CHENNAI: We are close to March 8, International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate and recognise the achievements of womankind. But with women still deprived of their rights, equality, freedom and safety, does the day really a merit a celebration? City Express finds out from women who work in the areas of sexual assault and violence against women.
Nancy from Tulir, an NGO, opines that it is necessary to keep emphasising and celebrating womanhood, but not just on this day alone. “In our country, we know that women have been treated differently and their roles are barely secondary to the men in the family.
There has always been violence against women and there’s not much difference now either. From female infanticide to news of a 70-year-old woman being raped, violence against women hasn’t decreased,” she rues.
With abuse in all forms becoming a social concern, she shares that deep-rooted issues of patriarchy, starting from one’s own family, have to be addressed. “Awareness is being raised but we need more. We need to engage bystanders and educate them to question any act of disrespect to or harassment of women. Though at the policy level, there are many laws for women, the problem we are talking about is the attitude of people which needs to change,” she adds.
Where most professions are in a patriarchal set up, we talk to SP Samundeswari, Tamil Nadu Police Training Academy, about her experience in the police department.
“The police department was once dominated by male officers, but after the 30% allocation to women candidates, things have changed. Since I was in the recruitment board, I noticed that it was getting filled, which means the representation of women even in the most male-dominated space is increasing,” she shares.
Believing that Women’s Day is not just a day of celebration but a day of recognition of talents and feats of women who have been discriminated against for a long time, she explains, “Though we cannot proudly say that all women across the world are free of violence, we can see this as a day to fight for them, to strive hard to give them a better life and also to salute their spirit in spite of all the hardships!”
She insists that institutions — schools, colleges, and offices — should make it their responsibility to provide a safe environment for women, and also spread awareness and sensitise both men and women on looming issues. “This is not a fight just for us; it’s about being human and men should be a part of this too,” she adds.
A few years ago, incidents of assault and violence used to go unreported because of societal fear, but now things are slowly changing. “The victim never used to share the experience even with a friend back then. But now, we have family members coming to us to help their daughter/wife/sister. We are noticing is a commendable change, but even that is not in a large scale,” shares Prasanna Gettu, CEO, International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care.
Calling this a ‘transition phase’, she points to the different avenues, including legal aid that offers support to women and opines that certain processes need to go faster. “We have the laws, and certain implementations do happen. But the facilitation process should be and could be a little more fast,” she explains.
With more young people coming forward to support causes and stand up for women issues, she points to the most important aspect: “Make sure the other side of the balance is active and effective — law enforcement, legal aid NGO, shelters and so on.
We have these support systems but not as many as we need. If equal importance is given to that, then we will be moving towards a better society for women,” she adds.