No law can stop crime against women; it needs a change of attitude

No law can stop crime against women; it needs a change of attitude
Highlights

No Law Can Stop Crime Against Women; it Needs a Change of Attitude. A recent surge in cases of domestic workers being abused has gripped the nation and suggests growing concern among international groups for the plight of domestic workers.

A recent surge in cases of domestic workers being abused has gripped the nation and suggests growing concern among international groups for the plight of domestic workers. The latest being the Jal Vayu maid gangrape case in Gandhi Nagar. The case has brought to limelight the purview and role of the recently constituted ‘Committee on Safety of Women and Girls in Telangana’ by the State government. Are there no laws to protect rape victims belonging to the unorganised sector? Secondly, is it important to ensure that laws are in place just to punish the crime or prevent it from ever happening again?

The State government recently constituted the ‘Committee on Safety of Women and Girls in Telangana’. Every commonsensical observer understands that the need for an effective state women’s commission has grown in recent times in our state, keeping pace with rising reports of heinous crimes against women. However there has been more focus on working women especially in the IT sector. The women’s commission has not discussed on creating sensitivity in the society. Do women today need laws to punish the culprit after a rape or respect and a sense of security when they are walking up the market? There is a need to propagate respect for women with the help of NGOs in the society through educational institutions. The women’s commission has not addressed the unorganised sector.

While the police are yet to file a FIR in the recent Jal Vayu maid gangrape case in Gandhi Nagar limits, the residents of the apartment claim that the maid was left to bleed after being gangraped. Incidentally, media reports in this case reported that one of the rapists was a politician’s son.

Disturbing incidents like these show a gaping hole in the legal machinery to safeguard health and regulate working conditions of domestic workers.

Asia houses roughly 40 per cent of the global domestic work force and a large number of them are from India. Many women have resorted to a career in domestic household work due to reasons ranging from poverty, no source of income to illiteracy and inability to find other jobs. With no law regulating the domestic workers, it has been tough to provide them adequate protection.

Concerns about women’s safety are expressed in paternalistic terms—how do we keep “our women” safe—our mothers and sisters, daughters and daughters-in-law, cousins and friends? Protectiveness is one way to express we care, but in the context of violence, it takes the form of restricting mobility, choice and freedom.

Protection against violence outside the home becomes the pretext for control. A different category of violence emerges when education is interrupted, livelihood options are (de)limited and choice of friends and life-partners restricted or dictated. Women are told to wear this, do that, don’t go there, don’t talk to such people, don’t make eye contact. Discussing harassment situations at workshops, we learn that the “victim” should have said “no” clearly and firmly. Women are safe when they behave and speak in ways that ensure their safety. Women are unsafe when they make unsafe choices.

If women want to be safe, they should stay at home. But the home is not safe either. If the streets are full of marauders who are easily tempted into violence, predators lurk at home, too. There are no safe havens for women. We need practical ways to stop violence from happening around women. In an office if someone looks uncomfortable in an interaction, one might just walk up and interrupt by asking a question. On a train, if women travellers are being heckled, one might appear to join them as a way of communicating that the harassment has been noticed. Within the family, making gender violence a conversation topic can help share awareness on what is and is not acceptable even within close relationships.

The question is not about stronger laws, death sentences, castration laws being enforced, or public hangings. It is essentially about changing our attitudes at home. Punishment takes place once, but does not alter the criminalities that take place afterwards.

We have to teach boys that rape is a terrible crime. In schools we have to teach children how awful this crime is. The problems it raises. The problems that persist for years, if not forever.

Law should be in place not just to punish crime but also prevent crime from ever happening again. As long as the mindset of the society will not change, women can never be safe out on the roads. We need to take responsibility for a violence-free world by doing so we start building a world in which we would like to live and we would like our children to inherit.

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