Women Safety – who is at fault? Policy / Implementation/ Private Companies

In 2012, the high profile Nirbhaya rape case made our nation question women safety in public transportation. Back then, the state responded by cancelling over 2500 permits of contract carriages and chartered buses due to fake address registration. Two years later, the average Delhi woman was feeling safer due to the onslaught of cab services such as Uber and Ola Cabs. It eliminated the wait on dark, empty streets and instilled a sense of security by assuring a safe driver and car arriving to take you home. However, December 5th, 2014, changed all notions of safety for women in the city’s capital. The spine chilling news that a 27-year-old woman was raped by an Uber Cab driver made citizens raise their voices in indignation. Similar to 2012, the state machinery responded by blacklisting and banning the radio taxi service on grounds of hiring the cab driver without the mandatory police verification. Approximately 80,000 cabs will be pulled off the roads.

Uber failed to do even a preliminary check on the driver, there could be many other such sexual offenders driving you to and from home who were subjected to identity checks and still managed to keep their crimes hidden. While Uber has to be held accountable for its cheating methods on background checking, lack of information on driver, and GPS systems – a more pressing concern stems from the fact that Delhi Police and State government are so unaware about the operations technicalities of such cab services.

The Nirbhaya case is considered to be the turning point from where the issue of women’s safety rose to forefront. Yet, what we see is a passive indifference. Until the Uber cab case, no attention was being paid to the utilization of the Nirbhaya fund. This fund should have been utilized for verification of drivers and guards, delivery personnel etc.

Another case where a 28-year-old pizza delivery boy was arrested for allegedly molesting a minor girl in Southeast Delhi’s Ashram area. Preliminary investigation has revealed that the incident occurred when the accused, employed with a major pizza chain, went to the girl’s residence to deliver an order. It came out that there was no background verification done by major and international pizza chain before employing a delivery boy. Such case shouldn’t go unnoticed, it is high time the state as well as the citizens realize the importance of police verification and background check of these employees.

ARE WOMEN SAFE IN INDIA? ARE STRINGENT LAWS ENOUGH? Who is responsible for this? Is it only the lapse in legal system of our country or the police or the public where such incidence occurs or the Indian society as a whole? Are banning private services like Uber and pizza delivery chains actually going to make our cities safer for women or is there a larger need for consistent improvement in our governance and judiciary to create safer environment?

Stricter implementation of laws is the key to women’s safety. A stricter law without proper implementation cannot act as a deterrent. Examples of dowry cases, concerns over the reach of laws and whether legislators are evaluating the effectiveness of the law. While protective instruments are present and have been looked into by various women’s bodies, implementation suffers. Moreover, there are insufficient number of courts and inadequate facilities in existing courts. Courts are not women friendly spaces and suffer from lack of clean toilets, availability of lawyers, judges who are interested in hearing women’s cases. Making access to justice easier for women has to be the first point of redressed by the government.

There is also a lot of back log and delay in services by government. The authorities usually takes months to respond to one police verification. Is it feasible for companies and huge corporates to suffer loss due to government negligence and delay in service delivery? Why is government not capable enough to provide timely services. EasyGov has also experienced the same while applying for police verifications – Out of 20 police verifications request in various police stations submitted by EasyGov, EasyGov has been able to only successfully get 5-6 police verifications done. Police verifications can be made simple by assuring a 30 day service delivery. India needs to work on its implementations and strengthen it.

In the last two years the highest courts in the country have responded to a mass call for more protection for women. Alongside, there have been many judgments from non-constitutional decision-making bodies like khap panchayats and kangaroo courts sanctioning violence against particular women or curtailing women’s freedom in significant ways. Why is it that while there has been a legal expansion of women’s rights in India, the societal trends that maintain a violent order against women have remained intact? Because there are enough laws with no implementation and execution. The Indian state may make many laws that protect women. However, none of this means much unless law enforcement agencies actually implement the law. India is a country of intellectuals, writing a document, making laws is the easiest thing to do, what India lacks is the enactment.

While technology seems good, what matters is the people who will be at the ground level to implement the safety and security and for that, there is need for allocation

This mismatch between the existence of good laws and their actual implementation is itself a commentary on state capacity in India. Many years ago, Francine Frankel and M.S.A. Rao drew our attention to social structures of dominance in India and how they inhibit, negotiate or encourage state power. The Indian state has failed Indian women by allowing khaps to issue diktats that contradict constitutionally sanctioned rights women have. In ignoring the khap question and not taking them head-on as groups that violate human rights, the Indian state seems to be saying that its job is done when it passes good legislation. Rights may be apparent or self-evident and constitutionally secured; however, they do not automatically implement themselves.

Women safety is an issue of the whole nation, we should work towards fighting it together.

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