“Everybody’s responsibility, even women’s”- 18 June 2014

When Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh visits the Delhi Police Head Quarters and discusses with Police top brass the issue of women’s safety in New Delhi, then an impression may get created that the Police are responsible for keeping women safe. However, the issue of women’s safety is far more comprehensive than just being left to the police alone. For, the responsibility of the safety of our women is a task of the whole society, everyone, including women themselves. For, women are the foundation of any society, traditional or modern, in the East or the in the West, in the highly advanced societies like those in Europe or backward societies as in Africa, for example. And therefore naturally, everyone is obligated to ensure safety of women, including women themselves. There is no escape from this pious task.

Looking at the issue from this angle, the reality is that everybody must gear up to ensure women’s safety. Everyone has to stand responsible to protect women at any place. Decades ago, signs were seen at Police Stations asking the cops to protect women all the time anywhere and everywhere. Now, such signs must go up at all places, airports, railway stations, bus stands, shopping malls, cinema theatres, schools, colleges, government buildings, parks and gardens, places of worship and whatever have you!
But displaying such signs or posters making fervent appeal to the whole society is only the small part of the task. The bigger part lies elsewhere. That is the critical issue.
The bigger task is in making systematic and determined efforts to change people’s attitudes. And for this task to be done well, we will have to the basics from where we begin our lives — at home, and then at schools and colleges, so that our kids learn to become natural protectors of women through their educational grooming.
This task cannot be fulfilled if all sections of the society — including women themselves — join hands in a unite league.
The phrase ‘educational grooming’ need not confuse us. For everybody knows what it means and what it should mean, ideally and practically.
It is absolutely important for the Indian society to go back to basics and start grooming our kids at home and in schools and colleges as protectors of women. That will necessitate change in educational content right from early classes to the farthest frontiers — like doctoral research.
In addition to this educational initiative, we will also have to undertake certain social initiatives — like controlling content on media like television. When traditionally, Indian homes do not see even the women’s pallu down or sliding even for a moment, half naked women are shown officially and regularly on television in commercials as well as various programmes including serials. Such display of bare-bodied women certainly blunts sensitivities of not just the children but also the adults. When a society lives with blunted sensitivities, its responses to women also change to the negative.
This is the area of real difficulty.
Thus, at this stage when reports keep pouring in about assaults on women from all the corners of the country, what Indian society needs is multiple initiatives to stem the social rot. Not only do we need to change contents of our educational courses, but also need to change our approach to various issues including entertainment.
This is not promoting sponsorship of the Emergency type, but this is asking for regulation of the content for the larger reason of women’s safety. The purpose is to launch a multi-pronged initiative to change the atmosphere of the society. For, unless we see the issue from such a perspective, we would make no headway towards securing complete women’s safety. Police alone can make no significant difference.
Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil should not have made the statement that the Government cannot appoint policemen in every home. Yet, what he meant to say was that rape can take place in the secure confines of the home as well. Therefore, there is the need to adopt strategies that would encompass all the dimensions of the issue. This is the need of the time, this is the need of our society, and this is the need of Indian women.
In fact, the purpose here is not to have a special segment for Indian women, since the women all over the world have their own issues of safety. Yet, handling of those issues will always require multi-pronged initiatives.
This is the purpose of this edition.

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