Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Women in public spaces, Uber unsafe

This post was also published on Huffington Post India 



There’s something about Delhi December that brings out the beast in certain men. Especially at nightfall, when the air becomes chilly, the roads desolate, the city gets enveloped in fog, giving men with criminal intent a cloak of invisibility. In a country where everybody’s business is everybody else’s business, for some strange reason, when we see a fellow citizen in distress, we drive a little faster, look the other way with a ‘tennu-kee-mennu-kee’ nonchalance.

The Uber Cab incident was yet another glaring example of how unsafe our women are. Only this time the city happened to be Delhi. Too bad that a few chose to take ‘what else can you expect from the rape capital of India’ stance. The thing is, cities do not rape, people do. Not all men, but certain rotten specimens who use their out of control libido to teach women a lesson! Too bad that all Indian men, including the ones who go out of their way to make us feel safe and cherished get tarnished in the process.

We may go hoarse shouting from rooftops that modern women are independent beings who don’t need men to look out for them but the fact remains that a woman on her own is easy target unless she’s walking around with a Kalashnikov is her hand.

But does it mean we ask our girls to pursue their dreams from home because they might be sexually exploited at their workplaces? Do we stop sending our children to school out of fear of assault by sexual predators? Do we adopt a Khap like attitude and insist they be married off early to keep them safe? Of course, we don’t, yet all of us inadvertently end up telling our girls to stay within their limits. Despite telling our girls to conquer the world without fear stalking their minds, we refuse to leave them alone with manservants, male relatives, warn them against staying out late and if they do, make sure they have someone to chaperone them home. We teach our girls to live in fear or put up with consequences.

With a police to people ratio: 3 cops for every VIP but just 1 for 761 commoners, we have no option but to rely on God and our good fortune to be safe.


Every time a girl on her way back from a movie gets brutally gang-raped by men out to have fun, or a girl returning from a late night party gets raped by a serial offender, our fears get magnified. Parents get even more paranoid and forbid their daughters from taking up night shifts and staying out late with friends or traveling solo.

I am no different. Post the Nirbhaya incident I spent sleepless nights worrying about my daughter, torturing myself with what ifs. We all felt the iron rod go through us. We all felt Jyoti Singh Pandey’s helplessness and rage as she lay on the road with her friend – bleeding and naked.

With the introduction of Radio cab services that came with the assurance of GPS enabled vehicles, trustworthy drivers, it was like a lifeline for so many of us travelling on our own, forced to stay out late or coming back from the airport at an unearthly hour. With their affordable and reliable services, we thought that we’d no longer have to rely on male friends and relatives or stand on the road for hours, waiting for a benevolent autowallah or an over-crowded bus to drop us home to safety.

Yet, all it required was one rapist driver to snatch away our new found safety net. This was one of the best options for women who’d slogged hard enough to be able to afford a taxi and avoid sweaty strangers in buses, rubbing themselves against their bodies. It took one sordid night to open a can of worms – how easy it is to get a character certificate from the police despite being a serial rapist, how casually it takes public safety when it forgoes doorstep verification of the applicant’s address. It was shocking to discover that any taxi operator, any driver can choose to be part of a cab network we had trusted for so long. All you need is a car to attach yourself with the cab company.

In reality, most app based cab services are simply cab booking services without actually having any driver or taxis on its rolls.

The government in its hurry to demonstrate its earnestness not only banned Uber for negligence but other app based cab services as well, in turn rendering thousands of taxi drivers jobless, including the honest ones who did their job sincerely. It’s sickening to see all political parties including women representatives using this instance as a leverage to point accusatory fingers at each other rather than address the core issue of women’s safety.

Will they also ban the Transport Authority that has yet to implement the government directive to have all vehicles GPS enabled? Will they ban Political Parties that happily give tickets to rape accused? Will they ban baby girls from being born because they are root cause of evil?

You can ban tight jeans, forbid women from carrying mobiles, ask the court to declare actresses and item girls as prostitutes. But till you enforce the many laws created for safety of women, think of rape as galti that’s meant to be forgiven, women in India will never be safe. Rape is not just a women’s problem. It’s all that’s wrong with our social fabric.

We are back to square one, saying no to night shifts, thinking twice before we say yes to late night party, hoping that a male friend will be chivalrous enough to drop us home. Yet again, crime against a woman will be used as one more excuse to curtail her freedom.

Maybe if the National Commission for Women was an apolitical body which in turn could join forces with the Judiciary and the Police to enforce guidelines and not bans for making the city safer for women, we could still hope for a positive change. 

