There is not a single day that goes by when we do not see in the news any reported incident of crime against women. In 2018, a large-scale international survey conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, one of the biggest news organizations in the world ranked India as the most dangerous country for women.
Crimes against women―domestic violence, dowry, rape, marital rape, infanticide, acid attacks, and other such incidents—have become a common feature of our society. Whatever people say is being done to end these problems is clearly not enough! This is what motivated me, or more precisely, unlocked my urge to start championing the cause of women’s rights and safety.
Reading reports by the National Crime Records Bureau of India, I found that West Bengal always ranked high among states (in fact it ranked number 1 in 2017) when it comes to total crimes committed against women in a calendar year. What was going wrong in my state? Why was the security apparatus failing year after year? Was it the police or the law and order system that was at fault? Was social construction at the root of the problem? What new ways could be adopted to end the violence?
All these questions rushed to my mind when I was working with the Women’s Commission of West Bengal Government. In the Women’s Commission of West Bengal, I worked as a research assistant to the Chairperson of Commission. My work involved giving him detailed inputs and statistics about the various issues that the Commission was dealing with, such as dowry, domestic violence, and more particularly, acid attack.
The first thing I learned was that we only get to know about those crimes against women which are reported in the media or to the police or any NGO. However, most women who are victims of abuse, violence, or any other type of crime, do not even report the incidents. Human Rights Law Network have revealed that the actual number of acid attack cases in India is very likely to exceed 1000 per year. However, according to the official annual report “Crime In India” by the National Crime Records Bureau, this number is around 200 per year, which clearly goes on to show that most women do not even report these incidents to the police.
This happens mostly due to family pressure and social taboo—if people get to know, it is a survivor of violence whose image will be damaged. As a result, we don’t even know the real number of crimes against women that are taking place in West Bengal, forget India.
The second thing I learned while researching on acid attacks was that we, the common people or India, are the real guilty party. We are the primary reason why such attacks are still taking place. The Government of India has put a nation-wide ban on the over-the-counter purchase of several corrosive and harmful acids from shops for “domestic use”. However, the common people of this country continue to purchase harmful corrosive acids from local stores all over India. Doesn’t this effectively render the ban useless? Acid attacks on women can only be stopped when the circulation of acid is stopped.
To end these problems, I have decided to dedicate more of my time to working on women’s rights and women’s security. The time has come for young people to act; act for change and become a nation of doers, of hard workers. And that would be my advice to like-minded young people: be the lamp, guide the way and other people will join your crusade for change.
About the author: Ujan Natik is 21 years of age, belonging from South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. Currently, Ujan is pursuing a Master’s in Political Science and International Relations from Jadavpur University. Ujan is also an active volunteer of the National Service Scheme and dreams of becoming a Professor in the field of International Relations. Last year, he was among 10 candidates shortlisted for the National Youth Parliament organised by UN Volunteers and Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.