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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 51 New Delhi December 7, 2019

How Indian Society is Failing all its Women and Humanity as a Whole

Sunday 8 December 2019

by Ayushi Golwara

A woman boards a Delhi Metro at 11.20 pm, sees around and gets to know that there are only five men in that metro and NO woman. She regrets it the entire time, that why did she not see before boarding the metro, thinks of all the possible scenarios including gang-rape plus death, tries to keep checking out all the possible emergency buttons present, number 100 is on the dialer already. Finally the metro stops at the next station, and another woman boards it and she feels relieved, relieved that she was able to save her life one more time. The sheer terror and helplessness and then, the relief and gratitude that you escaped it just one more time because you were lucky. This might sound a little strange to some people but this is a very normal daily life of a girl/woman. Having studied in an all- girls college, and having known so many women, each one of us go through the same thoughts, constant, never-ending fear and terror everyday. And sadly it just worsens day by day.

We were not even able to come out of the trauma of the horrific Delhi Nirbhaya gang-rape case that happened on December 16, 2012, and there is another draconian inhuman incident in Hyderabad where the woman was gang-raped, burnt, charred that shook the nation this Wednesday (November 27) and led to a dsimal sense of deja vu. Very little has changed on the ground since the Nirbhaya incident, and we can only say that it has worsened.

Being a woman myself staying in Delhi for the last five years alone and I have been under constant terror every time I leave my hostel, my family always on the call to ensure whether their daughter has reached back safely, asking me to share the cab details, live location etc. I feel emotionally and mentally upset writing this article, knowing this is the story of every woman in India irrespective of religion, age, complexion, the clothes she wears or at what time we are travelling. This is what this society has made our lives all about, over and above everything we do. The question that we need to ask ourselves is: why are the women of this country not safe in their own country?

Horrific Stories in Numbers

  • India has been named the most dangerous country in the world for women in a recent Thomson Reuters Foundation survey.
  • The world’s second most populous nation, with 1.3 billion people, ranked as the most dangerous on three of the topical questions which includes the risk of sexual violence and harassment against women, the danger women face from cultural, tribal and traditional practices, and the country where women are most in danger of human trafficking including forced labour, sex slavery and domestic servitude.
  • As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, 3,59,849 cases of crime against women were reported in the country, with marital assault having still not been legalised.
  • According to the latest government crime figures, police registered 33,658 cases of rape in India in 2017—that’s an average of 92 rapes every day.
  • It is estimated that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives.
  • However, some national studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Unfortunately, only one in four rape cases ending up in conviction shows the painful process for the victims to get justice.
  • Nearly 30 per cent of all the legislators have a criminal background.
  • According to a recent report by the Livemint, about 99 per cent of cases of sexual violence go unreported.This suggests that the absence of a strong law against marital rape and assaults is not the only factor behind the low reporting. There are other factors at play, including low trust in the police and low conviction rates in such crimes that prevent women from reporting sexual assaults.

What Needs to be Done Immediately 

There needs to be a complete overhauling of the system. There should be effective and better helplines. We see that there are desolate and isolated areas like agricultural lands that are the potential areas for incidents; in those areas there should be better infrastructure of law enforcement agencies. There should be installation of CCTV cameras, street lights in all areas, especially in potentially identified areas where crimes can be committed.

We need more women representation in the system, because the system in itself is very misogynistic; we saw the unfortunate remark of the Telangana Home Minister, putting the burden and onus on the victim herself by saying why she did not dial 100 instead of her sister. The responsibility of accountability should be on our politicians, citizens should make sure that the politicians are not able to win elections without taking into account our concerns. There should be better utilisation of the Nirbhaya fund that is allocated to enhance the safety of women. It is mostly unused and unutilised. According to the Ministry of Human and Child Development, 17 States have not used the fund at all. Over Rs 900 lakhs have been allocated to Telangana, but only Rs 25 lakhs have been used. The solution lies in its implementation.

There should be political will among all the parliamentarians to get beyond their party lines and think of a proactive solution; emphasis should be given on enhancing the administrative skills.

There should be emphasis given to the need to introduce proper, systematic, gender-sensitive training for police personnel at all levels. The police should be trained on how they should behave empthically with the woman and her family members who come for filing complaints. The government should ensure that the child lock should be removed from all public cabs and taxis as it has no or negligible purpose there. Child locks should only be for private cars. There should be strengthening of law enforcement agencies, and speedy trial and response should be ensured. Identification of dark stretches and sharing information with civic agencies is also on the fore. Sexual offenders directory should be highlighted so that everyone is aware.

The change should start from home. Parents should keep a watchout on the behaviour of their children as to how they treat the women nearby, and if they see a problem, they should come up and take action and proactively sensitise them to change their mindset.

Way Forward

All these dreadful incidents continuously lead young independent working women constantly negotiating public spaces, of contributing to the economy, of diminishing our freedom and equal opportunities. Such incidents are a setback for every woman, leads to a state of fear that will strike the hearts of every parent for their daughter. It has become the most unfortunate barrier to overcome for women to lead a normal life, and as a result being forced to subscribe to the patriarchal mindset by the state, by the system. Somewhere we see the state has failed its women. This will keep half of the population from taking up jobs, travelling alone, pursuing careers, basically to stop living a normal life.

There should be one-on-one conversation with the men, need to empower their mindset and behaviour too. We as an individual need to fix society. In no way, should the burden be on the women. Everyone needs to be sensitised to value consent. It is the role at all levels of administration to spread social awareness and gender sensitivity among all beings.              

Ayushi Golwara is pursuing her Masters from the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Earlier she completed her graduation in Political Science (Hons.) from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi. She can be reached at ayushigolwara[at]gmail.com

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