Women in India-a better half of Indian society, today, have become the most vulnerable section as far as their safety and security is concerned. Indian Constitution has envisaged for true social, economic and political democracy which ensures the rich and moral principles of equality (of law, opportunity, status) for our citizens but this has not yet been fully realized.
Women in India continue to face violence from the womb to the tomb. The recent case of rape and murder of 26-year-old veterinarian doctor of Hyderabad highlight the inadequacy of the Government to deal with the safety issues of a woman in India. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are five stages of violence against women in the life cycle-
- Adolescence and adulthood
Safety of woman is threatened by various acts via feticides, domestic violence, rape, trafficking, forced prostitution, marital rape, honour killings, sexual harassment at workplace etc. According to the NCRB report, a total of 3.59 lakh cases were reported against women in 2017.
- Societal factors:
- Patriarchal nature of Indian society – People still think a woman as their property and not an individual person having the dignity of her own. Khap panchayat is one of the prime examples.
- In a rural area, people with old tradition, culture, rituals have developed a conservative mindset which limits the progress of a woman. The culture in many states condones kangaroo courts, honour killings, female mutilation, child marriages and forced marriages.
- In Urban areas, poor public transportation system, sexual harassment at the workplace, etc. developed fear psychosis among them.
- Inefficient facilities of health, low awareness of the law and their rights, low literacy rate have aggravated the safety issues.
- Objectification of woman in movies have normalised or sometimes promotes the wrong culture. Many movies depict the same.
- Economic factors:
- In rural areas, unpaid household work, a primitive form of manual labour, the gender pay gap have created the atmosphere of dependency.
- In urban areas, sexual harassment at workplace, low viability of public transport have created an atmosphere of fear in working woman.
- Dual responsibility, gender pay gap, glass ceiling effects etc. have limited the progress of a woman. According to the World Bank report 2018, violence against women is estimated to cost countries up to 3.7% of their GDP.
- Judicial and police factors:
- Underreporting and Misreporting of a case because of fear of social stigma, low awareness, shame, loss of wages etc. have created a major impediment in the safety of a woman in India.
- Low gender representation of woman in the police( only 7.28%), prison ( 10%), justice delivery system( 26%).
- Judicial delay: rate of conviction is abysmal. Even sensitive cases like Nirbhaya took more than four years to deliver justice.
- Lack of modern infrastructure and primitive scientific investigation result in a delay in the trial of cases. Due to its conviction rate is mere 24.5% in India.
- Legislature and administrative:
- The debate over definition –for example, marital rapes are still outside the purview of “sexual crimes” in India, and it is important that legislation regarding this are formulated at the earliest.
- Various Movements: for example #MeToo campaign saw hundreds of women publicly accusing powerful men in business, government and entertainment of sexual misconduct. However, due to the lack of cogent evidence and informal nature of the movement, it fissile out.
- Delay in the administrative process - for example, underutilization of The Nirbhaya Fund, delay in the release of fund allocated to sufferers, etc.
Government steps / Solution
- Create awareness through one-stop centres, short-stay homes, police helpline numbers(1091,100), mobile applications like Himmat app for an emergency.
- For safe public transportation, every state/UT can follow
- G-Auto model of Ahmedabad: Common Control Centre is used to manage auto-rickshaws to enable safe and reliable services to commuters.
- Pink Auto initiative of the Government of Odisha: Drivers of the pink autos have undergone a strict training including psychological tests, and a criminal background check is also done.
- The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) has notified the panic button and GPS in mobile phone handset rules, 2016.
- Every Gram Panchayat across the country to have one Mahila Police Volunteer (MPV) who would act as a link between rural women and the police, Mobilise and facilitate Mahila aur Sishu Rakshak Dal (MASRD).
- To increase the representation of women in the Police force, political leaders and justice delivery system, the Government should pass a woman reservation bill.
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (prevention, prohibition and redresser) Act, 2013 makes it mandatory for employers to constitute an ‘Internal Complaint Committee’ if there are more than ten employees, to handle the cases of sexual harassment at workplace.
- Government of India come up with a comprehensive scheme named as UJJWALA for prevention of trafficking and rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of victims trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
- The Government can fast track courts for rape and various crimes against the woman — for example, a special court of Malda in West Bengal.
- More than that the Government should try to develop economic independence, increase literacy rate and health indicators of woman, create SHG in rural areas etc.
A complete overhaul of the justice delivery system, modernising the police force, community awareness and sensitising the people for the safety of woman should be the goal of Government and society as a whole. For this, the mindset of People, Society, Police, Criminals and entire criminal Justice delivery Mechanism needs to be changed via proper training in the schools, colleges, organisation etc. by keeping the perspective of non-discrimination and gender equality in mind.
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