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Safety Is My Birthright — And I Demand It!

October 11, 2010

by Pinky Pradhan

Why are some Indian men so prejudiced towards us—women—the other half of the population? Why is it that women are always at the receiving end of their endless harassment? Why am I being stared at and visually stripped down in public places as if I am some kind of a brand commodity? These questions have been bothering me for a long time. And each time I hear about the unthinkable crimes being committed against a girl child or a woman in India, my heart quivers. And at these moments, I honestly feel the disadvantage of not being born as a man.

Can we for a minute lay down our obsolete mores, superficial differences of religion, caste and geographic boundaries and think hard about why women in India are not safe, not even in their own homes. I would like to question the higher ups and the young force who clearly shone in the recent general elections — does safety for women, ever, feature as a top most priority in their lengthy arguments? India on one hand is scoring international praise for its economy, whereas on the other hand, crimes of all kinds are being perpetuated against its girls and women. Incidents such as rape, sexual exploitation, the so-called “eve teasing”, public groping, dowry murders, “honor” killings, trafficking of women and children, female foeticide, female infanticide, and a host of other gender based persecutions: this is the environment an average Indian woman has to face in India.

Rape is the fastest increasing crime in India. A recently released report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) stated that a total of 20,737 rape cases were registered in 2007.   There were 19,384 cases registered in 2006, 18,359 in 2005, 18,233 in 2004, and 15,847 in 2003.   The report also indicated that there were 38,734 registered cases of sexual molestation. Crimes against women in India have increased exponentially. There has been a jump of 700% since the time NCRB started keeping records. The picture is the same everywhere, all over India — be it Gurgaon, Mumbai, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab or some nondescript town or village — the fact of the matter is: this country is extremely unsafe for women.

What is the root cause of this malicious treatment of women? What agitates Indian men to resort to such a violation of feminine dignity? What do these men get by causing pain and suffering to others? Some sections of the Indian society are of the opinion that we women “ask” for such crimes to be committed against us, by “forgetting our morals”, by “wearing dresses that tempt men”, by going to pubs and by flouting our traditions and culture. This is indeed a pathetic and illogical rationalization of crimes against women, and comes from the same patriarchal mind-set that commits the crime.

Let us call upon all the leaders, the political heavy-weights, the self acclaimed activists and the celebrities from the entertainment industry in India. As you rant and rave in front of the camera, to rake up issues about religion and caste politics, somewhere an unthinkable crime is being committed against a woman.

As a woman, I have been forced to feel paranoid about my surroundings and safety. As a citizen of India, I am deeply frustrated and angry. And I am not alone in this feeling.

About the Author

Pinky Pradhan is Resource Development Fellow/ International Atlas Corps Fellow with Population Action International in Washington D.C.

Also see the post 11 Safety Tips for Women Traveling Alone in India

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Honora Renwick permalink
    October 12, 2010 9:13 am

    I read a book on cultural anthropology which explained a lot of things. It said plough-based agricultural cultures put a low value on women because they weren’t strong enough to use the plough. In these cultures they had the dowry system. In hoe-based cultures, there was a bride price system where the husband’s family had to compensate the wife’s family for the loss of a productive worker…interesting, eh?

    The book also said pastorally based societies tended to monotheism and the relationship between the single god and the worshippers mimicked the relationship between a herder and his flock. Agriculturally based societes tended to polytheism with capricious gods that had to be placated.

    • October 14, 2010 5:31 am

      @ Honora — Actually there are communities in India where the men pay a massive bride-price, and the women economically support the entire community. Men in these communities hardly do any work and are totally economically unproductive. We covered these communities in our post on the Bedia (They prostitute their daughters). These people actually want daughters. But given how unproductive the men are — they don’t abort the male babies, or kill the new born male infants or kill men for the value of the bride price. So essentially the economic based argument for female genocide in India does not hold up. It is just plain misogyny.

    • Honora Renwick permalink
      November 29, 2010 9:04 am

      That was interesting. You have given me food for thought. I wonder where the misogny comes from…jealousy at women’s ability to grow babies and give birth perhaps?

    • November 30, 2010 6:33 am

      @Honora — Yes absolutely! Historically if you go into Indian literature, like in the Vedas for instance, there is tremendous fear of the reproductive capacity of women. Like for instance passages from the Hindu scriptures — the Vedas — indicates that men believed that the menstrual blood of women could kill men.

  2. shashi permalink
    October 13, 2010 6:59 am

    wonderful write up! more and more people should speak up and join in the movement to protect women’s rights. its time we all stood up. women get treated like doormats because we are lying there and waiting to be trampled upon most of the time. in the name of family, children, husband, values, etc we end up doing the most thankless jobs and dont get what we deserve. lets all stand up for our rights and live without fear within the confines of our homes.

  3. pinky permalink
    December 21, 2010 5:06 pm

    Dear All,

    Thank you for appreciating my write-up. I would also like to thank the team of 50 million missing campaign for giving me this platform. I hope to continue writing on such issues and raise awareness.

    Pinky Pradhan

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