After the gang rape of a young woman on December 16, 2012, Delhi’s reputation is now firmly in tatters. But to tell the truth, the capital never had a great reputation to begin with on the issue of safety of women. To understand the depth of the crisis at hand, Hindustan Times commissioned a city-specific survey after the December rape case was reported and protests were held in the capital in the last two weeks of 2012. According to the survey, an overwhelming 92% of men (18-25 years) say that some or all of their friends have sometime or the other made passes at women in public places, and over 78% women said that they have been sexually harassed in the past year. Here’s another bit of appalling statistics: 52% of the respondents say it’s okay to pass comments on women, as long as one doesn’t touch! However, only 19% women and 24% men think that male attitude is the main cause of this problem. Over half of the men surveyed said harassment happens, now hold your breath, because of the way women dress and behave.
None of the above results is surprising, from aborting female foetuses to other kinds of violence against women (molestations, rapes and dowry deaths), the city has always been a chart topper. And, violence against the girl child and women are not confined to any specific economic or social class; in fact, the richer parts of the city have a worse record. The 2011 National Crime Records Bureau report, the last available data, says that among 53 Indian cities, Delhi accounted for 13.3% (4,489) of crimes against women, followed by Bengaluru 5.6% (1,890) and Hyderabad 5.5% (1,860). As far as rapes are concerned, Madhya Pradesh reported the highest number of cases of rape (3,406), molestation (6,665) and ‘importation of girls (45), accounting for 14.1%, 15.5% and 56.3%, respectively, of the total cases reported. In the same year, Andhra Pradesh reported 42.7% (3,658) of sexual harassment cases in India.
If India wants to end violence against women, only better laws and policing will not do; the mindset of society has to be overhauled completely. Otherwise, as a columnist in The Guardian correctly mentioned, India’s much-vaunted modernity is nothing without equality for women.