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46 comments:

  1. Be it NCW or any other set up created by the Govt can never be apolitical because it is due to politics that such set ups are created to settle some deadwood.
    FYI a,in Delhi they have one,yes,one policeman for 7.8 kms while around 10 JP there are close to 100 security men guarding SG.
    Even present case will die down soon as it is a subject creating TRPs and nothing more..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apparently this is not the first time a woman has been assaulted by a radio cabbie. It's just that this time it was Uber involved and that caused so much outrage.

      Delete
  2. unfortunately we never learn from our mistakes, Uber is still kicking and alive in Delhi despite the govt ban.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They did finally stop their services.

      Delete
  3. while we could only remotely expect National Commission for Women, the Judiciary system and Police to improvise on this front to ensure more stringent punishments for the offender, I wonder how could these Cab network companies deploy such easy to deceive applications and try to woo customers by assuring safety...

    All it took for that cab driver to stay out of network is to simply delete the application...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the collective failure of the system that makes it so easy for the corrupt to thrive.

      Delete
  4. Not only we need to bring to book the rapist but all those who gave him character certificate, ignored the mail from another girl who complained to Uber, and made false promises in the ads that the cab service is safe. One man may have raped but there are many who made his job easy by giving a blind eye to him. When I read in newspaper that his village women distributed sweets on his arrest we know what kind of image he had and yet he got character certificate. There are more people that the law needs to reach and question....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Despite the increasing instances of assaults on women, India is yet to have a central database of sexual offenders.

      Delete
  5. The rot is deep and the fear of law absent. How else could he continue to rape and threaten the girl with Nirbhaya like assault - thrusting a rod. People are now talking about how we express outrage only when a middle class woman in Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore is raped. Or when the rapist is from a lower middle class.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What's wrong if the middle class outrage the loudest when it's one of them involved? If we don't raise our voices, who will?

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  6. We can only take precautions, which do not have an impact on our daily life. Beyond a point there is nothing in our control. It's again not fair to generalize something for the mistakes of a few morons. The govt seems to have taken a hasty decision, just to show that they're taking some action. They need to realize that banning cabs is not the panacea, or are they naive enough to believe that it is?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, we can just make sure that we have certain numbers in our speed dial list, always click photos of the registration plate and send it to a trusted friend and make sure we have a can of pepper spray in our handbag.

      Delete
  7. You've gone down to the root causes. Great article, Purba. There's one thing missing, though. How the Indian public can make the government accountable. If you don't mind my putting up a link - please feel free to print or delete - here's what Pritish Nandi thinks of us. http://www.mumbaimirror.com/columns/columns/Why-we-never-uprise/articleshow/45442110.cms

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have yet to read this article even though it did crop up on my TL a couple of times.

      Thanks for sharing the link, Khoty.

      Delete
  8. Purba you have voiced the sentiments of all mothers-what is one to do?This abysmal inefficiency--giving character certificate to a serial rapist--the rot goes deep.No number of bans and laws will be effective unless everybody does his job conscientiously.

    And the parents of such fiends--i wish they had given him better values or handed him over to the police when they came to know about his criminal streak.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are scared for our daughters' safety but that doesn't mean we transfer our fear to them. Our girls are smarter than us.

      Delete
  9. Knee-jerk measures will never solve a problem. The laws even though tightened are hardly implemented. Anyone who has a run in with the Indian legal system knows how totally downhill and frustrating that recourse is. Yes, we can't stop traveling. We take precautions but there are no guarantees. These sickos are on the prowl at nights. I just feel so disgusted. Don't know what to say. :/

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Why is it still so difficult to get the police to file an FIR? Why is the complainant made to feel the guilty one? Why is Police verification synonym with harassment and bribes? The system works against the honest.
      Like you said - the rot runs deep.

      Delete
  10. It is sickening to the core! We live in many India's at the same time. One seeped in riches, educated but predatory when it comes to values and the other end which has just nothing , money power or values. Regardless, on either end of the spectrum the sex starved, are lurking and waiting for the first opportunity to grab a girl be it six months or 80 years ! Very repulsive but no easy solutions are in sight! Every institution and the social system needs a massive overhaul!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wish there was Phenol for dirty mindset that sees a girl not as a person but an object to be played with.

      Delete
  11. Purba, when you say-- We are back to square one, saying no to night shifts, thinking twice before we say yes to late night party, hoping that a male friend will be chivalrous enough to drop us home--- my mind jumps to Nirbhaya's friend who was with her. The presence of a male friend did not protect her!

