A few days ahead of women’s day, we will not talk about equality or equity, but the safety of women in our country or to put it in another word how safe are our women in India. This question today holds more pertinence than any other day because in a few days we will witness social media flooding with posts on women empowerment but are we ready for their empowerment in a space where she isn’t safe and strong?
For instance, let’s talk about yet another shocker of a vicious attack that has left the country stunned. Somebody calling it Hathras rerun and others Hathras Again. Whatever you may call it, it has left humanity in disgrace. The incident took place in Hathras, the same district in Uttar Pradesh which earlier spurted national ignominy after a 20-year woman was allegedly gang-raped by four men, a case mishandled by the police and the state resulting in nation-wide outrage. The details of the attack were heart-wrenching and inhumane. Furthermore, in the recent incident, a man who was behind the bars in a 2018 sex assault case, out on bail ever since allegedly shot dead the survivor’s father in Hathras district. There are myriad such cases of crimes against women and issues of women safety in the state, a state which has launched a campaign on women safety and empowerment — ‘Mission Shakti’ after Hathras rape case last year, but it seems we are way behind the reality.
There are incidents of multiple such brutal rape cases from Uttar Pradesh in recent years. According to a National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) “Crime in India ” 2019 report, the highest number of crimes against women (59,853) was reported in Uttar Pradesh accounting for 14.7 per cent of such cases across the country. Not just that Uttar Pradesh also registered the highest number of crimes against girl children under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act(POCSO) Act and ranked second in terms of rapes committed. According to the data released on Septmeber 2022, India recorded an average of 87 rape cases daily in 2019 and overall 4,05,861 cases of crime against women, a rise of over 7 per cent from 2018.
Ms Sharmila Singh, Principal, The Pioneer Montessori Chain of Schools Lucknow on the role of family upbringing and education says, “The family plays a very important role in providing a safe environment for women in society as the benefits of a joint family are not hidden. The family itself is like a mini-society for everyone. Mutual respect, care, cooperation is learned directly and indirectly by each individual living together.”
“But now the culture of the nuclear family has taken over, parents are usually working, hence, the educational institutions now have a greater responsibility of providing a safer environment to women. They need to carry the thread from where the family leaves. Education is the most potent tool to empower women. It helps them in realizing their self-worth, their rights along with their duties. Thus educating women means educating the family as she is a front runner in any household.” she adds
The question which we must ask today is what relevance campaigns like ‘Mission Shakti’ or in fact women’s day hold when women are not safe and secure in their home? In a few days, we will be showered with quotes, motivational speeches and social media posts on the role of women in our lives, but we need to pause and introspect; we need to prioritize that the real battle is on the ground, at homes, in schools, at offices, at public places where we fail to treat the other sex as a human and consume their space to breathe and live freely without being scared or alarmed.
“The best way we can contribute is by not focusing on girls alone but educating and counselling the boys as to how they should deal with their female counterparts. The need of the hour is to teach the boys what is right and what is wrong while dealing with girls. More awareness drives should be conducted in schools to educate the children as to what laws have been provided by the government for their safety and security of women,” Ms Singh says about as a society, we can contribute to an equal and safe environment for women.
Furthermore, the government, policymakers, laws, states and every supervising authorities to be following a strict regime ensuring a safe harbour for women and children and till then the women of the country await Women’s Day in its truest form.