Is India really a safe place for women?
Rushali Pawar, TNN | Jul 31, 2012, 12.00AM IST
As crimes of sexual harassment continue unabated in the country, we explore why they have become rampant.
A recent study states that India is the worst country for women among the G20 nations. The report suggests that Indian women are not free from violence. This is apparent from the troubling visuals that the Guwahati incident has shown us. The National Crime Reports Bureau 2011 shows that Bangalore comes second in the country for crimes committed against women. According to the report, Bangalore has 1,890 cases, which accounts for 5.6%, after New Delhi (13.3%). Why do Indian men use sexual violence to rob a woman’s security?
Activist Arundhati Ghosh says, “There are many Indias at present. It’s difficult for a socio-economically and sexually repressed India to live with the modern, independent India. Backward ideas about gender and sexuality overpower the India in which women want to live on their own.” Psychologist Vikram Prabhu says that patriarchy allows men to commit violence against women. “It occurs when a man sees a woman as inferior. This has become common in urban areas where men can take refuge under the mask of anonymity. It is male chauvinism, with the man forcing the woman into submission.”
The main accused in the Guwahati molestation case, Amar Jyoti Kalita, reportedly defended his case by stating that the girl was intoxicated. Why do we as a society find fault with the woman? “Indian society has always prided itself on a strong masculine figure,” says Vikram, adding, “In old movies, there are sequences of the hero jeering at a woman. Masked under the act of ‘courtship’, this is sexual harassment and legitimize such acts.” And these images change the way women are being perceived, says Franklin Joseph, who conducts workshops to empower women. “When a family watches a film in which a man beats up a woman, and a father has no issues watching it, the son gets a subconscious message that it’s OK for him to commit the same acts. Mothers usually have no say on the matter and the silence is proof of the power of the man,” says Franklin.
Activists believe that institutions in India do not offer enough support for women who want to report on crimes. Says civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad: “We are guided by weak laws, and women are not given enough support in their family to come out and talk about it. So, women face the worst of both worlds.”
Feminism in the west has brought about changes: the bra-burning radical feminists of the 60s protested and refused to hide behind an apron. Has the feminist cause in India failed to establish a woman’s place in society? Arundhati disagrees and says, “It is because of feminism that women like me are able to talk about it. It is not the feminist cause, but the men who have not kept up with the changing woman. It is time to stop worshipping the Sitas and Parvatis, and to bring the Kalis out.”
Delhi 4,489 cases (13.3%)
Hyderabad 1,860 cases (5.5%)
Vijayawada 1,797 cases (5.3%)
Sex crime against women in Bangalore
Cruelty by Husband: 398 to 458
Molestation: 308 to 250
Rape: 65 to 97
Dowry deaths: 52 to 53
Sexual harassment: 40 to 50