By Anshul Verma:
The shameful incident which took place on the night of 16th December in South Delhi, where a student of physiotherapy was gang raped in a moving bus by six people awakened the conscience of a nation in deep slumber. Spontaneous protests erupted in different parts of the country and the issue of security for women took centre stage. The incident got international coverage and was condemned by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, which called upon India and the Government of Delhi “to do everything in their power to take up radical reforms, ensure justice and reach out with robust public services to make women’s lives more safe and secure”.
The Govt. of India formulated a three member judicial committee headed by Retd. Justice JS Verma to re-look into the rape laws of the nation and also to suggest measures to safeguard the interests of the fairer sex. Intellectuals and laymen, all came up with umpteen recommendations ranging from moral sermonizing to legislative measures to combat the menace of misogyny. Some of the suggestions included the need for faster conviction along with stricter punishments, gender sensitization, and affirmative action programs for women etc. Another issue which cropped up during the course of this debate was the need for special cabs for women which would also be driven by women.
The genesis of this idea, at least in this context, can be attributed to the same unfortunate incident of 16th of December where the victim and her friend were refused to be taken to Dwarka by auto drivers which eventually forced them to board a private bus. One of the foremost reasons as to why this idea carries weight is because India as a society still suffers from a serious misogynistic, patriarchal and feudal attitude which does not appreciate the idea of seeing women walk alongside men as equals. If a woman is seen coming back from work late at night then she is bound to be either gazed at by voyeuristic men for whom women are nothing more than sex objects or taunted by those who will come up with silly discussions like why a lady should be out so late in the night when her father or husband earns sufficient amount of money to feed her. Having a transportation set up which ideally alienates women from facing such sort of senseless comments can surely act as a boon because the real feuds occur after some vagabonds pass a crude comment. Having specialized cabs for women will minimize the occurrence of such petty utterances which eventually fuel mayhem. Plus, women will feel safeguarded in the presence of people belonging to the same sex.
My personal opinion in regard to this subject, despite the number of pros associated with this initiative, is not a positive one. Yes, it is true that journeys which women undertake at odd hours will become far more comfortable and safe but the dream of integration of women into the mainstream will not be realized as this is a measure which promotes segregation. I consider this to be segregation because it strives to create exclusive facilities for women since it is unable to safeguard them in the open. The security of women cannot be guaranteed until and unless women are given the stature of equal beings by their male counterparts. Creating exclusionary facilities like special cabs, in my opinion, provides the breeding ground for misogyny as the system is officially seen giving into the rowdiness of men by creating additional mechanisms for ensuring women safety as they cannot guard them in a mixed atmosphere.
The fire which has erupted in the hearts of the common people who dream of having an India which is free from gender prejudices can only be achieved when men are told to eliminate their age old sexist dogmas and women are not expected to compromise unnecessarily.