For a country that worships and celebrates the fairer sex as "goddesses" as part of several festivals, it is rather paradoxical that India is deemed an unsafe country for women to visit, live, or work in.
In 2018, the Thomson Reuters Foundation — the Thomson Reuters philanthropic arm — released a study that ranked India as the most dangerous place because of its high incidences of sexual violence, lack of access to justice in rape cases, child marriage, female foeticide, and human trafficking.
For instance, on 14 January, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced a new system whereby a woman leaving home for work will have to "register herself at the police station, and the police will then track her for her safety".
Chouhan's idea drew major criticism from women who called it a breach of privacy and restriction on their movement on social media.
"Tracked for her safety" makes me retch.— Madhu Menon (@madmanweb) January 13, 2021
Fight to be born— The DeshBhakt (@TheDeshBhakt) January 13, 2021
Struggle for equality
Tolerate the filth & abuse
Strive to meet family expectations
Now also to Register at the nearest police station before going to work! pic.twitter.com/HhVvQd6vjT
Live and Let Live Activists Tell the Government on India's 'National Women's Day'
Every year on 13 February, India celebrates National Women's Day. On this day, female social workers have requested that the country's politicians think beyond the "juvenile" ideas that have been suggested to enhance women's safety.
Renowned social activist Ranjana Kumari tells Sputnik that the subject of women's safety should not be addressed by compromising the privacy of the fairer sex, rather it is the government that should approach the topic with better, more innovative measures focused on the handling and surveillance of recorded criminals who are not behind bars.
"All kinds of funny solutions have been proposed by the politicians who have absolutely no idea on how women can be protected and kept safe in this country. Instead of asking criminals to report to the police stations on a regular basis, they are asking women to register themselves", says Kumari, who is also the chairperson of Women Power Connect, the largest advocacy body for women in India.
The activist claims to have made countless suggestions to national authorities as she's rooting for running e-counseling services, referral systems to fast-track women's access to justice as well as mental health awareness drives.
"The whole idea of crisis intervention centres in every block of the country for women is still in the abyss. A Nirbhaya Fund was started by the federal government to develop these centres, but nobody has a clear picture about it right now. The need is so great, that if an immediate response system is not created things will go from [bad to worse]", Kumari explains.
The Bombay High Court recently ruled that groping a minor's breast without a "skin to skin contact" cannot be termed sexual assault as defined under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Citing this as an example, Kumari emphasises that if India wants to really guarantee women's safety, the judiciary needs to be "absolutely more informed and sensitive".
Social activists say the same idea could have been pitched the other way – using cameras to identify drunkards and roadside vagabonds Eve-teasing women, and taking them into custody.
According to government data, Uttar Pradesh holds the worst record with a 14.7% share of all crimes committed against women in the country.
Samira Gupta, a life coach helping troubled women, lists alternatives that the government can look into to ensure women's safety, rather than zooming in on their faces via AI cameras.
"Here's what our women must get from society, police, men -- trust, respect, confidence, empowerment, and encouragement. Other uplifting measures for women include training in martial arts, permission to keep personal weapons, and protection from all necessary bodies like police, social organisations, and the government. On the other hand, men should get education, awareness, and counseling on respecting women around them. Criminals should be reprimanded in time and in public", Gupta tells Sputnik.
Gupta believes that women are unsafe in India, not because they are ambitious and working now, but because they are "easy targets due to the weak law and order state, slow responsiveness of the police as well as unhealthy, limited and orthodox mindsets of the males in this country".