Making India Safe for Women

Women in India, careful or not have become the target of a segment of men who leer, jeer and go to the extent of attacking her dignity, rob her sexual security and make her feel vulnerable and miserable. Rapes have become common but rarely reported because of the social stigma. Domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, incest, acid attacks and dowry deaths, gender experts say, are just the tip of the iceberg.  A country where women like, Pratibha Patil, Meira Kumari, Sheila Dikshit, Jayalalitha, Mayawati, Mamata Bannerji, top the political positions, on the contrary has been ranked the fourth most dangerous place in the world for women, by Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Are women better off wearing bangles at home with their heads covered? Says Ila Pathak, founder of Ahmedabad Women’s Action Group (AWAG), “That does not protect women from rape, as men in villagers are as likely to sexually attack women as urban men,”  Will carrying pepper spray or a rampuri (instead of lipstick) make India’s women feel more secure? No, it will take more than that to solve these anti women acts. Is it enough having laws against these issues for the safety of this gender?  “No, the implementation needs to be resourced well enough for it to work,” says Mona Mehta, leader of Oxfam’s We Can, The institutes in India will have to offer enough support to women who want to report on crimes, so that every women will approach them unhesitatingly. Says civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad: “We are guided by weak laws, and women are not given enough support in their family to come out and talk about it.”  So, women face the worst of both worlds.

The key point on the road map to secure Indian women is to upgrade the overpowering ideas of the Indian society about gender and sexuality, a society in which women want to live on their own, want to break out of the shackles that bind them to their homes to seek opportunities in the world outside.  This is possible only when men folk stop thinking women as inferiors and keep up with changing women. Every year, thousands of girls are aborted because of a traditional preference for sons. The Indian society will have to stop priding itself on the strong muscular figure at home ( son’s) and only then can they change their perception on women entity. The father of a son will have to revolt against women harassment (even if it is watching a movie at home where the man is beating up women) and the mother will have to put in her views of disagreement too, instead of remaining silent.  The parents, especially the mothers and sisters should give moral lessons to their sons and brothers respectively about the safety of women. Therefore, the society and families will have to be enlightened primarily not to raise sons indoctrinated with a sense of superiority and privilege.

Then comes Films, TV and press, they should avoid projecting women as sex objects, to promote their media material.  Literature everywhere in books, films and media, including visual advertisements, should address woman’s role as something that has to be adored /respected for her beauty and grace and not exploiting the same.

When matter comes to law and order, the police and authorities responsible to maintain law and order must act fast, and for this the judicial system has to be amended so that court cases are not allowed to languish for years. The police have to be equipped with counselors to teach their staff to respect women with some basic responsiveness, receptiveness and compassion.

When the women go out to work late nights, the employers should ensure the safety of them and the organization needs to have an internal mechanism that make available help lines to provide all the safety – security for women, particularly in their transportation.

A piece of counsel for us, ‘women’ would be to always be, on alert about our surroundings when we move about. Take some defensive training, because when in danger we can’t wait for our brothers or father to protect us. The schools can be of help in this by opening self defense training courses for women in general, free of cost, and also the private and corporate organizations can be encouraged to conduct the same as their corporate social responsibility.

As citizens of India, let us all uplift women in the real world as well as in the mindsets of the people (including fellow women) and let us all together say ‘no’ to crime against women and not be just mute spectators!



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