Making India Safe for Women

Big names tumbling out of the closet and into disgrace and shame. Every morning and every evening, additions to MeToo.

But workplace sexual harassment is only one part of what women in India have to face. The fundamental issue is ‘Is India safe for women?’

And the answer sadly is ‘No’. It is highly unsafe and becoming increasingly so. What we euphemistically used to call ‘eve teasing’ has been with us for ages. My friends from Kerala recall with horror their college days and how afraid they were to walk alone, to even raise their eyes from the ground or stay late in college. In Delhi of course, it gets more physical with groping hands and lewd gestures.

But now, there are horror stories which one has never heard before. For instance, how many incidents of acid throwing are reported every month? And in most cases, it is because the girl has rejected the boy’s advances.

Mind-shattering reports of abuse of children. Why just children, even infants! Of incest and abuse by fathers and uncles and brothers. Were these always there or is something sick in us growing out of control?

Cell phone camera photos and video clips of girls taken with or without their knowledge or consent are another potent tool in the hands of miscreants. In an example of how technology can be misused, these are passed on through MMS or put up on the website. There are instances of young innocent schoolgirls who have been driven to the edge of insanity and suicide, thanks to some boys in their class taking photos and threatening to circulate them, and blackmailing them into all kinds of activities.

And of course, the classic Pre-natal Determination of Sex—scanning to ascertain the sex of a child, and killing the unwanted girl child. Do we need a better example of how India at once lives in several centuries—the atavistic boy child preference aided by high-tech? So what if such scanning is illegal?

The solution then is not to make an example of one rapist, to go after one high profile editor/film-maker/what have you who has tried to take advantage of girls working for him, or to bring in the moral police. Each incident looks like one deviant exception, but taken together, they form a frightening picture of a society where something is seriously wrong. Why is this happening? Where do we begin to set it right? Whose responsibility is it—the education system, the media, parents, the law makers, the law enforcers….? It is time to introspect and face unpleasant truths.

And then go on to act on the truths we discover.

Otherwise India will be unsafe for one half of its people.

–Meena

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