How can we make India safe for women?

Changes take time, many years. Changes happen because of persuasion!

Sexual Assault In India 

Sexual assault and rapes have become everyday news in India. Not only has it become such common news but each case is more violent and horrifying than the previous one. Why is this? Is it because the country is becoming more and more dangerous and unsafe for women or is it because we are just taking notice of such issues? Which one could it be?

I was in a fix when I saw recent reports stating that India is now officially the most dangerous country for women. Isn’t there anything that we could do to make India safe? The first solution that comes to everyone’s mind is stricter laws. Yes, definitely true. But what is the use of stricter laws if they are not enforced efficiently? There is something else other than the law that we are ignoring. I wish to connect the dots here.

As a woman brought up in India, I know how scared parents are when their daughters want to roam around at night. I have sad news for every such parent. Restraining your daughters from going out at night might not actually safeguard them. Are you wondering why?

In 95% of the situations, the rapist is someone known to the victim.

The Solutions

In most cases, it is not some drunk stranger roaming in the streets late at night who rapes a woman. I know it is hard to accept that your own people might harm you. But let’s face it. It is the truth. At this moment, I kindly request every single parent reading this article to pause, reflect and accept this sad fact.

Now, let me give you the happy news. There is a solution to this problem. I attend sexual assault training programs in some NGOs. One of them is API Chaya. While discussing this issue, the trainer gave a simple but highly sound idea. The solution to this problem does not involve daughters. Instead, it includes parents. Yes, parents can help alleviate this problem to a great extent.

The trainer suggested parents teach about such issues to kids. I agree that you can’t just tell that “Sexual assault is a problem” to a kid. But what you can do is teach your son/daughter “good touch and bad touch”. Make sure that your kid knows that you believe them and that you will be there for them. Make sure they feel comfortable sharing anything. For kids to feel comfortable talking about anything related to sex, you need to initiate talking about such topics to your kids in a healthy way.

  1. Don’t make the word “sex” sound like a taboo. This is one of the biggest problems in India
  2. Make it easy for kids to develop trust and be comfortable with you.

I highly recommend parents to attend such training. Please do not ignore such things because you never know what your kids are going through, be it a boy or a girl.

The Case Of Bhanwari Devi

A classic example with respect to this is the case of Bhanwari Devi. The case of Bhanwari Devi as portrayed in the book 10 Judgements That Changed India (with minor edits) is as follows:

“Bhanwari Devi was a grass-roots worker and activist, employed in the Women’s Development Project (WDP) of the Government of Rajasthan. In 1992, the Rajasthan Government launched a campaign against child marriage, in connection with WDP employees persuading them to abandon the practice. Bhanwari Devi made a spirited effort to prevent the marriage of a one-year-old girl but in vain. What ensued was a complete breakdown of the institutional machinery in Rajasthan. The villagers harassed, threatened and socially boycotted her. In September 1992, 5 villagers raped her in the presence of her husband.

While she sought justice, she faced innumerable hurdles from POLICE. But she still managed to go to trial court. The trial court ACQUITTED the five accused. She still didn’t give up. 5 NGOs under the name ”VISHAKA” filed a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) in the Supreme Court seeking detailed directions on how sexual harassment of women at the workplace could be prevented through a judicial process. “

The Sexual Assault Law In India 

The result of this long struggle is the law that we have today. “The Court has issued following guidelines to prevent sexual assault of women at the workplace:

  1. All employers or persons in charge of a workplace in the public and private sector should take appropriate steps to prevent sexual harassment without prejudice to the generality of his obligation.
    • Express prohibition of sexual harassment, which includes physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favors, sexually colored remarks, showing pornographic or any other unwelcome physical, the verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature should be noticed, published and circulated in appropriate ways.
    • The rules and regulation of government and public-sector bodies relating to conduct and discipline should include rules prohibiting sexual harassment and provide for appropriate penalties against the offender.
    • As regard to private employees, the above prohibitions should be included in the Standing Order under the Indian Employment Act, 1946.
    • Appropriate work conditions should be provided in respect of work, leisure, health, and hygiene to further ensure that there is no hostile environment towards women at the workplace and no employee women should have reasonable ground to believe that she is disadvantaged in connection with her employment.
  2. Where such conduct amounts to specific offenses, under the Indian Penal Code or under any other law, the employer shall initiate appropriate action in accordance with law making a complaint with the appropriate authority.
  3. The victims of sexual harassment should have the option to seek transfer of the perpetrator or their own transfer”

(The above description of sexual assault law is from the book: Constitutional Law of India)

Conclusion

In conclusion, Bhanwari Devi made it possible for every single woman to seek justice forever. Had Bhanwari Devi given up in the initial stages, the freedom now enjoyed by every single woman would not have been possible. Nirbhaya and Asifa are “news” now but they were “emotion” when it happened. This emotion, when channeled properly will help prevent another case of “Nirbhaya/Asifa”. Therefore, every small step you take to make India safer will benefit every single person of the upcoming generations.

The Author

Saisruthi is a software engineer by profession who considers “Strong Independent Feminist” as her identity. Women empowerment is her goal in life and would love to jump in for anything contributing towards it. She is a blogger blogging about Feminism for almost a year now. She loves to read books, most of them non-fiction, especially books themed around feminism, judiciary and Indian Political system. Connect with her on Twitter

Comments

comments