Images – Courtesy Google

Shocking! Beyond words! But words we do need to inform the kind of shameless inhuman crimes that occur against women throughout the length and breadth of our land. Despite the huge public furor after the ignominious Nirbhaya case, just a few years back, there appears to be no sign of the scourge stopping, anywhere. The callous molestation of women continues.

Trending currently is the news of a twenty year-old drunk man raping a woman in broad daylight on the footpath of a busy road in Visakhapatnam. The video going viral on social media makes it clear that passersby remain impervious to this animal-like behavior. While the person who shot the incident did make his way to the police station, but did not do anything to prevent the crime.

A similar incident today has the Mumbai police slapping sections 354 and 509 of IPC on a man shamelessly outraging the modesty of a young girl traveling with her family in a local train. Likewise, is the case of the young girl who jumped off a running train in Mumbai to escape her molester. Pick up a newspaper, follow social media or check out on the internet – you will get a spate of molestation accounts from all over, every day!

All of us on social media would be aware of the “#MeToo” campaign on Twitter and Facebook recently. This campaign has become a global rallying point for women to expose the scale of sexual exploitation in the world today. The movement started on October 15 in response to accusations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein by actress Alyssa Milano. She tweeted: “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘#MeToo’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”.

In just 24 hours #MeToo became one of largest trending issue on Twitter with over half a million tweets and shares on Facebook. From celebrities to ordinary women from both sides of the globe, millions and millions of women had this campaign going viral. Actresses from Hollywood to Bollywood, media women from west and east, corporate women, working women, college girls and school girls everywhere had the #MeToo hash-tag appended to their social media sites.

You just had to scroll through social media sites to read of accounts posted by friends and friends of friends to make you realize how pervasive the problem really is. The anecdotes all sounded so similar and so familiar that it added to the sense of solidarity against sexual harassment. The culture of silence around such incidents as if lifted in unison and allowed victims to be heard. Mumbai-based HR Professional, Trevor Mark Fernandes rightly called it a “collective catharsis”.

The campaign leaves one feeling flabbergasted. The enormity of the problem comes home when you see almost everyone that you know has had some sordid experience. You are aware that such things happen. You keep reading about them. But to realize that these things happen every day around you, to people whom you know – family, friends and acquaintances shakes you completely.

Rape today is the fourth most common crime against women. The National Crime Records Bureau 2013 report has 24,923 rape cases reported across India, of which 24,470 were committed by someone known to the victim! India is characterized as one of the “countries with the lowest per capita rates of rape”! According to 2012 statistics, New Delhi has the highest number of rape reports among Indian cities, while Jabalpur has the highest per capita rate of rape reports.

In the wake of the infamous Nirbhaya rape case, followed by several other heinous rape cases that received media outrage and public protests, the Government of India reformed its penal code for crimes of rape and sexual assault. However, molestation and rape continue unabated. But the two ghastly incidents trending today are so shocking and disgusting; they call for strict enforcement of the harshest punitive measures.

Safety First for Our Women and Girls

Safety First

Safety First

While the state owes responsibility for safety and security of its citizens, looking into the current scenario of crimes against women it now appears we need to instill self protective measures to keep women prepared from nefarious eventualities. The political will to tackle this menace defies explanation. It is beyond comprehension what the government has in mind when it comes to addressing critical safety issues. Stringent capital punishment is the only way to contain this crime. It is mind boggling that the utilization of Rs. 1,000 crore under the Nirbhaya Fund remains untouched! What are we waiting for when every day we witness occurrence of assault and fatalities among women of all ages.

The latest incident involving the rape and victimization of a woman financial analyst by a taxi driver in Delhi brings all the angst and worry back again. Plans to make the One Stop Crisis Centers for women operational have not found their mark. Perhaps the files have not moved. We read reports stating “the various schemes were yet to be finalized”. Does the government still think this is non-serious business and hopes to dust it under the carpet? Or bicker over it during zero-hour? It is time now that women followed some safety precautions to avert and allay these kinds of sinister events.

A planned personal-safety approach would be good for women who have to go outdoors on their own. Women are of course constantly targeted the moment they step out of homes. Be it the domestic help, college student, office worker or tourists – they become the cynosure of molesters and rapists. The incidents of harassment and aggression happen right there on roads, buses, metro trains – in fact everywhere. Precautions may be taken to outwit offenders and to ward off unwanted advances. Safety training should be routinely drummed into minds of young girls.

