Monday, April 15, 2013

The Delhi Factor

I received not one but two surprising exact responses. I was discussing career choices with two different married friends of mine at different times of the week. Both had openings in more than one city in India. The best job offers on paper came from Delhi. So I asked them whether they were relocating or not. And both gave me the same answer “Hey, its Delhi. I’m married. I don’t need the stress about my wife’s safety”. And the topic moved on from there.

What struck me later was the matter-of-fact way in which the answers came. It was fluid, accepted and unsurprising that Delhi is the rape capital. The way it was mentioned so casually is disturbing. We have mentally accepted that Delhi is not a place for women. And men find it harder to live there being in constant worry over their spouses and daughters. It is indeed quite shameful that we live in a country where the national capital has such a reputation.

Business Insider has named the 8 most unsafe countries for women tourists as:


The list above gives a glaring comparison on where India stands. While we claim to be a developed nation of nearly 1.1 billion, the remaining in the list are either underdeveloped, non-secular or very poor countries. To be in this list is a shame.

35% of women tourists have cancelled their visits to India which may be the right thing to do right now. After all, when a country cannot keep its own women safe, how are they going to safeguard outsiders. We are a country who take false pride in respecting our women, disallowing skimpy clothes in public and going around beating up couples on valentine’s day. On the other hand, we welcome item numbers by women who wear transparent clothes treating them like commodities.

The movie Khalnayak set a new precedent. I remember seeing hordes of gentlemen leaving the theatre after the song “Choli ke peeche” was over. People bought tickets just to see that song and then leave. I’m pretty sure they weren’t looking for spiritual enlightenment from Madhuri Dixit.

It is a known fact that no nation has prospered economically by ill treating either gender. And a simple survey of the developed nations show that the workforce has as many women as men working in jobs. The glass ceiling for women in top executive positions is another matter for discussion. The basic point is all about enforcing safety. And nations which respect their women do well.

Inspite of the above, change is happening in India. Women are taking to the streets, the media is keeping up the pressure and social networking is turning out to be a huge weapon for the masses. It is getting more and more difficult to push cases under the rug as it is on display for the world to see as it happens. This will be the best source of change for ensuring women’s safety in India. The initial set of protesters in Delhi following the Nirbhaya incident were arrested by the police who were trying to nip the problem in the bud before the gathering achieved a critical mass. But one of the arrested students quickly tweeted from the police van asking for help. By the time they were taken to lockup, another huge gathering had amassed at the police station. The police had to let them go.

Things will improve. But it will be painstakingly slow as the mindset needs to change first.

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