2019 Polls: National Security Is OK – What About Women’s Security?

Priyanka Chaturvedi of the Shiv Sena writes, “Why is it that not a single party truly cares about women’s safety?”

4 min read
Hindi Female

Amidst other disturbing news, the past week saw the reporting of three chilling rape cases. In all three cases, there appeared to be apathy on the part of the authorities towards the respective survivors, and politics took precedence over meting out justice.

As per a 14 May report, a woman in her thirties was compelled to immolate herself at her home in Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad city, after the police at Hapur had reportedly refused to lodge her complaint of gang-rape, despite her repeated pleas.

The second case is that of a 19-year-old Dalit woman’s rape in Alwar, Rajasthan, which took place on 26 April (as per the FIR registered by the survivor ), but only came to light on 8 May. Why this delay in reporting? This report claims that the police had asked the family to wait until elections in the state were over. The Opposition claimed, in the meantime, that the ruling-Congress government in the state had tried to hush up the matter to ‘appease’ its Gujjar vote bank (the chief accused is reportedly a Gujjar).

The third case was the rape of a three-year-old girl in Bandipora in Kashmir, which led to wide-scale protests in the state. However, it was reported that a local school attempted to shield the accused by issuing him a fake certificate to show him as a minor.


A Failure of Justice, A Failure of Society

The UP woman’s (who immolated herself) story reflects our collective failure – a failure of our system, our society, and our law and order, that can’t ensure the basic safety of women. It is the failure of our judicial system too, and most importantly the failure to show political will by successive governments in the state, to make women’s safety its top priority.

Since the time the UP rape survivor’s ordeal is said to have begun, the state has seen the ascendance of a woman leader, Mayawati, and then the government of a young Akhilesh Yadav, and finally, the Adityanath government.

It was really saddening to see how this incident was politicised by certain sections for a few brownie points, perhaps because the last phase of election in UP is due? There was a lot of social media outrage with women leaders demanding action. While I agree that action is a must, and accountability is key, the blame-game and politicisation of something as grave as rape, is not what what is required.

As far as women’s rights and their empowerment is concerned, I wonder why the government has made this an ‘us versus them’ game, constantly trying to pass the buck. Shouldn’t this be a collective responsibility?


Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied

What is all the more appalling is that, in the Alwar and Bandipora incidents, deliberate attempts were made to scuttle the cases – one due to elections, and the other to ‘save’ the accused. Amazingly, little or not outrage emerged from the most vocal sections that preach against hate, against crimes against women, and claim to stand against Dalit atrocities. Even Mayawati did not speak up until her silence became conspicuous.

In a politically-charged nation, the rift hasn’t allowed for differences to be kept aside to address larger societal concerns. It is unfortunate that women’s safety and empowerment is sacrificed at the altar of political gains. As per the the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) 2016 data, the crime rate (against women) in 2016, was 55.2 percent. The total number of rape cases reported in 2016 was 38,947. The conviction rate in rape cases was at 23.9 percent.


Politicking Instead Of Meting Out Justice

Every rape which is brought into focus is reduced to which political party is doing a better job to make a safer environment for the country’s women. None of these parties are willing to own up to their lack of political will to address these issues, yet all these parties do not hesitate to seek votes from women on the basis of manifesto promises.

However, as soon as these parties come to power, all of these promises go to the cold storage. It is disgusting that instead of identifying the roadblocks that exist in creating a safer environment, we are reducing it to this constant blame-game.

The inability of the former CM of Delhi in her recent interview, to admit that there were issues of law and order in the city-state, and then going on to blame the media for blowing the Nirbhaya case “out of proportion”, and claiming her government had no role to play in the security situation – is pathetic and sad.


Why Is Women’s Security Not a Priority?

Similarly, in West Bengal, when the case of a 20-year-old girl who was raped and killed in Kamduni came to light, the chief minister lost her cool at the protestors and called them CPI(M) supporters. How is it that women who are in positions of power, are often unwilling to mete out justice to women? Also in the Kathua rape case, we had a woman CM yet again, unable to (adequately) stand up for the cause.

Why can’t women’s security in India, like national security, be prioritised?

If we really claim to espouse the cause of women’s safety and their empowerment, we must rise above our own politics to be able to make a difference. It is the responsibility of elected representatives, along with experts and members of civil society, to make implementable and empowering policies. The minute we choose our outrage and our silence as per our whims, we will have lost our own purpose to be able to make the changes we wish to see.

(Priyanka Chaturvedi is a member of the Shiv Sena. Prior to this, she was a member and one of the National Spokespersons of the Indian National Congress. She tweets @priyankac19. This is a personal blog and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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