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.