Chief minister of Delhi Sheila Dikshit has admitted women don’t feel safe in the city.
I’m not really sure why this is an admission, considering a woman is raped every 20 minutes in India. But regardless, she’s been criticised for making an “admission of bad governance”, according to Bharatiya
Janata Party leader Smriti Irani.
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Brinda Karat joined in, then pointed out exactly what she was doing.
“It is clear that women in Delhi are insecure. The chief minister is speaking the truth. But it is surely not enough. What is her responsibility as chief minister?
“Women’s security issues have become political football between central and state government. Chief minister blames Delhi Police; central government defends police. It’s a shame,” Karat said.
Dikshit is most likely correct that women don’t feel safe – none of us can presume to know the minds of every woman obviously. She said of the attempted rape of a 19-year-old student: “My government will do everything possible to provide a conducive atmosphere for the women in the city.”
This isn’t an admission of guilt or failure, it’s misdirection.
Government ministers and politicians the world over have to condemn crime and have to actively react: “I will do this”, “I demand a resignation”, “We demand a public inquiry” and on and on. They know they must be seen to be doing something, particularly when the media presses them for absolutes.
But the problem with protecting citizens is that you can’t. Short of an absolute police state, you cannot stand between people, groups, races, sexes or even politicians to prevent argument, disagreement or crime.
It’s simply impossible.
When you say women need protecting it is a two-part admission: that women are vulnerable and somehow automatic victims just waiting to be attacked; and that the only thing you can do to prevent men attacking women is to stand between the two genders.
Both presumptions will have to change if India – or anywhere for that matter – is to reduce violence against women, simply because they are women. If there are men who lack self-control or the education that women are not beneath them, are not objects, are not “asking for it” by being in particular locations or wearing certain clothing, then THAT is what the police, politicians and everyone else needs to tackle urgently.
They need to speak to classrooms of boys, along with teachers, parents and others about equality and the illegality and immorality of treating a person as anything less.
We need to go into factories, on to TV, in legislatures and town squares and look men straight in the eyes and say, “You do not do this”.
Dikshit saying the government will “do everything”, rivals blaming Dikshit – it all ignores the central problem behind one rape every 20 minutes: the men responsible. Prevention, not protection, is the better course. All life should be protected, but you protect through value.
The more value we attach to each other, the easier it is to respect each other and, hopefully, not commit a crime against an other.
Everybody in this debate needs to do a better job of teaching the value of women as equals. Dikshit has effectively admitted that women are not equal. They don’t feel equal and they’re not treated as equal.
That admission is not a failure of governance. Blaming government or blaming Dikshit lets men off the hook for failing to recognise the value and equality of women and the respect they deserve.
If Dikshit, her critics and the rest of us can’t see the real problem, then it’s a failure on all our heads.