When Will We Let Women Make their Choices? In K’taka, Family Chops Off Woman’s Fingers After She Decides to Marry Lover

Social Commentary

When Will We Let Women Make their Choices? In K’taka, Family Chops Off Woman’s Fingers After She Decides to Marry Lover

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

India still has a long way to go when it comes to respecting an adult woman’s choices. In Karnataka, the fingers of a 24-year-old woman were chopped off by her father and brother as they didn’t want her to marry a man of her choice. When will this horrific streak of violence end?

The victim, identified as Dhanalakshmi, was admitted to a hospital on Saturday, December 5, after four of her fingers were chopped off. She had been in love with a man named Satya for over two years and they wanted to marry each other. The two, hailing from PG Palya village of Hanur taluk in Chamarajnagar district, decided to seek consent from Dhanalakshmi’s parents but they raised an objection.

Despite the disapproval, Dhanalakshmi and Satya decided to marry. Dhanalakshmi’s family was angered when they found out.

On Saturday, the girl’s father and her brother Mahendra bumped into Dhanalakshmi near a medical store, leading to an argument. In a fit of rage, the two caught her and chopped off her fingers. They allegedly attacked her with a sickle and cut off four fingers of her left hand.

Locals rushed to help her. The two accused were arrested by the police after the incident.

The total lack of respect for an adult woman’s choices is widespread in society. In a separate incident in Rajasthan, a 26-year-old IIM-Bangalore fellow reached out to the women’s commission, as her parents were forcing her to get married. The police stepped in, not to help her, but assist the parents and took her into custody. What can one do when even the gatekeepers of law have little respect for a woman’s agency?

“My family is forcing me to get married. When I refused, they threatened they would take me away forcefully and stop my job and further studies. Due to the perceived threat, I left Dholpur of my own free will and contacted NFIW (National Federation of Indian Women) for protection. I would like to stress I am safe and do not wish to be sought after or traced by my family,” she wrote in a letter.

Not only are societal pressure and violence prevalent, the state can now even have issues with a marriage. In Lucknow, police arrived at the wedding of a Hindu bride to a Muslim groom and halted the rituals despite the consent from both adults and their families. The newly passed “Love Jihad” law was said to be violated and a celebratory occasion was marred by the state using its excessive force to interfere in the personal decisions of adult individuals.

What will it take for Indian society to respect a woman’s choices?