting of the movie, Kabir Singh (Shahid Kapoor), after getting fully drunk tried to have sex with a girl. By the time the girl was about to open her upper cloth Kabir Singh said        “Forget that and remove that” by pointing her trouser and also tore it with a knife. With the sudden arrival of her fiancee, the girl expressed her disapproval of having sex and the so-called cool hero of the movie pointed a knife to her and said “Open it! Open it!”  Like a crazy, he kept calling his junior staff, other girls for having sex without having minimum respect for their consent.

A still from ‘Kabir Singh’

The nurses of his hospital kept running from him but no one is actually complaining against him. Isn’t this conveying the message that sexual violence at the workplace or for that matter any type of sexual assault is okay in our society and also that sex is a matter of satisfying a male genital and not a matter of enjoying for women?

Portraying this type of image in movies actually help patriarchy to maintain its dominating statuesque.

The present scenario of gender-based violence is extremely pathetic in India. Among married who have reported sexual violence, over 83% of cases the violence is done by their present husband.

The survey report also highlighted that that most common perpetrator of sexual violence on unmarried women were other relatives (27%), followed by a current boyfriend (18%), their own friend or acquaintance (17%) and a family friend (11%).

In most of the cases, the women are having an intimate relationship with their perpetrators. India is one of the thirty-six countries marital rapes, having sex with a spouse without her consent is not a criminal offence.

In 2018, India was reported as one of the most dangerous places for women to be. One woman in every fifteen minutes is getting raped and mostly these are carried out by a known person of the victim. Most surprisingly, the last National Family Health Survey report revealed that 99% of sexual assault cases are even not reported.

Child Abuse In India

Even the situation of Child Sexual abuse is pathetic in India. The NCRB data said 32,608 cases were reported in 2017 while 39,827 cases were reported in 2018 under the POCSO Act. As many as 102 children were sexually abused in India every day in 2018. The protection of children from sexual offences Act, 2012 was enacted to provide a robust legal framework for the protection of children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment but this law is against controversial with Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.

Under POCSO act, any girl under 18 is seeking an abortion, the service provider is compelled to register a complaint of sexual assault with police but under MTP Act, it is not mandatory to report the identity of a person seeking an abortion. The service providers are also hesitant to provide service to girls below eighteen who are in need of abortion as it is not cleared that under which act the case should be reported.

Another problem with POCSO act is that it doesn’t recognize the sexual rights of those who are below the age of eighteen and any kind of intimate sexual relationship with mutual agreement also can be brought as punishable offence under this act. In many cases, Society misuse this act just to punish the minors who are even having sex with their mutual consent.

Taking intersectionality into consideration LGBTQ+ people are more prone to domestic violence. They are experiencing domestic violence at a similar or greater rate than the so-called straight people. As LGBTQ+ people live in a more pathetic situation of poverty, stigma and marginalization, they also faced hate-motivated violence more. The National Coalition of Anti Violence Project estimates that around half of the transgender people and bisexual women experience violence at some point of their life.

Quoting the report, it says “moreover the ways society both hyper sexualize LGBTQ+  people and stigmatize our relationship, can lead to intimate partner violence that stems from internalized homophobia and shame”.  The Transgender Person (Protection& Right) Act, 2019 was passed to protect the interest of Transgender person but again it has lots of flaws-A.) The act itself seems that while drafting the act the representation of transgender people was lacking; B.) The right of self-identity is still a question; C.) Marriage rights, adoption rights, Property rights, Social security or pension are not even clearly mentioned; D.)

Another biggest flaw is chapter iii, section 5 of this act which state that “A transgender person may make an application to the district magistrate for issuing a certificate of identity as a transgender person, in such form or manner and accompanied with such documents as may be prescribed”- isn’t this section itself is controversial and imposing a question to equality? Why do they need to issue a certificate from district magistrate and what’s the point in mainstreaming the transgender if they need a certificate?

Apart from the sexual assault the movie “Kabir Singh” has also shown physical violence. The first question that came in my mind while watching this movie is that how a girl can fall in love with such an aggressive, stubborn, super patriarchal person who doesn’t have a minimum respect for anyone but just satisfying own mad ego. However, when this movie was released people got crazy and I was insisted to watch this romantic movie (in their words) and I was convinced.

