Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes
Women Safety- Making Cities Safe
In news: the New Year eve ‘mass molestation’ incident in Bengaluru has brought back the focus once again on women’s safety as well as public consciousness. Though no complaint had been filed initially, the police have taken up investigation based on the reports of women being assaulted physically. Following the horrific incident, when a state minister blames such an incident on ‘western culture’, it is unfortunate how state and society failed to ensure the safety of women.
The rhetoric follows
Attitude of state and society towards such incidents has made the women reluctant to register offences as if she does so, she will invite an accusatory glare of ‘wearing particular kind of clothes’, ‘late night outings’, ‘being with boys’ and ‘why alone in a lonely street’.
Post such incidences, the rhetoric of blame-the-victim and deny-it-happened continues for a while.
Along with it, there announcements of buying new CCTVs and other quick fixes.
Hence, it has been now observed that the notion of safety comes across as that one of security and protection and not of right!
Role of stakeholders
Political will is extremely important to bring about long-term and systemic change that addresses the actual causes of the problem as there is no easy and rapid solution towards the road of gender equality.
The rights of women against any kind of violence, whether in public or private sector, require participation from its stakeholders with a multi-pronged strategy.
Whether it is police or law enforcement agencies who have to look after their outdoor safety as a whole or it is urban and transport planners who have to engage with women on equal footing so as to know their problems while travelling or education systems and the media, the participation of all is needed to foster an ethos of equality and to challenge patriarchal and anti-women ideologies.
It is one of the critical stakeholders in building more robust policing and legal systems for women’s safety.
From the moment an incident of violence takes place, there should be quick, efficient and non-judgemental responses. Non-required questions, especially personal questions like what she was wearing should not be included.
The case should be dealt swiftly and effectively by the legal system so that perpetrators of violence fear the repercussions of their actions. If need be, the police
However, the facts present an adverse case. The cases of violence against women, especially sexual harassment in public spaces, has gone up but the convictions are still abysmally low. Only one of 100 cases registered under Section 354 led to convictions in 2015.
The Centre has a Nirbhaya project, the recommendations of Justice Usha Mehra Commission and states like Kerala had a similar policy much before the Delhi incident. But they have been just on paper. Had they been properly implemented, many of the offences against women would not have happened.
There is a need of gender-sensitive urban planning, service delivery and governance as setting up police and legal system is not enough.
Such kind of urban planning will ensure that our cities and towns promote accessibility, safety and inclusion.
It is unfortunate that today more cities are losing public spaces. Safety audits done across cities have revealed that better lighting and CCTVs all across the cities can make the space safer.
Many cities around the world have been making changes to make cities more inclusive. For example,
In Seoul, public spaces have been revitalized by making them pedestrian areas with shops and establishments that make the street-front active.
In Rosario, Argentina, wall art has been used to engage young men in making public spaces more usable
In Papua New Guinea, women have used safety audits to make markets more women-friendly.
Thus, the cities have to be planned in such a way that streets are active, lively and usable by a wide variety of people, including women, children and the disabled.
Good and safe public transport is central to women’s right to mobility.
Studies from across Indian cities have shown that women have reported facing a great deal of sexual harassment while using and waiting for public transport.
Women only railway coaches or buses may be a partial solution but all forms of public transport must provide for instant redress and support through helplines and other measures for women and girls to use at any time of the day (or night).
Women have as much right to the city as anyone else. They have the right to access public spaces at any time and it is the duty of the state to ensure they are not violated.
The society’s culture
Irrespective of whatever state or city women live in, lack of respect for them is ingrained in its culture.
More than a law and order issues, it is a mindset problem. A majority of Indian men grow up in an environment where domestic violence and gender discrimination is a common factor and where women are treated as second-class citizens.
Men are brought up to believe that they are the most important entity at home and that the women “belong” to them so they can have their way around them irrespective of the consequences.
Today, parents want their girls to be safe rather than defiant poster girls for gender parity. It reflects the ground reality that parents are wary of danger lurking around whenever their girl child is out. And feminists cannot blame them for protecting the child instead of taking a baton of ‘changing the society.’
Mindset has to be changed from the core. Sexism should be removed from textbooks, building public opinion against movies portraying stalking of women as sureshot way to get her, marathons and events highlighting women’s rights to access and dignity, ‘no means no’ or a simple exercise of women meetings in parks/restaurants/ roads/public spaces.
The state as well as society — are reactionary in nature. But that doesn’t help as the damage done to a women’s integrity can never be restored by its laws and justice.
The request of I&B ministry to all private FM radio firms to broadcast jingles that promote positive portrayal of women show the lack of long term strategy with the government. Though it is a step in positive direction, such kind of quick fixes are not sustainable. Consultations with stakeholders and seeing through the implementation is effective way of expected change.
Denying women safe and equal access to public spaces violates her most basic constitutional rights of equality and dignity. This denial also has social and economic implications where the women prefer to stay indoors, negatively effecting the female labour force participation.
Thus, the society and the State need to change its attitude and be more respectful towards women who drive their economy and the society forward- literally.
Connecting the dots:
What are the challenges faced by women in society with respect to their right to freedom and right to access. Examine.
More than the state, the attitude of the society needs to change to look at women in more respectful way. Do you agree? Support your answer with examples.