Violence Against Women: Public and Private Spaces

November 25 is the International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women. Did you know that over 848 women are harassed/ raped every day in India?

A total of 3,37,922 cases of crime against women were reported in 2014, 9.2% more than 2013. These are only reported cases. In a study conducted by International Centre for Research on Women, 65% of males believed women should tolerate violence to keep the family together.

In India, crimes against women include, but are not limited to, dowry deaths, honour killings, female infanticide/ foeticide, rape, and trafficking.

The problem with violence against women is not only that this violence is physical, but that this violence seeps into all areas of life. Because of the stigma that very much exists around divorced women, most women end up staying married for the “children” and the “family”.

This violence does not exist in a physical form alone: there is emotional and mental abuse as well. Women are often denied land rights, rights towards their children, and adequate sanitation facilities. There is an education gap as well. This violence is not limited to rural areas alone: Delhi reports thrice the amount of sexual crimes against women than the national average.

While it’s still common for violence inflicted by spouse/ family to be reported, violence inflicted by boyfriends et al goes unreported. Urban, modern relationships, tend to haunt women more than we realize. This abuse is sexual, moral, mental, financial, and emotional. It is not uncommon for young women to have partners that restrict their dressing style, communication, and whereabouts.

Do you that 41% of Indian women face violence before the age of 19? That is more than 4 women in 10.

Now let me introduce you to statistics that are the reality of most women in the country.

How do women eliminate/prevent chances of violence? Mostly by confining themselves to safe places & compromising access to public spaces. More than 82% women in India have apparently taken steps to protect themselves against harassment. Measures included avoiding parks and poorly lit areas, changing travel routes routinely, carrying weapons, and carrying protective devices (pepper spray etc), among others.

I’m not sure how many of you realize the implication of this: most women can’t access public spaces freely and fearlessly.

Threats to the safety of women are directly related to patriarchal mindsets that manifest itself on streets, at the workplace, and at homes.

This violence has been taken to the next level with unrestricted access to technology: cyber-bullying and harassment. It is very common for women to receive death threats/ rape threats/ verbal abuses online. Extremely common. I couldn’t find elaborate stats on cyber crimes against women because there exist humongous amounts of legal loopholes in the said area.

Nevertheless, in a private research conducted by Cyber Victims, 60 female respondents of 73 total had experienced bad incidents online. 85% received abusive, obscene, dirty messages from known/ unknown senders. 16.7% had received repeated emails from stalkers. 75% of the respondents had received sexually teasing remarks on their social networking profiles. 50% had cloned profiles on the internet.

The biggest problem with urban violence against women is the lack of safe spaces. Most young women don’t have anybody to confide in. Their cries are usually met with victim blaming/ slut shaming. If a young woman is raped by her own boyfriend, it is almost never seen as rape.

What should we do to eliminate violence against women? What should we do in order to provide greater security/ safe spaces?

The first and the foremost step is to begin standing up for each other and against each other, irrespective of class/ gender/ caste. A cry on violence against women can’t be met with “men are victims too”. Of course, they are, but how does that solve violence against women?

It is important to become vigilant. Please be human & look out for women around you. Help your friends break out of abusive relationships. As parents, for the love of God, create safe spaces. TALK to your children. Let them have the confidence that you are with them, no matter what. If you see a woman getting abused in the family, don’t look away.

Stand up, goddamnit. Stand up against emotional, mental, physical abuse. If you are aware of women that face violence, please intervene and help. This is not “ghar ka maamla“. No. If we don’t help, who will? When you are in public, please don’t overlook the man that jeers/ drools at you. Stare right back into his eyes until he looks away.

The solution is not to “ignore” and “get home safely”. The only solution is to fight and to fight together. IDEVAW should be an opportunity to realize, acknowledge, and take action. Help create safety nets and support systems.

Let’s come together and help in returning to women the public and private spaces that they have forfeited because of the fear that exists around them.

Women are NOT equal to Men

Recently I had the (mis)fortune of interacting with a wonderful man. He told me, and very politely at that, that women were not equal to men.

His ideologies were rather simple –women could not make decisions for themselves, there needed to be a “head” in each family (and a man is apparently flawless at the job), and that women are usually hypocrites (because they are against dowry but ask for alimony).

When I first heard this young man speak, the feminist inside of me burnt with rage. My blood pressure shot up and my fury knew no bounds. I thought he was rather lucky to be staying fifteen hundred kilometres away –had he been around me, oh, would I, the impulsive feminist I am, have thrashed him!

But then I pondered endlessly on what he had said and came to a priceless, enlightening conclusion; indeed, women are not equal to men.

Think of it –all our lives, women have been compared to men.
“Women must get jobs like men.”
“Women have surpassed men in such and such field.”
“She’s no less than a boy.”
“She is exceptional: she is like the man in her family.”

How funny is this! This has been made into a full-fledged competition!

Women are not equal to men, were never, and will never be.

That is because men and women are different.
They are built differently, they think differently, they act differently.
How are you to draw a line of ‘equality’ between entities that are not same at all?

I am a woman and I want to achieve a lot in life. But do I want to be equal to a man? No.
Because a man is not the benchmark of success. A man is a world in himself, and a woman is a world in herself.
It is very unfair to expect them to be ‘equal’, because they’re not.

Women and men don’t need to be equals, they need to be individuals that contribute equally.

Indeed, they must both get equal opportunities and challenges, and must be treated with respect, but just like a man is not expected to be equal to a woman, a woman is not, and needn’t be, equal to a man.

So this post is for that wonderful man who threw me an open challenge to prove to him that women are equal to men –you win, sir.

The are not.
They will never be.