Monday, January 7, 2013

How to Make India Safer For Women - Affirmative Democratic Action

The past few weeks in India have been positively horrendous, especially for women. Not a single day goes by without a news channel reporting some atrocity being committed on women - Rape, Molestation, Harassment, Female infanticide.... . The list is too long for comfort and is a damming indication of the misogynist  society that we live in,

The tipping point was reached when  a 23 yr old lady was brutally raped and battered by six men in a moving bus. Massive protests have taken place and will continue to take place till the government does not dispense justice to the girls parents. There have been numerous proposals for change in laws dealing with Rape, Molestation, Sexual Harassment , with most of the proposals proposing severe punishment  upto the Death Penalty. Many have cited the safety that women enjoy in the streets of Saudi/Dubai and have demanded that similar laws be enacted here. Basically, the public goaded by Police Inaction, Political Apathy and a general sense of "Kuch Nahi Ho sakta", have decided to take matters in their own hand and force the government and the police to take appropriate action. 

These protests, I feel, tend to die a natural death, because most of us don't have the time and resources to maintain sustained pressure on the government or police. The politicians know that and so do the police and therefore, most of the times, they just weather the storm (The Anna Hazare-Lokpal bill  is an excellent example). The only way, I feel positive changes  can  be made is by becoming a part of this very system and using the very laws that make us feel so helpless, to work for us by "Affirmative Action". Sitting by the wayside, protesting that something be done are effective only till a certain extent and rarely lead to lasting change. In some cases, the change itself is corrupted (Misuse of the dowry law by women has put women actually on the defensive). Therefore, balance in policy making and governance is the need of the hour and that would entail more women in the policy making process.  Some of the steps that WOMEN can take to improve their visibility in the policy making process are:-

1. Vote for Women candidates

50% (or less) of Indian voters are women. Many women contest elections but never win because women don't vote for them!. The big political parties  field very few women candidates and the independent women candidates, don't have a hope in hell to win. Even Women don't vote for them!!! Women argue that they are voting for the best candidate/party, but I guess the time has now come to become partial rather than impartial. Therefore, for all seats, if the women decide to vote for the woman candidate, It is but natural, that more women shall win and  automatically representation of women in parliament shall increase. Women would not need to ask for reservation in politics and we may not need the Women's reservation bill. 

2. Float a Political Party- Of Women, For Women and By Women.

How difficult is this? We have had women Prime Ministers, have Women Chief Ministers - So why Can't Women float their own Political Party and the Women of India support this party. I know, at the start, there may not be enough number of experienced women politicians, but give it time and I am sure, they can do the job entirely competently. Whether they turn out better or less corrupt than male politicians, only time will tell.

So, the above two steps will increase their representation, but what about society? Respect for women needs to be ingrained in men from birth. Some of the things can be done are:-

1. Mothers/Mother-in-Laws to sensitize their Male Children. 

 I feel Mothers have a very important role to play as they can influence their male children to be polite and teach respect to one and all, especially females right from childhood. This includes Mother-in-Laws especially, who are known to badger their Daughter-in-Law's for sons and kill them for dowry .Come on.. why should a woman mistreat a woman? She also has been in her place before...!!

2. Equal treatment to Male and Female children. 

 Mothers and fathers should not treat their male or female children differently. Equality in the family is the first step to equality in society.

Other things that can be done are:-

1. Increase the ratio of Women to Male Cops .The ratio should ideally be  50:50. Therefore, in every beat, there should be a Male-Female cop combo, so if cases of Rape/molestation etc are detected, hopefully, appropriate action would be taken immediately. For this to happen, women have to join the police and other forces in larger numbers.

2. Women should refuse to appear in media that exploits them. 

( This does not apply to women to want to do it- they are free to do it, but if that feeling is from commercial considerations, then the flip side is the effect on men, which can be unpredictable. So every choice has a flipside and a consequence, which may or may not be pleasant. It does not absolve the perpetrator of the crime but one has no way of knowing what someone is going to do its a risk). 

