India is a great country with more than 130 crore people residing in it and at the same time the most unsafe nation for women. It is the world’s largest democracy with an independent judiciary and possesses one of the most powerful militaries on earth. It is the only country to send a Mars Orbital Mission in the very first attempt, leading oil refining nation with one of the fastest growing economies in the world. While these facts make all the Indians happy and swell us with pride, there is another side to the story on India’s resurgence in the last seven decades of the independence. We, as a nation have made tremendous progress in the fields of science and technology, medicine, trade, manufacturing, highways, etc.; but there are various aspects that have been woefully neglected as well. Amongst them, the most serious disdain is of the issue of Women’s Safety in India. No matter how much we debate the gravity of the problem, the sheer number of crimes against women exposes utter lack of seriousness on the issue.
According to the recent global survey conducted by the Thomas Reuters Foundation, India is the most unsafe nation in the world for Women. It is a label that we as Indians must be ashamed to be associated with. As per the findings of the survey, India is more dangerous for women than Afghanistan and even Syria, a nation widely considered as the most unsafe on earth. What is shocking is that the civil war-torn nations like Somalia and Yemen are safer than India for women. The methodology of the survey included views of 548 global experts on women’s safety, out of which 43 were from India itself. Out of a total of the six areas which were calculated for safety, India is worst in three categories namely, women in human trafficking, sexual violence and in relation to the cultural, religious and tribal traditions respectively. The survey is a cruel reminder of our callous attitude and utter lack of political will on the burning issue.
The seriousness of the political elite could be gauged from the fact that as soon as the findings of the survey were made public, the ruling government dismissed it thoroughly as being biased and poorly representable. The truth is that when the same survey in 2011 declared India as the fourth most unsafe nation for women, the same party had blamed then Prime Minister for inaction. Now the Present Prime Minister (more than four years in office) has improved the situation by making India No.1 as the most unsafe for women. The opposition is also trying to gain political mileage and lacks any constructive agenda for women safety.
Reasons for Grave Situation
The following are the major reasons responsible for the lack of safety for women in India. The people must be made aware of the burning situation who are the worst sufferers of this problem.
No Public Outrage against Heinous Crimes
The worst factor responsible for the lack of women safety in India is the increasing crime rates in India, especially for grave offences against women like rape, kidnapping, acid attacks, murders, etc. listening to the news of such heinous crimes has now become normal in India. Such happenings don’t move the public to question the ruling elite. The horrendous Nirbhaya Case of 2012 which shook the conscience of the nation and forced the people to take to streets to demand action against the culprits. But the recent outcry against Gudiya incident (Himachal Pradesh) and Unnao Rape (Uttar Pradesh) has fizzled out of the public memory. The politicians have many ways to distract the public’s attention by stirring communal issues or cheap jumalabaazi.
Judicial Delays in Punishing the Accused
If the executive is guilty of not being serious about women’s safety, the blame must be equally shared by the judiciary as well. The Hon’ble Judges are far too busy fighting with the executive over the Judges’ Selection Procedure than to effective cater to the women’s safety. The accused of the infamous Nirbhaya Gang Rape which occurred in 2012, is still petitioning for mercy. It is surprising that the Indian Laws guarantee the rapist enough chances to escape for an unjust prosecution, but it fails dismally to guarantee the Right to Safety to about half of India’s population. The Judges must evolve fast-track procedures for such heinous cases. Only speedy and merciless affliction of punishments could serve as an effective deterrent in the cases of crimes against women.
Lack of Political Will (Failure of Governance)
The present ruling regime gave to power in 2014 with the slogan “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance”. The government has failed completely on the issue of women’s safety. The entire focus of the government is on the launch of new schemes for women, not bothering whether they have any effect on the status-quo. Despite the entire gamut of schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padao, Janani Suraksha Yojana, Sukanya Samdridhi Yojana, Standup India, etc. the truth is that women are unsafe in the nation, living under the shadow of constant danger and fear. The bitter truth is that all that the political parties care about is winning elections, and launching new schemes will garner political mileage. Improving women safety is neither beneficial nor complementary to win votes. The electorate could be easily divided on the issue of caste or religion for attaining votes. The truth is that even though the Indian Constitution specifically prohibits traffic in human beings in all form by the virtue of the Article 23(1), India is worst in the world in the category of trafficking in women.
Political Mellow-Drama, No Effective Action
After the gruesome Unna Rape case in which accused was related to BJP (The party in power in the state of Uttar Pradesh), and the inaction of the state police to even register a complaint against the accused, there is an outpour of criticism in the media. What is even shocking is that the father of the victim was allegedly killed by the accused for demanding justice. The case brought out the compromised nature of the political parties on the issue of women safety.
To pacify the public criticism, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi presided over an event in London’s Central Hall of Westminster titled “Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath” in April 2018. As is was an entirely compromised function being held for self-aggrandisement of the ruling government, the PM tried to emotionally sway the audience over the deplorable state of women safety in India. He proclaimed that culprits will be punished and daughters will get justice. Now after two-and-a-half months, the truth of his hollow promise is out in the open. Only is women could get justice and safety by holding Propaganda function with mellow-dramatic monologues, could India’s daughters feel save.
