Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Achche Din slogan got the biggest thumbs down from an international agency when Thomson Reuters Foundation adjudged India as the most unsafe country for women. Even countries like Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and Saudi Arabia have fared better. Opinions may differ on the genuineness of the survey placing India at the top of an unsafe mountain for women. The national pride has been greatly hurt by this new-found designation and ‘badge of dishonour’. But it is a reality that the world has proclaimed.
As if to give proof to the doubting Thomases, the day Reuters’ survey was released, a Canadian national was raped in the heart of the national Capital; a Mexican woman was assaulted in a Pink City hotel; two minor girls fell prey to sexual marauders at Manali. These were just tip of an iceberg. Statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau records that there is a rape almost every 20 minutes and a crime against women every three minutes. One cannot throw the survey result out of the window as it is based on experts’ opinion on a wide-range of topics – access to health; sexual violence; non-sexual violence including domestic, physical and mental abuse; human trafficking; and the continuation of practices like child marriage, genital mutilation and acid attacks.
One would have thought that the stringent laws enacted after the infamous Nirbhaya case would stop the violators on their tracks. But subsequent incidents have belied such hopes. In fact, the situation is getting worse with even toddlers, who are to be put to sleep with mothers’ lullabies, and minors yet to step into their kindergarten classes, assaulted by sexual predators. What is more sickening is that such perverts have no remorse even when caught with their pants down. Equally revolting are the increasing incidents of women falling prey to trolls and threats of sexual assaults and murder. The fact that such monsters do not spare even women holding senior positions in government and party points to the most unsafe conditions prevailing in the country.
Countering the report that shows India in poor light, some analysts have listed the measures to prove that women are getting empowered. They put forward data to show that women have made great strides in economic progress, education, social mobility and employment. But they forget the fact that such empowerment has not reduced the risk to their lives. One may get to see tens and thousands of well-dressed girls and women going to educational institutions or work places. But ask them whether they feel safe. Most of them will stare at your face with a firm ‘no’. Probe deep, and one can see fear lurking in the corners of their eyes.
One of the reasons for the continuing brutality against women is that the government and the law-enforcing agencies are perceived to be doing little to counter it. An impression is embedded in the male-dominated society that men can get away with the crimes committed against the ‘weaker section’. This view gets reinforced when those in power become hand-in-glove with the perpetrators of the crimes against women, apparently leading to the present ‘rape culture’ catching up in the country. We can live in a denial mode. But reality will continue to prick our conscience.(Published on 09th July 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 28)