The idea of gender equity must find a place in our cinematic expressions and our coverage of news events.
The idea of gender equity must find a place in our cinematic expressions and our coverage of news events.Illustration: Saai

Making India safe for women

As per NCRB data, Chennai recorded 761 crimes against women in 2018, 729 in 2019 and 576 in 2020.

NEW DELHI: On the occasion of India’s 76th Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared a vision to turn India into a developed nation, strengthened by values such as gender equality.

The PM exhorted citizens to conduct themselves in a dignified manner and not disrespect or insult women through their words or actions.

While his words were well-intended, the reality when it comes to the treatment of women in India, paints a painfully different picture.

Last week, a 40-year-old woman running a tea shop in Porur was abducted by a group of six men and sexually assaulted at an abandoned area off the Chennai bypass road.

Those arrested include two men who were 19, and two aged 22, and all of them were inebriated and high on narcotics.

In September last year as well, a 20-year-old woman was raped by four men in a car in Kancheepuram, after they spiked her soft drink with sedatives.

A spate of such episodes has become a cause for concern among citizens and law enforcement officials.

As per NCRB data, Chennai recorded 761 crimes against women in 2018, 729 in 2019 and 576 in 2020.

To top it off, cases registered under IPC35 (outraging the modesty of women) in the State were 815 in 2020, 805 in 2019 and 907 in 2020.

Protecting even school girls from predators is an arduous mission in the metro.

A recent study by the Madras Medical College says that more than one in 10 girl students studying at government higher secondary schools in Chennai have endured abuse in one form or the other.

While 44% of this group has confessed to being sexually abused, about 5% of the students said that they had been sexually abused either by a parent, friend, neighbour or relative.

In India, over 100 rapes are perpetrated every day, and close to 35,000 cases are reported annually.

Tamil Nadu has introduced helpline numbers 1091 and 181 for women to lodge their complaints, but that’s a reactionary approach as opposed to a preventive one.

A start point could be initiating police reforms on the reporting, recording and timely resolution of such cases.

Many assaults occur due to the absence of patrolling and inadequate manpower, for which it has been suggested to amp up police personnel with at least 30% women staffers.

On the judicial front, fast track courts need to function in sync with sensitisation of officers of the judiciary.

Strengthening law enforcement will also go a long way in bringing down such crimes, as speedy justice delivery can be a deterrent to perpetrators.

We also need to augment public spaces with proper infrastructure, adequate lighting, CCTV networks, GPS functionality on public transport as well as set up Local Complaints Committee and One Stop Centres for actionable results on any such threats.

An NGO working towards women’s safety called AWARE has reported in its 2019 study that 71% of women revealed that they were at risk of being either groped or subjected to harassment in public transport.

The underutilised Nirbhaya Fund should also be employed to carry out gender sensitivity initiatives and building infrastructure for women’s safety.

These efforts might fall flat if we don’t hit the problem where it huts.

The notion of gender parity and consent needs to be part of the mainstream discourse, in educational institutions and workplaces, where men and women are guided on the same with nuance.

Mass media cannot wash its hands off when it comes to disseminating guidance regarding the same.

The idea of gender equity must find a place in our cinematic expressions and our coverage of news events.

Considering such topics as taboo would only embolden perpetrators to keep up the status quo without being called out for their crimes.

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