Women’s Safety: Whose Responsibility Is It?

‘Be home before 10pm’

‘Don’t wear something this short’

‘Do not go out alone this late’

‘Do not take a cab or auto by yourself at night’

‘Who are all coming out with you? Are there any guys in the group?’

These are statements and questions that every Indian girl including me has grown up with. I will admit, I initially found these suffocating and wanted to escape the clutches of home and discover my freedom. I eventually did move out. But as a thirty-something single woman staying alone, away from home, I realized that these statements should neither be taken lightly nor brushed off. As I inch towards becoming a parent myself, I have become acutely aware of the hazards today’s world poses to women, which are going up at an alarming rate.

What is the current scenario?

While Norway, Finland and Iceland have been rated as the top three safest countries for women, Afghanisthan, Syria and Yemen constitute the bottom three (As per the Global women’s peace and security index). The fact that India falls somewhere midway and is not among the top 10 most unsafe destinations is nothing to be jubilant about. In 2022, a total of 31,000 crimes were reported against women in India including rape, kidnapping, sexual harassment and domestic violence.

Why does this happen?

As with so many other problems faced by women, patriarchy lies at the root of the issue. This mindset places women as men’s sub-ordinates and encourages perpetuation of violence. The other reason is the inadequate implementation of laws and policies that protect women. Women fear to report crimes against them because delays in justice, corruption and the terrible practice of victim-shaming.

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It happened to me too

I’m a doctor and just as all of us in the field, I had to do night duties to attend to emergency cases. During one such night, there was an incessant banging on the door of my duty room. Within the few seconds that it took me to collect my bearings and appropriately adjust my clothes, the banging intensified. I opened the door to find two inebriated gents yelling at me for not opening the door sooner. They wouldn’t listen as I tried telling them to please go to the adjacent examination room and tried to barge into the duty room, nearly pushing me in. I gave one shout to the ward nurse who came running immediately and asked her to call the security. On hearing the word security( which was actually non-existent in a government hospital, lucky for me they didn’t know that) they fled. The next morning when I reported this incident in my department, do you know what I was asked?

‘Were you wearing your dupatta(shawl) over your dress and your whitecoat?’ meaning to imply subtly that their aggression could have been my fault, had I not ‘Dressed properly’!

All hope isn’t lost yet

Depressing as all the above sounds, there is still hope for us. Here is another incident that happened to me, elucidating this fact, on a solo trip to a friend’s wedding. I checked out of my hotel and got into a pre-booked auto for my 12am return bus. On reaching the bus stand though, I got a call saying that the bus had been delayed by two hours.

‘Do not wait here during these wee hours, I shall drop you back at the hotel and pick you up after two hours,’ my kind Auto-driver said.

The male hotel receptionist graciously allowed me to wait out those two hours in my just-vacated room at no extra charge, rather than waiting in the lobby. The auto-driver arrived as promised. But this time even before I reached the bus-stand, the travel company informed me that the bus had been rerouted and that I would have to board it elsewhere. Though this ‘somewhere else’ was well within city limits, it was quite Godforsaken and devoid of even a single person, considering the late hours. Once again coming to my rescue, the auto driver ( whose name I sadly did not remember to ask) stood guard while I waited inside the auto for my bus and he even fended off a drunken chap who came that way. The kind soul left only after making sure that I had boarded my bus and found my seat.

The above two were males too and had no obligation whatsoever to help me, a stranger, to this extent. But they went beyond their duty and took extra responsibility to ensure my safety.

So whose responsibility is it?

The second incident above clearly emphasizes that  a woman’s safety is not just her own and her family’s responsibility but also that of the society. This awareness of responsibility should arise along with a change in the patriarchal mindset. Everyone needs to be educated on gender equality and women’s rights. The legal system needs to become stronger in this aspect and also become more approachable for women, eliminating victim-shaming. Safe public spaces for women need to be created through well-lit roads and ensuring affordable and safe public transportation.

Let us all join hands to make this world a little safer for women everyday!

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About the Author

Lavnya Krishnamurthy

Doctor (Ophthalmologist) by profession and a writer by passion read more...

12 Posts | 4,747 Views

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