The Wednesday session of the Indian Democracy at Work Conference 2021 on Rule of Law saw a distinguished panel deliberate on Women’s Safety. Mrs. Deepa Mani, Executive Director and Professor, Indian School of Business was the chair for the session. Elsa Marie D’Silva is the Founder of Red Dot Foundation (India) and President of Red Dot Foundation Global (USA),Mahesh Bhagwat IPS, ADGP, Commissioner of Police, Rachakonda Commissionerate and Shri. Jayaprakash Narayana, Retd. IAS and founder of Foundation for Democratic Reforms participated.
The interesting deliberative session was opened by Mrs. Deepa Mani by welcoming the panelists and explaining the importance of the topic ‘women’s safety’ in the present times. The Initiatives taken up by police, government, and community by creating safe spaces are short to medium term solutions, and she wanted to see long term solutions. She also requested the panelists to share their views and experiences. Ms. Elsa Marie explained that individual situational awareness, knowing the rights, community participation, technology like CC TV cameras and where we can use them and building trust within the community are very important to provide safety. Early age education, gender sensitivity and knowledge of laws are very important in achieving women’s safety. She also expressed displeasure that it takes lot of time to get justice and that government should do more to provide women’s safety. Also the amount allocated to Nirbhaya funds was also not completely utilized. Women want some action be taken so that harassment and crimes can be stopped. Education on digital literacy and digital rights to women is also very important in achieving security to women.
Mr. Mahesh Bhagwat explained some of the measures taken by the Telangana Government for making it safe for women. Counselling and fining eve-teasers and initiatives like SHE TEAMS are going a long way in addressing this important problem. Now more women in distress are approaching due to trust in police and fining and counselling has significantly reduced repeated offenders. Initiatives like Sangamitra-community members training of crime against women also provide for some more avenues for women to seek assistance. He also added that technology CC TV Cameras and Phone Apps is a game changer for crime prevention and detection and its judicious usage is very important. Similarly, fast tract courts where cases are disposed quickly will help providing safety for women. However, it is long way to go and that a culture of respect for women is lacking and should be inculcated. Additionally, Misuse of social media and cyber harassment against women is being special attention.
Shri Jayaprakash Narayan said local courts coterminous with local police station should be created to try minor offences by summary procedures. Speedy justice with stiff penalties can become a strong deterrent. We should create a culture of safety and address minor crimes against women before they escalate into major crimes. If we do not give confidence, concerns for safety may become another way of enslaving women. India has the lowest participation of women in work force at 21%; and we are the only country in which women’s share is declining. It is therefore absolutely vital that we ensure that public spaces are safe for women. The fundamental thing is that a culture of respect for women will only solve this issue on long term and this should be inculcated in the family and the education system at an early age.