As a Member of Parliament (MP), women’s rights activist, leader of AIDWA (All India Democratic Women’s Association), mother of a daughter and above all as a citizen of India, I feel ashamed, perturbed, disturbed and extremely worried about the situation of women in India. Loosing the innocent young lady (gang-rape victim) was really the most painful event for me. She is gone. She fought hard and now she can rest in peace but certainly not us. It’s up to us now to start the struggle where she left.
Even as the nation was rocked by protests over her gang-rape, other women were raped. A journalist in Delhi reporting on this very story was “eve-teased” by a group of young men in a car. Another young woman in Patiala hanged herself because the police had not acted on her complaint.
A glance at the Indian media reveals the range of abuse suffered by the nation’s women on a daily basis. Many surveys have come out with reports of India being a worst place for females, a poll of 370 gender specialists around the world voted India as the worst place to be a woman out of all the G20 countries. It stung – especially as Saudi Arabia was at the second-worst. The incidents of Rape are increasing day by day. Delhi has become a crime city where at least one girl is raped at every day on the average. Women are not safe anywhere, until the thinking toward women doesn’t change, unless the respect towards women doesn’t come. ‘Natural urge’ does not ‘force’ anyone to harass, assault, intimidate and abuse a woman. Lack of respect and impunity under the law, and ridiculous, outmoded and idiotic attitudes, allow it to happen.
Though there are laws that protect women’s rights, but we are all well-aware of the efficiency of Indian’s judicial system. The girl along with her family will be left to suffer for all throughout their lives. It’s purely about the vacuum in the law, lack of security at leisure spots, lack of gender justice, lack of fear of the law, police and judicial apathy and the complete lack of awareness that men and women have the right to enjoy exactly the same kind of leisure activities.” Much of the debate has focused on reinforcing legislation. It is noteworthy that the national conviction rate in rape cases brought to court is lower than 25%. This ‘crime against woman ‘situation cannot be improved in a short duration; due to various cultural, economic and social factors, like the ingrained patriarchal mind-set, the economic dependency, increasing alcohol consumption, wave of migrant labourers in big cities, the clash of cultural values due to the media and internet explosion especially during last decade. I really believe that institutions in India do not offer enough support for women who want to report on crimes. Not only we are guided by weak laws, and women are not given enough support in their family to come out and talk about it.
When I raised a question (about the safety of women in India with reference to a survey) to the minister of women and child welfare Smt Krishna Teerath in the recently concluded session of Parliament, I received a very normal, theoretical and tricky reply that all is well and taken care of, and the reality was that during the entire session, the newspapers were carrying reports of sexual assault incidents against women in the country.
Does the Minister and the Prime minister realize that issues such as rape, dowry-related deaths and female infanticide have rarely entered mainstream political discourse?
It took a thousands of people screaming and protesting for our Prime Minister (father of three daughters) to realize this?
What can really be done
All political parties, corporates and media companies should essentially declare their gender policy.
There is an urgent need to inject feminist consciousness with diverse stakeholders at the national and local levels through advocacy, perspective-building and supporting struggles against human rights violations of women.
The safety of women can be only ensured through strong partnerships between civil society organisations, governments, urban local authorities and law-enforcing agencies.
Every citizen should be sensitized to support women’s struggles against all forms of violence ensuring access to safety, dignity, justice and rights.
Evolve new training standards for policemen to sensitise and professionalize them, starting with the Delhi Police and other metros to be followed countrywide.
Professionalize and empower the National Commission for Women and immediate removal of inefficient and ineffective members from the panel. The commission should maintain a record about what happens to rape cases from prevention to investigation to conviction.
A large number of policemen are permanently on VIP duty or serve as orderlies to senior officers. This must change. Why should the common man feel unsafe at the cost of politicians’ security?
Education is better than policing for “crime against women” I feel the change will be more enduring if it’s inculcated from bottom up. Social moral values are imbibed at an early age. It’s very tough to change social values after a certain age.
I make a strong request to the Prime Minister that Let the year 2013 be observed as the Year for Women’s Safety in India.
I look forward to the President, Parliament, Judiciary, Prime minister and all other stake holders’ activeness in addressing this serious issue as the first step towards honouring the brutal and terrible death of the unknown Young Citizen.
[Dr T N Seema is a Member of Indian Parliament (Rajyasabha) and National Vice-President of All India Democratic Women’s Association]