Orwellian Theory (Unequal rules for the VIPs)
The social media is nowadays replete with a video clip in which the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Trivendra Singh Rawat is holding a Janta Darbar to hear the grievances of the public. In it, a woman teacher in the state government requests him to transfer her somewhere nearer to her house. The applicant is a widow and pleads before the elected leader to accede to her request. Suddenly an altercation irrupts between the CM and the lady teacher, and the CM threatens her to suspend her. To which she utters, “Chor Uchhke Kahin Ke”. Infuriated, the CM orders the suspension of the school teacher. The insult of the woman teacher didn’t end there, the CM further orders the police to take the woman in custody while she is being marshalled out of the venue. The clip showcases the high-headedness of the CM and his utter disregards to the pleas of a widow to live with her children. It is an indicator of the status of common woman in front of elected representatives who think of themselves to be dictators when they come in power.
There is a sting in the tale as well. The wife of that very CM Trivendra Singh Rawat of the ruling BJP government in Uttarakhand is a school teacher herself. One might think that she too has to go through the problems of transfers. Not at all! This is due to the fact that the Orwellian Theory of “All are Equal, But Some are More Equal than the Others” rule the nation. His wife has been posted in a posh school for more than 22 years in a row. It is a blatant violation of the rules of the state government. But rules are for the common man, and the CM’s wife like Ceaser’s Wife is above any such legal encumbrances. If the tears of the lady teacher suspended by the CM and told to be put in police custody in front of many journalists didn’t melt your heart, nothing else will. It is a sad reminder of the desperate situation where women are not respected in public. What is shocking is that the CM neither apologised for his Curzon-like behaviour, but defended himself when media questioned him. The entire question of being unsafe or living under constant threat applies only to the common man, for VIPs under police protection face no such problems.
No focus on Women’s Issues
Though the politicians lack any respect for the issue of woman safety, this dismal situation is reflected in all the issues related to women as well. A glaring example of this statement is that politicians have completely forgotten the Women’s Reservation Bill, 2008 which lapsed for want of political support in the Parliament. The BJP government though has a complete majority in the Lok Sabha, but the Bill doesn’t feature in their agenda either. It is far more profitable to introduce Backward Commission Bill in the Parliament to divide the electorate on the basis of caste to get the vote in the next general elections. The question of reservation for the Scheduled Castes in the minority institutions like Aligarh Muslim University is being stirred by the Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath to communalise the political landscape for 2019 elections. While the benevolence for the SCs is being shown by the government, but the same for the women is not felt. There is no attempt to introduce the Woman Reservation Bill in the Parliament in the name of Affirmative Action for the marginalised. It is far more convenient to dislodge the nation’s unity by dividing the population on the basis of caste to win elections. It is interesting to note that even in the United States of America, there is no reservation on the basis of caste, colour, etc. there is a concept of Affirmative Action for the women for the benefit of the fairer sex.
Immediate Steps needed for amelioration
There is a need to take a number of measures to improve the deplorable state of women safety in India. The first and foremost requirement is to acknowledge the problem that stares us in the face. We must accept the existence of the emergency and take steps on a wartime footing for it. The need is to invest heavily in the infrastructure to improve the crime surveillance throughout the nation. The improvements must be made taking specially women safety in consideration. The cases of offences against women must be prioritised and a strict time-limit must be set for their disposal. The judicial infrastructure and number of judges must be increased to reduce the long pendency of the cases.
Implementation of JS Verma Committee Report on Women Safety
After the ghastly 2012 Delhi Rape Case, the government had formed a committee headed by Justice JS Verma for the issue of woman safety. Thought the report was given by the committee in 2013, the implementation of its recommendations is yet to see the light to the day in a complete sense. It had called for a change in attitude urging for consequences for the failure to register FIR by the police. It has also urged for strengthening the punishment in the cases of rape to form an effective deterrent for it. It is interesting that though recently many state governments like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, etc. have introduced bills to call for death penalty for rape if the victim is less than 12 years of age, the number of cases is not reducing. There is a need to look for deterrents other than just death penalty for reducing rape cases. The government must conduct a psychological study on the topic and must go out with stringent measures.
Safe City Concept (Surat’s example)
The need to look for innovative models to improve the safety of women in the nation is the need of the hour. The NITI Ayog had in 2015 formed a ‘Safe City Concept’ in addiction of the ‘Smart City Concept’ for the women safety. But the cities have not made any progress on the issue and the initiative became one of the zillionth introduced by the governments which exist only in official documents. But Surat has been a shining exception to the concept of women safety. The city has done extremely well on the issue and has introduced surveillance cameras, community policing and woman constables to improve the safety of women. The example of Surat must be replicated across the nation for the benefit of the women.
Need to listen to the World…….
The poor condition of safety on women in India has also caught the attention of the global leaders and the country must sincerely act to remove the ignobility. The IMF chief Christine Lagarde has rightly advised the PM Narendra Modi to pay more attention to women’s safety. All the promises for a better future, robust economic growth and Acche Din will be false if the women are not safe in the nation. The government’s callous disregard of women safety has caught the attention of the people. The government needs to accord top priority to the burning issue of the women safety and take effective measures to ameliorate their lives. If the political parties are able to look beyond electoral gains and join hands with society stakeholders on the sensitive topic of women safety, only then the lives of crores of Indian women be free and totally safe.