A recent survey conducted by Reuters declared India the most unsafe country for women in the world. While some experts have challenged this report, most women of the country seem to agree that this is quite true. And with the rise in the number of cases of violence against women and girl children in the country over the past few years, it is not hard to see why.
This is true of all countries in the world. A woman today is not safe anywhere. Not in the streets, for unspeakable things do happen to women who simply walk down a road or wait at a bus stop. They sometimes clutch their pepper sprays and penknives as they walk down dark alleys. Not at the workplace, for incidences of sexual harassment of women at work has been alarmingly high in number in the recent years. They forego night shifts to avoid the risk of commuting at odd hours. And not even at home, for statistically, women are most likely to be abused by someone they know.
No woman—irrespective of her class, caste, race or religion—is immune to violence or abuse. It is not fair that one half of the world should live in constant fear of abuse and violence all the time. The threat on women’s safety isn’t one that cropped up overnight. Women have been treated poorly by society for the longest time. And the roots of the problem lie in patriarchy, a system that has favoured men for centuries now.
Bringing about a collective change in mindset is a good place to start fixing this inequality. And this change, as we know, can only be achieved when every individual vows to change for the better. Therefore, the onus of coming up with solutions to the problem of lack of women’s safety is on all of us, irrespective of gender.
Women should learn to assert themselves and claim their space. Men, on the other hand, must learn to listen, empathise and take action to make the world a better place for women. For example, when faced with harassment at the workplace, women must speak up and insist that their concerns be addressed by those in power. And when such complaints come to the men in power, they must investigate fairly and hold the offenders accountable instead of brushing it off. Only when both men and women take conscious action to address the issue of women’s safety, can we begin to move towards a more fair, equal world.
One thing that many parents are doing right these days is raising their daughters to be self-aware. This has led to scores of girls growing up to be strong, self-sufficient women who can take care of themselves and contribute to the society.
Of course, ensuring women’s safety is just the first step towards women’s empowerment. In the absence of fear, women get to live their lives freely, tapping into their potential. To create a world where women are truly free, we need to raise our children right. They are, after all, the future. Girls must be taught that they can achieve anything that they set their minds to. When unbridled with patriarchal restrictions, they can truly explore the world and express their real selves. Boys need to be taught that they ought to treat everyone with respect, whether boy or girl. And as they grow older, both genders need to be taught the importance of consent in their interactions. Boys who are taught to respect a girl’s ‘no’ grow up to be men who respect women’s boundaries.
One thing that many parents are doing right these days is raising their daughters to be self-aware. This has led to scores of girls growing up to be strong, self-sufficient women who can take care of themselves and contribute to the society. Alongside raising strong women, we also need to raise men who can be on par with these women—men who can manage a home without depending on women; men who can support women as they climb the ladder of professional success; men who truly believe in the equality of the sexes.
The truth is, all people are born equal. We may have different strengths and weaknesses, but they do not make us superior or inferior to anyone. In that sense, men and woman are not unequal; they are simply different from each other. When we come to understand this fact, we can begin to appreciate and value each other for what we bring to the table. When every gender is understood and appreciated, there is more room for respectful interaction and less chance of abuse.