Thursday, 10 January 2013

No Country for Women

By Amitabh Kumar, Head of Media Department - Centre for Social Research
On Christmas Eve, I had the privilege of picking up my baby sister and heading out to our kickboxing class. Isn't it a proud moment for every brother, when his little sister thinks he is cool enough to hang out with? So yes, I was really happy especially as it came after a week of shouting slogans, dodging water cannons and avoiding police batons, so in my view it was time to share smiles with my little one.

As our conversations ensued I asked how her how her classes were going, as well as a bit of general chit chat. We then turned to the week that had just been with protests over the horrific attack and questions we now asked ourselves. Questions we now felt burdened with. Should we be praying for the victim? What should be done about the rapists? What sort of conviction should be expected?

In an innocent tone, my sister asked me "Bhaia, what is the solution?" I had tears in my eyes as I managed to blabber out a few thoughts just to keep my voice from breaking. So what is the solution? For this young girl, who was born in front of my eyes, who is so precious to me, how can I ensure her safety? What can I possibly say to put her concerns at ease? How do I answer such questions now that I've come to terms with the fact that this is no country for a woman?

The streets of Delhi are a war zone for women. The stares, the groping hands, the lewd comments. No matter how rich or poor you are, no mater how young or old you are, no matter what you wear, whether you are alone or in the company of friends, you are always a target. A moving target. We deny it to a large extent and yes we let the perverted stairs fly by. But why?

When did we start turning a blind eye to this treatment afforded to our mothers, sisters, daughters and loved ones? How can we, as men, argue that it’s a "women’s issue"? Despite the advances made by our country in terms of economics and liberalizing norms, the threats women face here remain a daily burden they often carry on their own. Is it not time that we focus on this issue and share the burden?

Why not teach social etiquette in schools, why not talk about sex more openly so that the men of India and Bharat look at women as equal human beings rather than sexual objects? We must take a clear and open stand against rape as the most brutal crime as it is our only hope of moving forward. Our own vocabulary needs to be overhauled as well with the words we choose to describe the ways in which women are assaulted sexually. No woman ever asks for it.

The last week has been a shameful week for us all. We failed, at so many levels, so let us hope that we can unite and take sustainable steps towards a safer capital and country. We are angry and we feel helpless, but the only way to change this is by ensuring that the officials we elected to govern in fact do their job and are held accountable without forgetting to keep our police officers on their toes. But first, we must admit that we have ignored our own job lately, because it’s a hard one.

As citizens we created this city, its infrastructure is our concern and no one else can improve it. So in this New Year, let us make a collective resolution for 2013. Let us resolve to act on our thoughts, to keep both our public officials and ourselves accountable. It may not be too late, but we need to work very hard.

- A heartbroken Delhi boy.