    The thought of my daughter away from home freaks me out. And that's the ugly truth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I keep my fears to myself. A mother imagines the worst. Best not to share it with anyone.

      Delete
  12. The problem is deep rooted in our society..Our so called 'culture' and the hype we create around it has led to where we are today...And knee jerk reactions by Govt. can do nothing unless, like you say, we impose guidelines and make sure that those who don't follow pay, and that too immediately

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our culture, morality is of no use if it can't protect our baby girls and women!

      Delete
  13. This is a deep rooted problem, it is not even about Uber. Or perverted men. It is about the lack of laws and attitude towards rape.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most don't even think of rape as a crime.

      Delete
  14. Your last para sums it all up. Unless politicians stop pandering to vote banks of various kinds and join hands with each other to fight as a cohesive force, and unless vigilante bodies function apolitically, nothing is going to change in the country, as far as law and order and women's plight are concerned. I am on tenterhooks every day, praying for the safety of countless young (and old) women and even children.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For most Politicians issues likes these are meant to be exploited and gain mileage. Such a sad state of affairs!

      Delete
  15. What made you think we ever moved from square one? Why did we ever think that radio cabs were safer? How could we forget that the drivers, the owners and the cops were still the same women hating, sexually frustrated, male chauvinistic pigs, pardon my language. This case just reminded us that when the activists go home and the candles are put out, we still are a dark rotten society with wolves roaming around, after dark. Am I too bleak, too negative , too dark or just too honest? It's anyone's choice to make.
    It's a fantastic post which is written from the heart. I can't gauge the exact emotion when you wrote this but it definitely ignited emotions in your readers, as the earlier comments suggest.

    Btw, "including the honest ones who did their job sincerely sincere ones"- typo ?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. It makes all of us angry that despite all the lofty promises made post the Nirbhaya incident, things haven't changed at all. Our safety is taken so callously. But then the daughters of VIPs don't use public transport or take cabs!

      P.S - Thanks for pointing the typo.

      Delete
  16. Frankly, all I know is that radio cab services are at least able to identify there drivers.. So the rapist was caught in no time..
    So next time I travel in radio cabs I know the rapist will be nabbed easily if I am raped..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why should you be? Why is it so tough to verify the criminal record of a driver before hiring him?

      Delete
  17. The absence of fear in the minds of the perpetrators along with the indifference and callousness of the authority instigate such series of rapes...not only in Delhi...but everywhere.

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    1. Exactly Manipurna. These rapists get emboldened every time they are let off for lack of evidence!

      Delete
  18. Politicians have so many powers to do the right thing. Why doesn't even one of them come forward and bring a law? A law that is stricter and punctual in implementation. A law that terrifies these psychopaths. Don't know if I have to feel happy for staying in a country where I feel more safe or feel sorry for my sisters/mothers who are unsafe each minute of their lives? Terribly sad...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. More than laws we need enforcement.

      Delete
  19. Congrats on the Huff post! Will leave my comment there!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Chhe! I tried to leave a comment there but don't see it. Here is what I wanted to say:
    t's sickening and frustrating and I've given up hoping. After the Nirbhaya case, I was naive enough to think that finally something would happen. But, public and media outrage didn't even last long enough to get things done!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are all taken in by the lofty promises but now we know they were just promises!

      Delete
  21. Is it only 3 cops for one VIP?

    If only our VIPs were not criminals, half the problems would not have arisen at all!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Also, our VIPs our perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. In fact, we need protection from them.

      Delete
  22. You've highlighted the points so well. It's a real tragedy when we look at male attitudes and the unfortunate culture of aggression and blaming women. The problem lies in our weak laws that fail to protect women and is not severe enough.
    I disagree with the tag RAPE CAPITAL since it can happen in any place in the world.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. You blame cities and you absolve everyone of their responsibilities.

      Delete
  23. You said it. And the saddest part is that we still don't know how to fix the problem of making our country safer for women. No one has a clue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just catch those damn offenders, put them behind bars and make an example of them! Where's the deterrent for rapes when every time its the woman who gets the blame?

      Delete
  24. Hi, this is a very serious issue indeed. And no one measure can free Indian women of this rising menace. Strong laws and quick punishments can deter some, but not all. Only a change in the mindset of people can stop such crimes. But how to bring about that? We can teach kids to behave better. But a better parenting and better teaching in school is needed for that. But who has the time to push kids to strive for anything except good grades? Besides, what to do with old men who are raping babies? It's so sick. And all this has already started putting restrictions on us girls. Parents are now scared of sending their little girls even to playgrounds alone.

    ReplyDelete

Psst... let me know what you are thinking.

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