Sunday, July 14, 2024

High time! Let’s come together and become the champions of women’s safety

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In India, the narrative of violence against women persists unabated. We observe a lot of events in our neighbourhood, and the crime rate is increasing by the day, yet nothing is being done to stop it.

Unfortunately, it’s getting higher day by day. Getting new laws and enforcing them is one criticism, but what are the future measures that will help the government reduce crimes against women?

Let’s have a closer look at our observations of the recent horrific incidents that Hyderabad witnessed and that shook the entire nation. In the case of the 6-year-old minor who was raped and murdered, it is clear that drug addiction and drunkenness drove him to perpetrate such a horrific act. As everyone has pointed out, a prohibition on drugs and alcohol can help reduce these crimes to some extent. However, the government would never dare to do so because the government’s exchequer is completely dependent on it. However, the government must take significant actions that balance both financial and safety concerns. Leaving aside this, another key factor in these crimes is a person’s thinking, how they were raised in life, and their early stages of livelihood. These are the most fundamental concepts that we, as a society and system, are failing to grasp.

On the other hand, in the case of the Veterinary Doctor, when the victim’s relatives approached the police, they were told that the victim could not be rescued due to jurisdictional concerns and technical documentation. It is clear that either the victims’ families or police officers are aware of zero FIR (First Information Report), i.e., filing an FIR without bothering Jurisdiction. We were perplexed as to why the government remained a spectator in this area, given that the country is undergoing a digital transition. If that were the case, the outcome would have been different. We need significant public support and knowledge about these laws.

It’s high time that people in society think about why these incidents continue every single day. Meanwhile, setting up police stations at all the National Highways and the mandatory installation of Mechanic Shops at all the toll gates and Petrol Bunks on highways There have been bans on gasoline being sold in bottles. But the bans were lifted due to some facing emergency cases. In such cases, verification plays an important role. Verifying government-recognised identity cards such as AADHAR, voter ID, Driving Licence, etc. could be helpful. On the other hand, there is a strict ban on liquor sales in the wee hours, and installing complete surveillance could alert predators.

Every time an incident happens, people question the law. But can this really fix the problem?

Our country has a penchant for slapping laws on things that can’t be fixed by laws. And this is without our notoriously flawed witch-hunt investigations and propensity to frame people. Irreversible punishments may just lay the foundation for future disasters.

Women’s status has become insecure due to the permissibility of subordination. Add to it the reinforcement of impunity for further humiliation of women by public people who express vehemently anti-woman sentiments. A carrot-and-stick method that keeps enough people in line so that the others may be corrected in various ways is urgently needed. The carrots are the treats. Increased sex acceptance, propagation of ideas about sex as a natural and healthy thing, education on contraception, de-shaming sex, education on the paramount importance of consent as a part of sex (this also needs to be more solidly plugged into the laws and constitution), acceptance of sexuality, acceptance of sex professionals, industry (not exploitation), films and toys, and more

The more you can end the repression of sexuality and make it easy and acceptable (as natural), the less likely it is to burst out in unpredictable, uncontrollable, and devastating ways. Please note that this doesn’t mean lowering the age of marriage. Sex and marriage need to be differentiated.

It is important to educate the public about the unacceptable nature of sex without consent. We must penalise any incidence of public figures or the media insulting women without distinction (see below). Preventing exploitation in marriage, trade, or any other situation. The goal is to make these taboos so powerful that you must be a filthy monster to even consider them. Consider how effectively the church has succeeded in making homosexuality inconceivable. The pope continues to battle tooth and claw for his authority to destroy lives. It may work fantastically for a worthy cause. It’s heavy-duty bombardment and constant public opinion manipulation.

Religious leaders could be roped in to whatever extent they feel able to follow the laws of India. Visible role models upholding the law will create virtue out of that; visible role models insulting women will encourage the public to do similar. What is good or bad, acceptable or not, even which laws to take seriously and which ones to bend, is often understood by watching what others are doing, and the references lie in the public space.

Even the Women’s Commission must not have any members who belong to political organisations or are related to politicians. Any of them not fulfilling these conditions must be replaced. Women’s commissions should also alert appropriate authorities in the case of anyone in a tax-funded job so that appropriate action may be taken. A good idea for this could be penalising half the salary for six months to fund women’s rights initiatives. As an aside, a good person to have on a woman’s commission is a blogger called Indian Homemaker. A superb and sensible warrior of human rights with an impeccable sense of what is fair, with no affiliations (that I know of) to make her judgement suspect.

The censor board must be hauled over the coals for allowing content that promotes women as inferior and encourages subjugation. All the soap operas showing bold women as evil must be forced to rewrite their scripts to be compatible with the message of equality in our constitution. A film with superhit songs (and stories) promoting sexual harassment must be forced to run captions stating that the action demonstrated in the film is actually illegal as per Indian law. “Good” women must be forced to comply with health weight charts. An underweight model must not be promoted as a role model, particularly in stories showing women of normal or heavier weights as stupid. Any “item numbers” projecting women as enjoying being touched by a crowd of men must have the actresses giving independent interviews disclosing if they really enjoyed being touched or would like to experience such a thing in real life. These interviews must be appended to the film in all future releases.

Apart from this, states should utilise the services of NGOs and departmental aspirants in remote areas to rescue the victims. It not only safeguards the people but also gives them hope and passion for the service. It also gives an opportunity to the unemployed.

The media should play a rightful role in sensitising society by conducting various awareness programmes and dialogue sessions with the younger generations.

Even as parents, one needs to teach their kids how to be better citizens and how to engage with the state. Take them to a police station, a government office, a bank, etc. at a very young age. Tell them what these systems are about and why they exist. Don’t stop at Mathematics and Science. Social Studies are equally important. Technology and Gadgets are neutral objects. It is their usage that decides the outcome. So be aware of what is happening with your children.

We think this is a good laundry list to start with. Particularly important is the point about punishing public role models for humiliating women. We stand by you and hope that you come up with a model that can be replicated countrywide.

(The author, Shashidhar Vuppala, is an IT Professional and Socio-Political Activist.)

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