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Women's Safety- How can it be efficiently enacted?

A girl should be two things: who and what she wants. Ė Coco Chanel.

Why women's safety?
In the old days, women were restricted to the four corners of the house and only did the household and childbearing work. But after globalisation, this changed dramatically. Now we see women working in every section of society- from dealing with cases in top corporate businesses to driving public buses. Although their work had significant improvement in these past years, the public perception regarding them hasnít changed much, to be honest.

They are still being objectified and humiliated in every sphere of work. This is such a shame, considering the fact that centuries have passed since globalisation. So, in order to mitigate the problems that are specific to women, we need to understand the core issues behind them and the reasons as to why they occur in the first place.

Challenges/Hurdles in the path
Earlier, women used to face problems pertaining to child marriage, the devadasi system, sati pratha, etc. Although I am delighted to inform you that these kinds of norms are mostly eradicated from our country, there still exist many problems in the modern-day which women are used to facing and which need immediate recognition. Letís take a look at some of these problems.
  • Gender discrimination:
    The first and foremost problem being discrimination on the basis of the gender of a person. It is quite prevalent in our country and mostly concerns the women of our country. For example, due to the patriarchy in the mindsets of people of our country, women are considered to be inferior when compared to men. This has led to many women quitting their jobs and letting go of many opportunities in life that could have been fruitful to them.
     
  • Violence against women:
    Women of our country are facing several kinds of violence every day and it has become a sort of a routine for us to hear such news on a daily basis. We have to ask ourselves why most of the victims of these kinds of violence are women. What kind of education are we providing to the people of our country that there is such a vast difference in the treatment of men and women? Why is there a certain mentality prevalent in the country regarding how women should behave?

    These are questions that require deep contemplation and serious awareness. Even in this uncertain time like the COVID-19 pandemic, the domestic violence against women is all the more growing. The reporting of cases increased significantly during the lockdown period. This means that they are facing violence and brutality even inside their homes, and surely, they arenít safe.
     
  • Female Education:
    The percentage of educated women in India is still very low compared to other countries, especially in the rural areas in which the more aggravated forms of the abovementioned problem take place.
     
  • Unemployment:
    As mentioned earlier, women are facing humiliation in all spheres of work and this is the reason why most of them quit, leading to an escalated rate of unemployment. Even for the women who stay in the job, the path isnít very easy. The bosses in their organisations intentionally give them more work and constantly make them look inferior to their male counterparts. Again, the main factor behind this practice can be attributed to the perception and mentality regarding women in society.
     
  • Dowry System:
    When we are talking about the problems associated with women, we cannot forget an ancient practice still holding its place in the modern era- The Dowry System. It is mind-boggling to imagine that practice of this sort is still prevalent in our country after seeing such a vast development.

Solution
The government says that the security and safety of women and children is the utmost priority for them, and the Ministry of women and child development has even initiated many of the fruitful enactments that have helped mitigate some of the problems. The fact is that there are enough laws in the country that cater to the specific legal rights of women and provide them a remedy against many kinds of problems while making them aware of their empowerment and security. These, if implemented properly, could easily eradicate most of the problems that women are facing right now.

The question here isnít about the enactment of a new law but of proper implementation of the existing laws which would make a huge difference in the quality of life of women. So, how can it be done?

Role of the government
The government should specifically target laws like The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 or The Medical termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. and ensure that the concerned legislation is implemented properly and its effect is enforced throughout the country. There is no point in having a law that is excellent on paper but never sees the light of day. There must be a significant improvement in the infrastructure related to the legislations, be it physical or intellectual, in order to protect the rights of women.

The government funds should be utilised in a way that provides immediate relief to the victim. Because compensating them after a certain period of time wonít have much effect on their condition. The fast-track courts which could, in turn, provide a one-stop crisis Centre for all the issues pertaining to women is an amazing example to build upon. Similarly, shelter homes, if provided with adequate infrastructure and funding, could ensure a welcoming environment for women in distress.

Police stations also have to be welcoming to women so that more and more of them register their cases and complaints. The statistics clearly show that crimes against women are under-reported severely in our country. For a democracy like India, it does not help us at the international platform either when it comes to relationships with other developed countries. Suppressing the grievances of women only emboldens the perpetrators scattered in the country and tarnishes the systemís efficiency in the eyes of people.

