By Mayank Jain:
Life is no easy game for women in India. While patriarchy plays the devil and barriers stopÂ them at every step of the way, safe existence is a consistent struggle with crimes waiting to happen at all places, and not just on the roads. A nurse was taking care of a patient in a 5 star hotel in Delhi when two attendants pushed her and took turns to rape her. The case happened in the same suite where the ailing woman was accommodated, on the night of Independence Day itself.
On the eastern end of this independent nation, a woman was gang-raped, paraded naked and then hanged to death in East Midnapore district of West Bengal. Badaun, Bangalore, Firozabad, all became witnesses to heinous crimes against women which keep striking all over the country. Â But all this while, a vicious silence from the Prime Minister ensued. His voice wasÂ nowhere to be heard and the hopes of a safer country for women were fast getting bleaker.
Amidst all these celebrations and no promise of a safer country, there were women being harassed all over the nation. In the wake of this sorry state of affairs, Shelly Mahajan decided to take a stand. She got along with Youth Ki Awaaz to start a petition on Change.Org. She petitioned the newly appointed, social media savvy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to promise ‘acche din’ for women in India in his Independence Day speech.
Explaining the appalling condition of women safety in the country and her own fear of going out on the streets, she said,
“Each morning when I leave for college, I feel scared of being stalked, sexually assaulted, and burned from an acid attack or getting murdered. I am a 23-year-old girl living in India and I am deeply worried.
I am not alone. Every woman in India has faced some form of sexual harassment. Last month, two girls were raped and hanged from a tree in Badaun, UP. Just a few days ago a 6-year-old girl was raped in her school in Bangalore. This needs to end!
We can no longer sit quietly and wait for the next rape to make news headlines. I, along with Youth Ki Awaaz started this petition asking PM Modi to promise ‘Achche Din’ for women and address women’s safety in the Independence Day speech.
The entire world watches the Independence Day speech of the Prime Minister from red fort. If the PM talks about ‘Achche Din’ for women and his plan for it, it will send a very strong message that India has put women’s safety as a top priority.
Even the number of tourists coming to India has declined because our country has been tagged as “unsafe for women.” Only our new Prime Minister can change this image by making women’s security a national concern.”
The petition garnered solidarity from over 31,000 people who reached out through the power of social media to sign the petition and helped amplify her voice. These collaborative efforts bore fruits and it turned into a mini movement in itself as Facebook and Twitter became podiums for the troubled populace of this country to make themselves heard.
The day finally arrived and Narendra Modi’s oratory weaved magic once again. Shelly’s efforts and your support turned fruitful as the PM finally took note of the state of women in the country. PM Modi in his first Independence Day speech said that increasing sexual crimes against women is a matter of national shame. He urged parents to put the same restrictions on their sons, like they put on their daughters. He also questioned the skewed sex ratio of the country and appealed to bring an end to female foeticide.
He even took up the issue of open defecation and went on to promise separate toilets for boys and girls in every school. By taking up the issue of women’s safety, Prime Minister Modi struck the right chord and brought us closer to victory. Highlighting the need to stop blaming girls for incidents, he said, “Our head hangs in shame when we hear news about rape. When such incidents happen, parents question their daughter, but does anyone dare ask their sons… after all, the rapist is someone’s son. As parents have we asked our son where he is going, what he’s doing?”
The cognizance of the situation by the PM is a good first step and victory for Shelly and all of us. What remains to be seen however, is the translation of these words into intent and subsequently, actions. The stage is set, expectations have suddenly soared. The onus falls on all of us to be vigilant and keep raising voices whenever the issue goes out of focus, but many times, the final efforts have to come from the PM himself.
You have spoken the right words, struck the right chords; the action remains. Honourable Prime Minister- the countryÂ is watching you; don’t let us down.