Sheila’s code of conduct
You are your own protection seems to be the message Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is beaming to her constituency’s women. At least, that’s the essence of an advertisement released by the Directorate of Information and Publicity yesterday. While the primary purpose of the half-page advertisement seems to be to list the Delhi government’s ‘success’ in curbing abuse of women, it is followed by a series of ‘suggestions’ that do little to redeem the government’s stand on the issue of protecting women. If the initiatives sound superfluous (‘Gender sensitisation programmes launched’, ‘Code of conduct formalised to curb sexual harassment at work’), the suggestions border on the offensive.
In fact, the basic premise of the advertisement is flawed. Going by the visual, to begin with, it would appear that all men are perpetrators of crime against women. The copy is a series of do’s and don’ts that, by turn, makes one cringe or recoil in shock. “At home, avoid staying alone for long periods” women are told. When at work, “Don’t go or work alone in basement, “avoid working or partying late” and “don’t get drunk”. But the rasberry is reserved for “On the Street: Always wait for bus or train in well-lit, well- crowded place; stay confident; never enter isolated car parks, when driving, keep your windows rolled up”. The ad only serves to highlight the government’s apathy to basic civic amenities that could make a world of difference in ensuring that Delhi becomes safer for women. Well-lit roads, for instance, or security in parking lots. Working late is not a matter of choice if the job demands it. Urban lifestyle has ensured that worklife extends well beyond the 6 p.m. deadline. But then, we can’t expect government officials to appreciate that fact. Other inanities like “Keep the attacker busy while you think what to do” and “Refuse to be a victim” are statements that are staggering in their insensitivity.
Making a city safe needs mainly a sympathetic and firm law and order mechanism. Helplines, an inefficient police force and ads such as this one are not likely to change matters. That is the issue the CM must address. Not endorse ads that put the onus of protection on women themselves, and make no difference whatsoever to improving the situation.