Unsafe city: The blame game must end

Actress Nandita Das said, the blame game should end. The malaise is deeper. Blaming the police, the judiciary will get us nowhere.

india Updated: Nov 10, 2003 22:09 IST

Is Delhi unsafe for women? Who is to blame — the police or the judiciary? What can be done to make the city safer?

The answers to these were not easy, as our panelists and the audience discovered. But, as actress Nandita Das said, the blame game should end. The malaise is deeper. Blaming the police, the judiciary will get us nowhere. Most agreed.

Das talked about a workshop that she had attended as a student of the National School of Drama some years back. Her teacher asked the men and the women to form two different groups. She asked the girls to recall instances when they had been eve-teased or molested by a relative or a family friend.

"Each of us had experienced something like this. Some girls were angry, some sad and some started crying. But, the real surprise was when the teacher repeated the discussion to the men, and they dismissed it saying such things do not happen in Indian culture."

Activist Brinda Karat agreed. "There is a need for more honesty. This conspiracy of silence which exists in Delhi needs to end if the city has to become safe for its women. We do not want a cop stationed outside every house, we do not want Delhi to become a police city."

While Karat took the city police chief R.S. Gupta to task for the police's 'insensitivity', many young girls in the audience protested the police's victimisation. "We girls are as much to blame. We become too meek. We need to fight eve teasers on the streets, in buses," said one.

Gupta said the rapes committed by strangers had come down from 20 per cent of all rapes in 1998 to five per cent. "While there is a need for better investigation and sensitivity by the police, we as a society should ask ourselves why is it that a eve teaser in Kolkata runs the risk of being lynched in public while in Delhi all turn their heads away," said he.

Senior advocate Harish Salve said it was a reflection of systemic failure and blamed it on a lack of political will to carry out police and judicial reforms. Joint CP Amod Kanth talked about reforms in the criminal justice system.

Das said there was "a need to build a critical mass against eve-teasing and rape. We need an awareness campaign". Kanth said these acts should become zero tolerance. "The society and the police need to clamp down on such eve teasers. They should not be allowed to gain in confidence and become rapists," said he.

There was a strong criticism of the ‘insensitivity’ displayed by the media in covering rape cases.

Panelists speak out

Of the 800 eve-teasers arrested since last August, most were so-called 'honourable members of society'... Our officials are being trained to handle victims of sexual abuse in a sensitive manner.

Commissioner of Police R.S. Gupta

Violent crimes can't be camouflaged in statistics. The average Indian is loosing confidence. There is no political will to address the issue.

Senior advocate Harish Salve

Often the culprits are members of the family Which means, almost all men are offenders. Why is it then that women feel ashamed and humiliated in reporting these acts?

Actress Nandita Das

Sexisim is not new to society and widespread consumerism has only given a fillip to it. The media is flooded with advertisements projecting women as sex objects.

Santosh Desai, media expert

Things have reached such a state in Delhi that women can’t go to police stations after sunset to register complaints.

Brinda Karat, social activist

The society lacks respect for women. There is need for a sustained campaign to address the problem.

Joint Commissioner (Vigilance) Kawaljeet Deol

A sexual offender looks for two things — privacy and getting control over the victim. He will strike whenever he can satisfy himself on these two counts. Women should defend themselves loudly. Submissive behaviour and body language makes for an easy target.

Psychologist Dr Rajat Mitra

First Published: Nov 02, 2003 00:55 IST