In India, last week, a close friend of Shraddha Walkar made a telling comment on TV: why didn’t she leave Aftab even though he was beating her? Shraddha’s chilling murder allegedly by her boyfriend Aftab has shocked the entire nation and raised a number of issues.
27 year old Shraddha was brutally killed, allegedly, by her live-in partner Aftab Ameen Poonawalla in Delhi during May this year. As more and more horrific details emerge of the killing, Shraddha’s friends say she had told them Aftab was abusing her and that she even feared he may kill her.
Stories of physical abuse, cuts, bruises and even cigarette butts being used on Shraddha’s body by Aftab have emerged.
Domestic violence is at heart of this horrific crime. What many people don’t realise is how hard it is for domestic abuse victims to simply ‘walk out’. Very often they are scared of their violent partners, and don’t have anywhere to go to. In many cases their own families don’t encourage them to return.
In Shradhha’s case her father was not on talking terms with her since he opposed her relationship. Families must stop alienating women because they are not happy with their relationships. This makes it even harder for victims to speak up and ask for help.
In India especially, families usually encourage women to “adjust” and ensure they stay even in abusive marriages or relationships. Because domestic violence is seen as a “private matter” which is hushed up. This case has also highlighted institutional failures. Shraddha really didn’t have any good shelter or helpline she could turn to.
Experts say whatever helplines exist are too few and struggling to cope. They don’t have staff or financial resources to do anything meaningful. The few shelters that exist are often like jails, in pathetic conditions. Not a space where women can feel safe.
We are a society where women are blamed for being beaten up by their partners. Many victims are therefore conditioned to believe that their partner really loves them and that they somehow deserved to be beaten.
In Shraddha’s case too, awful, misogynistic comments have been made: “why was she living in with him” — taking victim blaming to a whole new level.
The ‘love jihad’ bogey has also been raised by the right wing and social media trolls. This is nothing but a polarising distraction. What Aftab allegedly did is beyond disgusting. He deserves nothing but the maximum punishment under the law.
Awful, heinous crimes have been committed before also, by non Muslims. Don’t forget the Tandoor murder case in Delhi committed by Sushil Sharma or the Nithari killings by Moninder Singh Pandher. Religion has nothing to do with depraved crimes.
A 2012 UN study showed that nearly half of women murdered globally were killed by their own partners. The danger of domestic violence is real. If we learn anything from Shraddha Walkar’s tragic death, let it be this.