The rape and murder of a veterinarian in Hyderabad recently triggered a host of accusations at the Telangana State Government and State Police; despite them being first in India to initiate successful “She Teams” that take swift action to prevent such crimes, when they are reported.
Every industry faces challenges when it comes to the safety of girls and women in India, and it is encouraging to know that focus has shifted from blame, to setting up robust systems and processes to ensure safety. However, culture is something that cannot be left un-noticed or in default mode, evolving from whatever the tide drags in. Sadly, this may be happening across India and there is good reason to be apprehensive.
From conversations with groups working for women’s safety I’ve gathered some alarming facts that neither Government, nor Police Force are equipped to tackle. Here is what I understood:
In the studies and surveys conducted across age groups of teenage to young adult men (which amounts to a major part of the Indian population) it was learnt that 70% of them believed that the consent of the wife/partner/woman is not needed for sex. And while over 60% were sexually active, less than 20 % knew about or agreed to the use of contraceptives.
Another study on cyber crime that showed a selected number of women’s profiles on line to groups of young men, across the spectrum of economic groups of the same age group, invited them to post their comments on these profiles as they would normally do. The study revealed that 99% of them made comments and sexually violent slurs that amount to cyber crime and bullying. When asked why this was their choice, the response had no reason, and most believed they had a right to, and that there would be no consequences.
What is even more alarming and disturbing was that none of them had ever been exposed to conversations about relationships, behaviours or sex and neither did they have any trusted space they could go to for such information or discussions. Hence it was clear that the culture of violence against women is something they had imbibed along the way simply because they had not been exposed to anything better.
We certainly need to think about the desperate need for culture building, one preferably removed from religious morality (no disrespect meant), perhaps based more on the science and understanding of human relationships, happiness, love, respect and family values – if we want Indian women to have safety. I do believe this is possible and that the time has come.
Please visit website http://www.voice4girls.org and look out for other such initiatives near you, to learn and do more.