I had a completely different thought before I watched the entire movie. I mean do we really think that it is equally possible in real life or slapping your partner, abusing her sister, brother is fine in a relationship. Now I know the counter questions I might be asked that why I am acting like a pessimist and only talking about the negative side of the movie, why I couldn’t see how Kabir Singh cared for his girlfriend

Yes, I have seen but violence is not accepted at any cost, in words of the movie THAPPAD “ek hi thappad hai lekin nhi mar sakte(I know it’s just one slap, but you can’t.). No matter how much caring your partner is but no one has the right to hit you. Actually, this is the dichotomous role the patriarchy has been playing since times- it acts like women are weaker and hence they should be under the dominance of patriarchy and they are perpetuating violence in order to protect them. This bipolar nature of patriarchy should be challenged and smashed.

Also the way Kabir Singh chased her maid to hit her just because she broke a glass and there was no complaint again against Kabir Singh.

Indian Scenario Of Physical Abuse

According to a survey, around 27% of women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 in their lifetime. Domestic violence cases where women experienced physical abuse, in most of the cases the perpetrators are their husband. 31% of women have experienced any one or combination of physical, mental or sexual violence by their spouse. The most common type of Intimate partner violence is physical violence (27%), followed by emotional violence (13%).

The data from the survey (NCRB, PWDVA, and NHFS4) also shows that 54.8% of women between the ages of 40 to 49 are most supportive of domestic violence. The percentage of women justifying violence is marginally lesser with younger girls aged between 15 to 19.

This difference also persists in rural and urban areas while 54.5% of women in rural areas confirm to the violence they are facing; only 46.8% of women in urban areas are supporting the violence. As high as 60% of men admitted to committing violence against their wife or partner according to a study of the International Centre for Research on Women and United Nation Population fund as IndiaSpend reported.

Also, fire death cases are higher in India in comparison with other countries. NCRB data revealed that as many as 17,700 Indian died because of Fire accident in 2015, of which around 62% were women.

This normalization of threat has to lead to Ritual Self Immolation in India where dowry became a modern motivating factor- if the dowry demands of the in-laws are not met on time, either the bride set on fire or the bride herself commit suicide by burning own self.

These data actually shows how people are becoming conformist to gender-based violence that they are facing and these type of women tolerating violence for a long time also developed patriarchy attitude among them which led them causing violence to other of their family who is less powerful or over whom they have an authority (in most of the cases daughter in law are the worst victim of this situation).

Though the Prevention of Women from Domestic violence Act was passed in 2015 its effectiveness in dealing with violence cases are also not up to the mark. Domestic violence in most of the cases treated as a family matter and people are reluctant to report this violence. Though we have laws and regulation strong enough to deal with the cases of domestic violence the system is also influenced by patriarchy mindset. Many times police urge victims to sort out the matter in family. Even women police stations in many states don’t register crime in cases of domestic violence immediately.

The PWDVA has the provision of speedy justice and the cases should be resolved within 60 days of filing the complaint but none of the courts has been able to achieve the resolution of a case within 60 days and the resulting delay in justice delivery. Sometimes these cases are so lengthy that the victims choose to quit the struggle.

What else could be more pathetic when the mass media, the system and the victims themselves are acting as the pillar of the patriarchy system?

Also in the movie, the way Kabir Singh is roaming shirtless and his trouser is also losing his waist and it is cool to the audience. Nobody would ever question his character but would it be same if with a woman who is wearing shorts?

Actually, this is the whole process that we are getting socialized, we are socialized for a patriarchal society, for being a conformist to the patriarchal society and the mass media including movies are playing an important role in that as well. This patriarchal system actually never affords to deal with rebellions. The movies that we see actually have a great impression on our mind. The way gender-based violence has been justifying in movies like Kabir Singh and others is actually conveying a patriarchal message to our society.

There is a need of overall reform in our system starting from sex education in school ( an overall understanding of gender, gender role, sex, sexuality, violence, freedom of self-identification of sex and not merely limited to boys and girls equal attendants and equal participation), mass awareness, more gender-neutral and gender-sensitive movies, a strong mechanism to implement the laws properly and amendment of acts, clarifying the overlapping sections of various acts (i.e. – POCSO & Medical Terminancy of Pregnancy Act), taking the proper representation of vulnerable people for whom the act is going to mean.

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