When I was a child, my mother affectionately called me “Beta”. The term of endearment came from a place of so much warmth and love that I used to relish in the sweetness of the word. But even in my childlike curiosity I never questioned why my mother turned to the Hindi word for son to shower me with affection. Patriarchy is so deeply ingrained into our beings that sometimes we fail to recognise its very presence. It’s the norm even for the well-educated.

Men in our society have always been taught that they are the superior sex, and this line of thought is more prevalent when you are in rural areas. They have the upper hand in everything; from husbands eating before their wives do, to a man’s opinions having more weight than that of a woman. For long men across countries, across social and economic classes assumed right over everything, even on a woman’s body.

Mamta became a victim in the hands of one such man, who had such an enormous sense of entitlement that he couldn’t take no from a girl. What happened next was sad, but certainly not unheard of. Ramesh drugged Mamta, his own girlfriend, and raped her. When she got pregnant, Ramesh dragged her to a self-proclaimed godman going by the name of Baba Pehalwan, who carried out an unsafe abortion on her. The young girl was brought to Maanavta hospital suffering complications from a botched abortion. Mamta’s parents, already distressed by the position their daughter was in, were further blackmailed by the fraud Baba to take her home or they would face severe repercussions. Ignorance and fear moved them to act as they reached the hospital to take Mamta home. I had a hard time digesting yet another ugly reality of Pratappur but had to talk to her parents and make them realise the complications that came with an adolescent undergoing an abortion.

For Mamta, the trauma was so immense that for once she decided to take matters into her own hands and simply end her life. Her attempt at suicide was thankfully unsuccessful, but it gave me a peek into what must have been going on inside the innocent soul’s mind. Drugged, raped, and forced into an abortion by a boy she probably put her faith in. All because this boy grew up thinking he had the privilege of having any woman he desired. That a girl’s no does not matter, because women’s opinions hardly ever matter. How hard can it be for us to understand two simple things– we were all born equal, and a person’s right to live life on their own terms does not reside in their body!