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Home / Opinion / Women’s voice in politics a must in run-up to elections

Women’s voice in politics a must in run-up to elections

While there was some engagement with the issue in 2014, the run up to the 2019 elections has seen a total disengagement with any gender issues regarding safety or rights.

opinion Updated: Apr 25, 2019 09:03 IST
Kalpana Viswanath
Kalpana Viswanath
From the moment an incident of violence takes place, there must be quick, efficient and non-judgmental responses.
From the moment an incident of violence takes place, there must be quick, efficient and non-judgmental responses. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
         

After the 2012 murder and gang rape case, many political parties began talking about the issue of women’s safety. While there was some engagement with the issue in 2014, the run up to the 2019 elections has seen a total disengagement with any gender issues regarding safety or rights. It cannot be stressed enough that policies that deal with ending violence against women must be multi-pronged and must involve a wide range of stakeholders.

Improving response to violence

First, the work of addressing violence and crime is a law and order issue. There needs to be better policing and a robust legal system in all respects. From the moment an incident of violence takes place, there must be quick, efficient and non-judgmental responses.

The case must be followed up and dealt with swiftly and properly by the legal system so that perpetrators of violence have a fear of the repercussions of their actions. Much of the Nirbhaya funds have been allocated to CCTV cameras and other technology-based solutions, but not towards improving basic processes. Data shows that while reporting of crimes against women has gone up, the conviction rate is only around 20%.

Further, the promise to set up one-stop crisis centres around the country still needs to be fulfilled. Till now, some 170 centres have become operational.

Haryana has set up seven, including one in Gurugram. Unfortunately, the functioning and efficiency of these centres is often sub-standard in terms of infrastructure and systems. These centres are essential to improve the response to violence.

Gender-sensitive infrastructure

In addition, public infrastructure needs to be addressed. We need to have better planning, service delivery and governance in order to ensure that our cities and towns are designed in ways that ensure accessibility, safety and inclusion.

Safety audits done across cities have shown that urban planning and infrastructure can play a role in making spaces safer.

Thus, we need better lighting and streets, well-maintained sidewalks and other infrastructure.

In addition to infrastructure, our cities and towns need to be planned in ways that ensure that the streets can be used by a wide variety of people, including women, children and specially-abled, among others.

Public toilets are severely lacking in our cities and the ones that exist are often in bad condition and are barely usable. A recent report found that there are 127 public toilets in Gurugram, but 60% of them do not have regular water supply and 60 were found to be kept under lock and key.

Barriers to women’s participation

With only 11% participation, the number of women in politics is also dismally low in our country. While some political parties have increased the number of women candidates, the overall count is still low. In Haryana, there are only six women candidates against 44 male candidates in the fray.

Sexual harassment at the workplace is a major barrier that women face in all arenas of work.

Public discourse around women even during this election has been disturbing. What is somewhat heartening are the cases that have been brought to light in the past year, even against powerful men, but we are still waiting to see the delivery of justice.

Creating a safer and more caring community for girls and women requires a change in our social norms and the way people think. For this, we need to address the education system and popular culture to ensure new ways of thinking so equality is fostered as a value.

We need political commitment to bring about sustainable change. The discourse of protection needs to be changed to a discourse of rights. Safety is a right that all women and girls in this country are entitled to.

@SafetipinApp

(Co-founder and CEO of Safetipin, the author works on issues of women’s safety and rights in cities)