Written by ALEYA DUTTA CHOUDHURY
One in every three women live in fear of being inappropriately touched, said a study on daily harassment faced by women in public spaces, including lewd comments and inappropriate touching. The report was released Tuesday by the World of India’s Girls (WINGS).
Using data samples from six regions in India, the report finds that 24 per cent women do not report sexual abuse. They are scared that their parents might restrict their movements subsequently. They are also uncomfortable reporting to the authorities.
WINGS 2018 (Maharashtra) study revealed that 38 per cent girls are not safe, especially in their familiar surroundings like roads near their house, public transport, markets, cinema halls. Present to unveil this report, Pankaja Munde, Minister for Women and Child Welfare, said, “There hasn’t been an increase in crimes against women, they have always existed. We only see it now because now the rate of conviction has increased. More cases are being reported. People are asking for justice, that is a good thing.”
She also lauded the decision of the Union cabinet to award death penalty to those committing the rape and murder of a child under 12 years of age. She said this would instill the fear of law in people. She said, “I’m not saying that girls should not wear this or that, not drink alcohol or go out with their boyfriends but they need to be aware and sensible. If you are going to an area where something can happen you have to be careful. It may not be only rape or molestation, it could be even robbery or an accident.”
“Sometimes people climb up to the hilltop to take selfies. There is a 99 per cent possibility that they will slip and fall. In the same way, girls should avoid situations that may lead to harm. Don’t go on that cliff, that’s all we can tell our girls.” One of her solutions to the issue is introducing self-defence classes in schools as an compulsory activity. She also spoke about changing societal thinking, “Make cultural changes in the society, teach boys to look at women differently, then hopefully the situation will improve.”
Meanwhile, Munde said that candle marches are becoming a fashion these days. “Sometimes candle marches become fashion events also. With the way people come dressed to these events, I feel are they really bothered about what has happened? One has to be very serious about these things. When a woman is attacked, her soul is attacked,” Munde said. “I don’t approve of anyone doing such a thing to a woman but we have to make our girls and boys aware and tell them to be careful. There is no such thing like beautiful life or uninjured life,” Munde said, adding that a child victim is left with a life-long trauma.
In Maharashtra the study interviewed 509 adolescent girls, 185 adolescent boys, 135 parents and 42 young women from Mumbai, Nanded, Ulhasnagar and the smaller towns of Baramati and Lonavla.
It was noticed that around 78 per cent girls were being shunned by society after harassment. In addition, 85 per cent parents also feel that society will not accept their daughter and marriage will be impossible if it is found that the girl has been abused or harassed.