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“Thank God, I have boys – it’s tough for parents with girls today.” I remembered this comment in the light of the recent Thomson Reuters study on women’s safety around the world.
This comment had stunned me a few days back. No, not because I was hearing it for the first time. But because I was hearing it from a well-educated mother to two boys. The occasion was not a family gathering where such conversations are very common, but a college reunion of sorts with people of a similar age group. The woman then continued, “A parent to a girl has to be very cautious these days”. The displeasure on my face at such a remark didn’t deter her as she went on, “After all, it’s a girl’s body which has to suffer”. That was enough for me to snap off not just that discussion but all ties and future conversations with that woman.
Today as I woke up to the results of a perception poll done by Thomson Reuters on women and their safety across the world which labeled India as the world’s most dangerous nation for women, I was reminded of the above conversation and a feeling of futility engulfed me. Though there are questions on the process and data studied in such a ‘perception’ analysis as well as the background and depth of awareness of the 550 experts involved, the fact remains that in 2011 too when this survey was last done, we weren’t doing that well; if not at number #1 we were at number #4.
The poll had then and now too put India in the same cohort as a few other countries which are struggling with conditions like war, religious fundamentalism or extreme poverty. We don’t belong to any of those categories; on the contrary, today, we are among the fastest growing economies in the world. Then, what as a nation cripples us when it comes to ensuring safety and the rights of women?
Though we may question the latest survey and its process, the data speaks for itself. Data shows that there is a rape almost every 20 minutes in India and a crime against women every three minutes (based on data from the National Crime Records Bureau). To add to that data, when Plan International last year came out with a unique assessment tool (GVI – Gender Vulnerability Index) measuring the vulnerabilities of women in India on an index based on various dimensions of Education, Health, Poverty and Protection, startling revelations came out around the performance of various states in the country. What more can be said about the state of affairs when Delhi, the capital city was placed almost at the bottom of the index with a dismal performance in the Education and Protection dimensions for the girls?
While poverty may worsen the situation and education may improve it a bit, the problem has its roots in the patriarchal setup which has for ages advocated and seen women in the country as the inferior of the two sexes who can be manipulated and taken advantage of. The role of women in decision making comes at a later stage; their basic rights to education, and healthy livelihood are still a distant dream in a higher percentage.
Female foeticide, dowry deaths, and domestic violence happen even in middle class and upper class educated segments of society. While we as a nation may have put in laws as well as women-friendly policies, provided reservations in jobs, and increased seats in academia for women, yet, the patriarchal setup and mindset of our society still holds strong – not just in rural but in urban areas of the nation too, not willing to relinquish the much-enjoyed status and position of supremacy since ages.
Change has to start at home. Let’s walk the talk.
Build up Courage and Confidence in our daughters to believe in themselves – Let’s bring up our daughters instilling that confidence and courage such that they are decisive and don’t feel scared to say NO to any decision which they think is not right. Let them be a part of decision making sans our preconceived biases and judgments. Appreciate them when they make correct choices and be with them when they make mistakes.
Teach Humility to our boys to respect girls – Let’s raise boys who know that respecting a woman is not a choice but a necessity; that the right to equality is basic and needs to be respected irrespective of class, status or one’s relationship with the woman.
Consistency in our parenting – Liberties and opportunities shouldn’t see gender; both genders should be empowered and taught empathy by giving them the right examples and sharing stories of men and women who have shown courage while exhibiting empathy and respect.
When we stop conversations around narratives like it’s a tough world out there for girls, are you a girl that you are crying, a boy is the kuldeepak and girl is a paraya dhan perhaps, we shall stop them from reflecting in our actions. Perhaps, that could be the beginning to an end of not being in the top ten dangerous nations of the world six years from now.
Image via Thomson Reuters Foundation
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An engineer and a telecom business professional, Anjali Gurmukhani Sharma is a Delhi University rank
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