A/c to Thomson Reuterís survey on womenís safety, India was ranked as the most dangerous country for women in the world.[i]

Clearly, something is lacking on the part of govt. also.

Effective policies at work
Corporate companies also have to play their part in making effective policies that deal with sexual harassment at the workplace. They have to formulate policies in such a manner that respects the dignity of women and allows them to register their complaints conveniently, without having to go through N number of personnel and ensure that they donít walk away due to the same.

Although new amendments to The Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Protection and) Act, 2013[ii] have mandated companies to establish a complaint Centre at each of their branches with women officers, they have to ensure that those measures are actually being followed in each and every branch and check on that every few months ensure its effectiveness.

Also, they should invest in things that encourage cultural-organisational behaviour in their corporate offices where men and women can work freely without any kind of fear of harassment or pressure. The workplace should be a place where everyone is able to work comfortably and anything besides work should be done by taking prior consent of all the people involved in it.

There are many cases of suicides by employees which could have been easily avoided if proper mechanisms were in place. Lastly, there shouldnít be any kind of discrimination between men and women in the workplace as these kinds of things encourage the perpetrators to commit violence against women and also promotes the mentality of objectifying women in the corporate society which further degrades their integrity.

Education
Earlier we discussed the alarmingly small rate of educated women in India. The only way to counter this problem is by providing equal access to quality education from the start. If we educate young girls, they would get to know about their rights and the multitude of opportunities awaiting them. As a result, more and more of them would fight for their rights. This way we help them in helping themselves. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme[iii] is one such example to build upon.

The Positives
Although there are many cases in which the government could be blamed for the lack of strong policies concerning women, there are also a host of instances where the government had in fact acted according to the situation and amended various kind of laws in light of the changing circumstances of women:

The Criminal Law (Amendments), Act 2013- relating to sexual offences & in 2018- relating to the death penalty for the same offence, if committed on a girl of 12 or below.[iv]

Our government has also taken many initiatives that improve the security and safety of women.
Some of these are listed below:
  • Nirbhaya fund:
    For projects relating to their security and safety of women in India. The concerned authority for the same is the Ministry of women and child development
     
  • ITSSO:
    a special online tool for the analysis and monitoring of real-time investigation in sexual assault cases. Relates to the criminal amendment law act of 2018.
     
  • 112:
    emergency response support system, for computer-based aid to detect the location of the victim in distress. Started In 2018-19.
     
  • Cybercrime portal:
    launched by Ministry of Home Affairs on 20 September 2018. Facilitates the report of obscene content by the citizens of the country. Along with this, cybercrime forensics labs have also been established in many states, and training of a large number of officers for the said purpose has also been initiated.

Way Forward
Though there are many loopholes in the administration of justice in India (which in turn hinder the process on multiple occasions), I think the most important of them is govt. accountability. The govt. has to take active participation in dealing with matters related to women. They canít just watch from the backseat. They must act accordingly.

The first and foremost step in that will be increasing the access to remedial facilities in the rural and semi-urban areas. Secondly, there has to be a dedicated institution that monitors the implementation of the various laws concerning women. Thirdly, access to education has to be dramatically improved.

Lastly, we as the aware citizens of our country, have to stand for womenís rights and create a healthy environment in which women do not feel threatened/uncomfortable. I leave you on an open-ended note to contemplate this matter and acquire an opinion of your own on the same.

Legislations Referred:
  • The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
  • The Medical termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Protection and) Act, 2013
  • The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013
  • The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018
End-Notes:
  1. The Worldís 10 most Dangerous Countries for Women, Thomson Reuters https://poll2018.trust.org
  2. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Protection and) Act, 2013 https://wcd.nic.in/sites/default/files/Sexual-Harassment-at-Workplace-Act.pdf
  3. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Govt. of India https://wcd.nic.in/bbbp-schemes
  4. Press Information Bureau, Govt. of India, Ministry of Home Affair https://pib.gov.in/Pressreleaseshare.aspx?PRID=1575574

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