The murder of a police officer by an Akali Dal leader in Amritsar on Wednesday for protesting against his daughter’s harassment by the politician and his associates (read goons) is another addition to the long list of such reprehensible incidents in the country. Yet, eve-teasing, a euphemism, a benign term some would say, used in India and in the subcontinent for public sexual harassment or molestation of women by men is still seen by many as a ‘soft crime’ and is brushed under the carpet till it ends the way it has in Amritsar or under similar circumstances.
It is also time to stop living in denial and accept what survey after survey has been telling us about the country we live in: India is one of the most dangerous places on earth for women. The situation is so dire that the Supreme Court recently had to step in and instruct states governments to take measures to protect women, such as deploying women police officers in plainclothes, putting up closed-circuit cameras and setting up helplines. And this is what the apex court said on the issue of eve teasing: “The experiences of women and girls in overcrowded buses, metros, trains etc are horrendous and a painful ordeal”. In a survey conducted by Thomson Reuters’ TrustLaw Women, a hub of information and support for women’s rights, India ranks with Afghanistan, Congo and Somalia as one of the most dangerous place for women. The latest statistics compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau show that between 1953 and 2011, the incidence of rape rose by 873%, or three times faster than all cognisable crimes put together, and three-and-a-half times faster than murder.
While many would say that the low rate of conviction of crimes committed against women, a patriarchal society, a medieval mindset and the plunging sex-ration are all responsible for such rising violence against women, at the end of the day things can change if we want to change them: ending this violent behaviour against women has to become a central agenda for society. A few months ago, The Guardian posed a question: Of all the rich G20 nations, India has been labeled the worst place to be a woman. But how is this possible in a country that prides itself on being the world’s largest democracy? This has to be question which we need to ponder on and answer.