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Not one more Niki: a brother's plea

July 07 2015 By Tarang Chawla

My sister Nikita was killed in January. If she hadn't been killed, she would have just turned 24 years old.

Tarang Chawla with his sister, Nikita. Image

Next Monday (July 13), public hearings for the state government's Royal Commission into family violence will begin. If the current trend for 2015 continues, at least two more women could be killed somewhere in Australia before the hearings start. 

When my sister was killed, some reporters looked to the cultural identity of the man who is accused of murdering her. Most focused on my sister's ethnicity. I wasn't sure what to make of it. My parents and I migrated from India, but Niki's Australian. Born and bred.

Neither of these things are of particular significance to what happened, but I can understand that they were noticed — a brown face is a brown face. Perhaps we all assume there's something about violence in Indian communities that's especially remarkable. 

Yet from behind the anonymity of a keyboard, strangers who don't know my family or my sister have pointed their fingers at her. First they victim blamed, then they victim shamed. 

Hours after the news broke of Niki's killing, opinions flourished without any knowledge of the facts. Meanwhile my parents and I sat in our family room, stricken with grief on a sofa with one empty seat. The baby of our family had just been cruelly snatched away.

Someone said to me that she 'got what she deserves'. The problem is that when women are killed, we've taught ourselves to think, 'What did she do?' and not 'Why are men violent?'

I've lost my sister forever. I can only hope the commission's recommendations to government include meaningful measures to address the real cultural underpinning of men's violence against women — gender inequality.

Violence against women is the product of male entitlement. Culture is a factor. But it needs to be looked at holistically and not as a way to mask or excuse patriarchal misogyny. We live in a culture that continues to mistreat women. Lesser pay. Sexist jokes. Street harassment.

The way out is clear: it's our collective responsibility to challenge attitudes that condone or perpetuate gender inequality at every level. This applies wherever you live and with whichever culture you identify.

Things are being done and attitudes are changing, but progress is slow. In its most serious manifestation of gender inequality, women continue to be killed and then they are blamed for it. And courts continue to deliver lenient prison terms.

Until recently, journalists have had no incentive for exemplary reporting on the issue. I hope that the Our Watch Awards challenge journalists to report respectfully, and with the knowledge that they play an integral role in shaping attitudes towards women.

I hope that the Royal Commission makes a point of addressing male privilege and entitlement. I hope that nothing that could make things better for victims and their families is put in the "too hard basket". We can't afford to ignore it.

I hope that wherever my sister is now, she is safe and happy. That's the very least that she deserves. I hope she's dancing. 

Author: Tarang Chawla 
This piece first appeared in The Brisbane Times Newspaper on 6/7/15 http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/not-one-more-niki-a-brothers-plea-20150706-gi299c.html 

Media contact
For enquiries or further information: Hannah Grant, Our Watch, mobile 0448 844 930, email Hannah.Grant@ourwatch.org.au

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000”