Safety First – 29 Dec 2010

As the New Year will dawn in a few days, people must be beginning to make their respective lists of new resolutions of one type or the other for the coming months. For all my sisters who have experienced sexual harassment of some sort (I wonder if there is an exception) either at home or at public places, I would implore them to make the first resolution for the year as ‘safety first’. Matured women, mothers, elderly /senior women must all get together to launch an awareness mission of teaching the issue of ‘safety first’ to their daughters, young girls, sisters and women of all ages.

The difference in thought and perception would be that instead of teaching the concept of ‘fear’ to our daughters / young girls’ lets teach them the concept of ‘safety’ and ‘self defence’. We ‘normally’ instil a lot of fear in the minds of girls by saying ‘don’t go there’, ‘don’t do this’, ‘behave properly’, ‘don’t laugh loudly’(only giggling will do), ‘don’t laugh with your mouth open’ and all sorts of restricting refrains. Instead of curbing their natural healthy growth and making mental dwarfs out of them, let’s concentrate on coaching them into methods of self defence. This would generate a new consciousness and rightly so of self confidence, boldness, assertiveness and power. The conservatives would now immediately condemn me for making ‘boys’ out of ‘girls’ by making them aggressive in their approach and behaviour. No, my dear friends, I am not talking of making them into rough aggressive boys as power is never to be misused (do men understand this thought? ) but to be put to good use. The very word self defence means it is to be used for defending oneself when  assaulted or abused. This will drive away the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that women feel when attacked.

I have been regularly writing on coaching girls and women on methods of self defence. As we understand and highlight the fact that females are neither safe at home nor in public, the first thing on every parent’s mind (those who have a girl child) should be self defence. This is becoming an imperative with the deterioration in the cultural ethos. As we, as guardians, encourage our girls for professional and higher education and also encourage them for becoming economically independent by seeking jobs and making careers, the next imperative on their minds should be to teach them self protection methods. The third  item on the agenda then should be teaching the girls’ the art of home making, pickle making, interior decorating and cooking/cleaning. Since multi-tasking has become the norm we must equip our girls in the art of becoming self reliant. They can earn, cook, love, fend and defend for themselves and hence be totally self reliant.

Shalini Malik’s Red Chilli campaign at New Delhi termed ‘mirchi jhonk’ recently launched last month is laudable. We have been hearing gruesome stories of public harassment of women in the capital since quite some time and the aware women had to take some initiative to solve the problem. You cannot rely on the police machinery to provide you protection for every movement of yours and to solve each and every case. It is the duty of every citizen to be alert about one’s own safety, to take all the necessary precautions and also to know some methods of self defence. The Red Chilli campaign is an old but effective
way to ward of sexual offenders. The group has a dedicated team of self defence trainers and counsellors. They have already conducted training camps in schools and colleges. They also run a helpline that women can call in case of emergency. So far they have more than 150 calls on issues ranging from eve teasing, stalking, molestation and domestic violence, says a press release. According to them as many as 18 women are assaulted in some form or the other every hour across India. This is alarming to say the least. The logo of the campaign is very appropriate which says “Stop Becoming Victim”.

Women should march from the state of victimisation to empowerment. That is the precise point I want to make today.

Published in The Hitavada – Womens World 15 Dec 2010

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