Living a safe and peaceful life is the objective of everyone on this earth. If we have a safe and peaceful existence, we can go after our aspirations unhindered, we do not have to lament on the constraints of our existence, and we build a positive society. However, this is far from being realized when it comes to the safety of women. Although the parochial nature of our dispossession predicts our concerns for the issues which are prevalent only around us, women are generally not safe in even the most developed of nations and intellectual societies. Unfortunately, for a country like India in which there are crores and crores of deities worshipped through different festivals, we have apparently distanced the deity from the physical state of its existence and in that thought, some of us feel safe to misuse the abilities that Nature endowed us with as men and they openly harass, threaten, abuse and even murder women.
According to a report published by India Today in January 2019, five women were raped and eight were molested every day on an average in the national capital in 2018.
According to a Delhi Police data, over 2,043 cases of rapes were registered last year as compared to 2,059 cases the year before that and 2,065 cases in 2016. Last year, over 3,175 cases of molestation were reported as compared to 3,275 cases the year before that and 4,032 cases in 2016.
One of the key findings is in most of the rape cases, the accused were known to the victim, police said. Chillingly, across all rape cases, 95% of rapists were not strangers but family, friends and neighbours.
In such a scenario, why won’t there be a popular notion that whenever our women are going out from their homes, they are entering into a war zone for their survival? This is not even fair for the fathers, sons, brothers and husbands who are being put in a position to say “Stay Safe” every time their daughters, mothers, sisters or wives step out of the house. One cannot imagine the lingering fear that women go through in walking through a shady road, in staying back in the office for work, in taking public transportation or even in taking help when they are in trouble anywhere at odd hours.
What is ironical is that sexual abuse in India remains widespread despite tightening of rape laws in 2013. According to the National Crimes Records Bureau, in 2016 the rape of minor girls increased by 82% compared to the previous year. Indian government surveys show that 42% of girls in the country have been sexually abused. Also, many cases go unreported and unnoticed.
Every time there is such an incident, we see an outburst of outrage in the country, but this dies down after a few candle marches as the cases move in trials and time gets dragged away. Such a wave of anger is very superficial and temporary. As a matter of fact, mere rape cases do not evoke any emotion among the public. We see public outcry mostly in the extreme of cases such as the brutal rape of the Nirbhaya case or the Dr Priyanka Reddy case where the four accused had killed and burned the victim after the gangrape.
One of the main reasons for this pitiable scenario is the sheer lack of awareness, education and knowledge of preventive measures on this critical aspect.
What are some of the ways in which women can prevent falling in such dangers? This needs an understanding and systematic strategy. Keeping women safe is the collective responsibility of the entire society and the efforts have to also come from everyone.
Here are some of the preventive measures which can be undertaken to address this menace.
Promote Social Norms that Protect Women Against Sexual Abuse and Violence
– Bystander Approaches: When you are walking on the road, keep your eyes open. In case you come across any kind of inconvenience, take help from people only once you are in a public place.
– Mobilizing men and boys as allies: Teach the men and boys at home to help women wherever necessary. All boys should be taught to respect girls and women.
– Social groups should take the initiative to run awareness campaigns, organize events and distribute written material.
Teach Skills to Prevent Sexual Violence
– Social-emotional learning: Let both women and men, boys and girls learn to manage and release their emotions in a positive way.
– Teaching healthy, safe dating and intimate relationship skills to adolescents: Don’t shy away from talking about these issues with the ladies of your family and close friends circle. You never know you might be saving them from a trap.
– Promote healthy sexuality
– Empowerment-based training: Empower girls and women to learn self-defence skills, help them to be economically sound and strengthen leadership qualities and opportunities for girls.
– Teaching gender equality: At the end of the day, we won’t progress much as a society if we don’t encourage both girls and boys to respect and empower each other. Both need to understand that we are only both sides of the same coin Nature created and together, we complete the big picture.
How to Create Protective Environments
– Improving safety and monitoring in schools– Establishing and consistently applying workplace policies
– Addressing community-level risks through environmental approaches
How can we Support Victims/Survivors to Lessen Harms?
– Victim-centred services
– Treatment for victims
– Treatment for at-risk children and families to prevent problem behaviour including sex offending
– Save the Police Helpline number on your phone.
– In case of problems, get in a public area as soon as possible.
– In case, you feel someone is following you, walk or run fast and get to a safe place like a shop or cafe to distract. You can keep a distance and start a conversation with a bystander about time or asking for direction to distract.
– When you feel you need help immediately and there may not be enough people who will come forward, don’t shout “Help”, shout “Fire! Fire!” This will create a commotion for you to escape.
– When in an odd place or timing, do not get into a confrontation with strangers.
– Never take help from a stranger when you are in an isolated area. Get to a public space first.
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