WHY ARE WOMEN AND CHILDREN STILL NOT SAFE IN INDIA?
By- Ankita Bhushan, Advocate, Real Estate Regulatory Authority, Bihar
Offences against women and children are a heinous crime and a serious public health concern. It is a threat to everyone but women and children are particularly vulnerable to victimization because they often lack appropriate means of protection. In the past decade research says that there is an increase in growing of such offences. Victims often hesitate to report such crimes because of fear stigmatization or societal condemnation. Some records that have been collected suggest that rates of crime against women range from 15 to 71 percent in some countries and that rates of crime against children top 80 percent.
In our society, Women and Children are usually the main targets, who suffer in a number of ways mainly because of wide gender discretion, and they are considered weaker, helpless and economically dependent. Dowry, domestic violence, divorce, female infanticides, child abuse and exploitation, prostitution etc are various offences faced by the women and children of our society. In India, we have laws for all these aforesaid offences but still there is some issue as women and children are still not safe in our country.
The researcher in this paper will give highlights on the issues relating to protection of women and children in India.
Offences against women have long been a problem, in times of peace and war. The offences range from very mild teasing to rape and murder, and takes place at home, in the streets, at work places, in short everywhere. Few crimes against women are reported, fewer still prosecuted, and a negligent number of accused are actually punished. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005, The Sexual Harassment of Women At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013, Maternity Benefit Act,1861 etc are some women specific legislation. Apart from the aforesaid legislations The Constitution of India, The Indian Penal Code, 1860 And the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 also have some provisions regarding the protection of women. Despite having numerous of laws, women in our country are still not safe. The question arises here is WHY?
First and foremost reason why they are still not safe is the mindset of the society. Few people in our society still consider Women as weak, helpless and economically dependent. They still don’t get the amount of respect they deserve. Some people still think that women have no value, and they are here only for a particular purpose i.e. to serve their husband and family. Some people think household work and housekeeping is the domain of women, and they have no right to roam out in night, they are doing wrong things and wearing wrong clothes. Like if we go back to 2013 incident, Delhi gang rape, statements of the accused reflect their sick mindset. This person was trying to justify his act by saying Nirbhaya should not have gone out of the house after 9 o' clock. One of the other convicts said that a girl is "far more responsible for rape" than a boy. This clearly showed he had no remorse for the heinous act he had committed. The lawyers, who were defending the culprits, also took part in the interview and shared their client's views, blaming the victim. And as long as we look for solutions which focus on the victim, the patriarchal culture which suggests that boys will be boys, men will be men, women can never feel safe. As long as judges rule that victims ought to marry their rapists, women can never feel safe. Women are not even safe at their home. Offences like bride burning, domestic violence, Chula issue, divorce, over working at the work place, gender discrimination etc are faced by women. Women are not cared for in the health standards that they should be cared for, especially during child labor. The maternal mortality rate is among the highest in the world in India. They are malnourished because they are forced to eat their husband’s leftovers. Many women are also not provided with the basic education that they need to fully understand and use their new- found rights.
In order to improve women safety in India the first step is to change the mind set of people which is very essential for the safety of women. From family to educational institutions and also the workplace not only men but even women should be taught about respecting other women. Further, there should be fast-track courts to hear the cases. These cases should be investigated in a time bound manner so that the evidences do not get tampered. Only strict laws cannot prevent offences happening against women in India rather the execution of these laws in a specified time can solve the issue to a large extent.
Merriam Webster dictionary, defines ‘Child’ as a young person especially between infancy and youth. Every child has the right to be protected from all forms of violence, abuse, exploitation. Many children do not have a home to stay, safe drinking water, adequate nutritious food, proper education etc. Protection of children not only includes prevention of exploitation and abuse, rather creating protective environment by individual, community and government where the child can enjoy their childhood with dignity.
Children must be protected from physical and sexual violence, exploitation and abuse, child labour, child marriage, trafficking, prostitution, kidnapping, abduction etc. Legislations like Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 etc. Yet again we have numerous of legislations for the protection of children but still there are number of children who are unsafe and are being exploited every day. In my opinion, I think the major is Poverty. Families in poverty are less likely to have access to education and job skills. According to Census of India 2011, 10.1 million children are economically active between 5 and 14 years of age in India. UNICEF’s report says that many children are forced to get involved in labour from very early age in India. Poverty and illiteracy of a child’s parents, lack of awareness about the harmful effects of child labour, the family’s social and economic circumstances leads to child labour. Human trafficking is considered to be the third largest organized crime globally. Women and children from the lower caste, minority and tribal communities are generally lured of a better way of life and employment opportunity and sold by the agents. Child sexual abuse is one of the most concern issues of children that unfortunately we heard almost every day. There are various forms of sexual exploitation like clicking obscene photographs of children, making children watch pornographic content, physically teasing them, etc. As per survey conducted by Ministry of women and child development Govt. of India, 53% of children surveyed said they had been subjected to some form of sexual abuse. Also, 88% of people sexually exploiting children are known to the children or are people whom the children trust. There are several instances where the father himself, cousin brothers, uncle or neighbours have sexually exploited children. Another concerned social issue is Child marriage that is pertaining to violation of child rights. It is an unhealthy social practice mostly happened in rural areas, where a girl below 18 years and a boy below 21 years of age get married. According to 2011 nationwide census of India, the average age of marriage for women in India is 21.2% in the age group 15-19. Child marriage resulted to early pregnancy which can lead to complications at the time of birth, low birth-weight babies, both triggering maternal and infant mortality rate. Experts say childbirth before the mother is of the age of 14 can lead to obstetric fistula and other health problems. Apart from these major crimes killing of female infanticides and gender discrimination are also prevalent in our country.
Crime against women and children has resulted in both short-term and long-term harm, including psychological trauma and physical injury. It has also affected the mental health including depression, anxiety, eating disorder, loose-self confidence, sleep disturbances etc. Poverty, uneven employment, gender discrimination, harmful traditional and cultural practices and lack of proper policy are the major causes of this issue. The Indian judiciary system must work upon the issues that are arising in the protection of women and children in India. Education is the most important component which plays a great role in the development of an individual as well as a country. Every parent and educational institutions must teach the basics of life whether what is right and what is wrong. Lack of formal education impact the development of the country. Changing people’s attitude and mentality towards women and children will take a long time- at least a generation, and perhaps longer. Every family must let their child even if she is a girl, they must let her go to school and complete her studies. Let each woman who wants to work and earn, send them office with lot of positivity. There must not be any place for cruelty and negativity in this country.
(Disclaimer- The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Child Rights Centre.)