I feel all women have a choice not to accede to the demands of producers and do stuff which objectifies them. If there is no supply, Obscenity shall reduce considerably and therefore media that arouses the baser instincts in males shall not be around to affect a large portion of the male populace. For e.g. The Item Number has become a "must-have" in most hindi movies. If all actresses refuse to do such numbers, automatically, the "Objectification" of women shall reduce as there is no woman who is willing to do such roles. Mother's should sensitise their sons on respecting women by not visiting prostitutes. No demand, no supply. Pure Economics. (Idealistic but I see no other way as all other approaches have failed).

6.  Say NO to the Casting Couch and Promotions for Favours at the Workplace. 

All women (easier said than done!) need to take a pledge that they would not submit to any form of sexual misconduct or suggestions that would help them to advance their career. Again, pure economics shall ensure the best person wins because there is no woman willing to compromise her way to the next promotion. So if supply is not there, automatically, over a period of time, such instances shall reduce and even be eliminated completely. This approach would fail even if one Woman breaks the code. Alternatively, woman entrepreneurs should give preference to women in jobs in their startups/businesses so that Women don't feel the need to succumb to such practices. They would need to carefully  tread the line for equal opportunity lest they be targeted for discrimination.

I know that all the suggestions above mandate women to take action and many shall object to the same. They want society to change their behaviour and perception towards women. But how does that happen? Sitting around and waiting for the past 60 years has not led to much change in the Indian heartland. For lasting change,  the issue has to be approached at multiple levels:-
a. Policy :- Policies favouring equal opportunities exist however, their implementation is flawed. If there is more representation of women in politics and the various National and State legislative machineries, no appreciable change in policy can take place. If more women are there in legislative positions, change will surely take place. 

b. Implementation. Implementation of various policies can take place only if there are enough foot soldiers to carry out instructions in letter and spirit. More women joining the para-military and police forces will automatically ensure that (empathy towards one's species). The number of vacancies in these institutions can increase only through legislation and therefore the need for more women in Policy making positions.

c. Unity:- All Indian women must first unite and take steps that forces men to view them as professionals and not objects of desire or the weaker sex. Any deviation would again result in regression and a "Divide and Rule"  policy being applied by males in power. 

Though crime statistics show that crime in cities is on the rise, the amount of crime that takes place in the villages of India is far more than our cities. The real challenge is breaching the feudal mindset of Indians. Reservations and Caste Politics have ensured that the Dalits (Untouchables) in the villages, today have considerable power in politics. They are forcing changes that give them more opportunities (reservations, promotions) over the upper class. The upper class does not like this but as a self correcting system, this change is being driven by politics and the power of a persons vote. Women need to recognise that power they have and instead of agitating, become a part of the system and then start to change it. 

If policy makers and the society at large are not doing enough to make this a safer and a more equal world for women, then the answer lies in using that very system to achieve your goals. The path is not easy, as things like floating a party, mobilising party workers, making fair legislation, implementing laws fairly (not targeting men for that will result in a backlash ) and in general grooming women not to fall prey to actions that objectify them, I feel in the next 10 yrs or so, visible and lasting changes shall take place and the world in general, shall be a safer place for women.

Therefore, the answer lies in taking up a more active role in changing our society. There are pitfalls, there will be aberrations and deviations but if one remains true to the cause, India and the world in general shall become a safer place for women. Do read an article "The Phoenix Shall rise" on the angst expressed by women

P.S. A word of caution. Women in power may not be much different than males and can be equally if not, more corrupt. There are enough examples. 

DISCLAIMER:- This article solely gives suggestions on ways and means on how life can be made safer for women. It does not promote or profess any form of Civil Disobedience, Anarchism or 
violence to achieve this. In fact, it only gives suggestions on achieving safety for women through legal and legislative means, within the scope of the law and constitution. The law of the land is supreme and so is the Constitution and nothing should be done to violate that. Only legal and legislative means should be adopted to introduce or modify laws.


  1. Really like some of the points in there - about women refusing to be used as objects by media and saying no to the casting couch phenomenon. But the crucial factor here is unity - will the women unite for the larger good or continue to let egos rule over sense and reason?
    Sensitising sons about their attitudes to women and raising daughters to be capable and self respecting women seems to be the need of the hour. But again - how long will it be before we see any significant change, considering the abysmal standards of gender equality in our society. It's indeed a tough situation to crack!

  2. Yes Meghana, Unity is the keyword and Women need to take a wow to censure such occupations and help those in distress. Getting into politics shall help them greatly as the government machinery is available to implement such policies.