Women should follow a set of common-sensical tips to train their minds to circumvent such incidents. They should keep family members aware of their activities who should check on them constantly. Next, your demeanor should appear to discourage advances. Always walk with confidence since predators seek out timid and vulnerable looking victims. At all times be aware of immediate surroundings and listen to your gut feeling. Do not draw unnecessary attention to yourself so as to unwittingly attract a predator’s interest. If confronted by a person look him straight in the eye and question his behavior loudly. Most predators avoid public attention. Avoid being alone after dark and stay away from isolated areas. It is a good idea to enroll for personal defense classes to learn basics of hand combat for women. Find out where you can buy personal alarms, protection devices like pepper sprays and mobile phones with emergency apps.

Cell phones today can be used most effectively in case of emergencies. They are helpful for women who have to travel a lot. Safety apps for women reduce the risk of travelling through unfamiliar territories. These applications can be found on smart phone systems. The most common of such apps allows you to alert your family when you are in danger. Just two taps send predetermined messages to six close friends or relatives. They will also convey your exact location and address. Another app allows you to capture a picture of the attacker to a harassment prevention internet site where he is identified. Another smart phone app sends alarms to multiple guardians simultaneously. While one of them would be receiving a phone call, others would be receiving messages.

As they say self help is the best help. So by the time we wait for state systems to become effective let us teach our women and girls to be mindful of their lives.  A well defined safety plan is the best bet. One does have to go out – study, work and earn livings. And so they best know how to take care. Women today must have the strength and determination to fight back violence without fear, embarrassment or guilt.  Be aware, be prepared and be on guard. Finally check out this wonderful American website Watch especially the 20 minute video that teaches girls how to fight back against sexual assault and abduction. Since 2006 this website has empowered 1 million girls in 44 countries with getaway skills and the right to live without fear of being a victim of sexual assault.

Be Your Own Vigilante

Be Your Own Vigilante

India and Her Civil Society

Women's Empowerment

Dr V. Mohini Giri – Social Activist & Padma Bhushan Awardee

Our country is signatory to UN sponsored Millennium Development Goals until 2015. We are committed to adopt eight identified goals and to achieve them by 2015. These include among others objectives like Poverty Alleviation, Achieving Universal Primary Education and Reducing Child Mortality. One of the critical goals is to Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women. This agenda now appears to be a travesty as our civil society daily bemoans despairing crimes committed against women, girls and infant girl-children.

One has only to open the morning newspaper to read the everyday occurrences of atrocious rapes, heinous crimes and horrific sexual crimes committed against females all over the country. The recent dreadful rape of a seven month infant girl by a forty year old neighbor in our own backyard in Zingabai Takli, in Nagpur, reminds us that this does not happen in faraway places but right in our own midst. News channels depict horrifying pictures of similar stories getting repeated endlessly in every corner of the country.

Our heads hang in shame when we hear of foreign women subject to attacks and brutalities. In March 2004, a 59-year old Australian Brahma Kumari adherent, Dawn Griggs was murdered and raped on her way to the sect’s headquarters in Mount Abu. The rape and murder of English teenager Scarlett Keeling brought international attention to cases of rape in India.  Software engineer Nayana Pujari was raped and murdered by her escort driver in Pune in 2009.  And of course the worst – the gang rape of a 23-year old student on a public bus on 16 December 2012 sparked large scale protests all over.

What is going wrong with the moral fiber of our civil society? The fact is that we have become immune to the horrible incidents. A few days back in New Delhi Dr Mohini Giri, former chairperson of National Commission for Women was beaten up when she halted her car to intervene for a teenage girl being openly molested on the road by a group of men in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. Dr Mohini Giri, 76 years of age, headed the commission in the mid-nineties. She is the daughter-in-law of Past President V. V. Giri! If something like this can happen to her, what of lesser mortals.

According to National Crime Records Bureau of India, 309,546 crimes against women were reported across India in 2013! The highest number of victims and majority of victims were in 18-30 year age group! Both these statements are fallacies. Most rapes go unreported because rape victims fear retaliation or humiliation. We all know even infants and little girls are raped. The latest statistics of NCRB state that every day 93 women are raped in our country. Also, that there is a gradual increase in the number of rapes. Despite mass protests after the Nirbhaya incident Delhi continues to be an unsafe city, followed closely by Mumbai, Jaipur, Pune. Other cities may not even be registering offences.

The truth is that conviction rates for rape cases in India need to be addressed severely. We need to deal harshly with rapists, murderers and pedophiles. There is no need to psychoanalyze their behavior but warrant immediate punishment that will act as a deterrent for others even thinking to attempt such crimes. We do not have to exhibit civil behavior to them but make them realize their crime will not be tolerated. Justice has to be exacting and swift. Delays keep victims minds re-living the tragedy for years on end. As a civil society we have to be on the side of the victims and not with the perpetrators of crimes. Make our laws more compassionate for victims and survivors of such brutalities. Let us see justice being done.

Candle Protests

Candle Protests – Whither Goest Justice