An unidentified man walks into a State-run school in one of the poorer parts of Delhi, accosts a Class 2 student, takes her to a classroom and rapes her. In another part of the city, on the same day, the Union home minister blurts out the names of minor rape victims and then expunges the comment, only to find that his subordinates have sent out a press release with the names of the children in it. It seems that when it comes to violence against women and children in India, the more things change, the more they remain the same - thanks to our cavalier attitude. How could an unidentified man enter a school in the first place? Where were the school's security guards? Or were there none because government schools only cater to poor students? How could the home minister of a nation that has only recently seen large-scale protests against sexual and other violence against women be so casual that he did not even bother to read his speech once before delivering it?
When violence is visited on women, people tend to believe that better policing is the solution. While we do need better policing, we also need to address the deep inequalities and discrimination that exist at every level of society. But then violence against women cannot be the responsibility of the police or a ministry only. It has to be on the agenda of other ministries like urban planning, transport, education and health. The world over, governments are investing in technologies to make their cities safer. In an article in these pages, just after the December 16 gang rape case, an expert on women's safety and rights wrote about how in Argentina, urban guards have been trained to respond to sexual harassment cases. Then in many countries in Africa, communities and the police work together to ensure an immediate and adequate response. In Cairo, women use technology to send information about incidents of sexual harassment in order to generate awareness.
There are ways and ways of handling a crisis like this, the real deficit, it seems, is in any meaningful urge to transform and change.