An unprecedented tsunami of outrage provoked by the searing gangrape cases - first in New Delhi last year, and then, in Mumbai, in August - has long ebbed away from public memory and discourse. Yet, both episodes have evidently engendered a new index of greater societal sensitivity on sexual crimes against women.
This, in turn, has empowered women as never before. That explains the latest shockers of young women speaking out - and standing up - on their charges of sexual indiscretions against a retired Supreme Court judge and a much-celebrated editor of Tehelka magazine. A stoic silence is steadily but surely giving way to an amplified audacity. It's a nascent but welcome change that augurs well for a nation so inured to pushing sexual crimes against women under the wraps.
This profound trend also underscores the need for keeping a relentless spotlight on sexual crimes against women. For, the invisible form of sexual harassment is far more rampant and makes public spaces more unsafe women than we realise, or care to admit.
Reflecting the insidious reality of how danger stalks women on our streets, an exhaustive perception survey conducted last month by Hindustan Times and Chandigarh-based social think-tank Institute for Development and Communication (IDC), has revealed a staggering 95% of women in Chandigarh, SAS Nagar and Panckhula admitting to having faced sexual harassment outside their home in the last one year. And, only 7% complained to the police!
Treating these and other chilling findings of this first-ever survey of its kind in the tricity - a microcosm of the region - as a wake-up call, Hindustan Times kicks off today a campaign aimed at empowering women in public spaces and making them safer. Over the coming days, through special stories, HT will not only highlight the extent of menace and the state of public places, it will also try to point to solutions such as what women can do to combat their vulnerability, what we as a society must do, and the need for police sensitisation, besides profiling the courageous women who fought back, and the people who tried to make a difference.
As a leading national newspaper committed to raising issues of public interest, our latest campaign only typifies what HT has always promised to its reader - to put you and your concerns at the heart of the paper. You can pledge your support on our Facebook page dedicated to the campaign ( www.facebook/Making-tricity-safer-for-women). Be involved, and blow the whistle. Make your city safer for women. It is time.
Senior Resident Editor