“There is always a protection veil over girls, a control, and a sort of management over them. When they are child, they are under their father’s shade, when they grow up and get married they come under the territory of husband and when they grow old, their son manages and takes decision for them”
In the wake of gruesome Hathras gang rape, safety of women and the rising number of incidences of cruelty against women has captured once again the attention of vast number of Indians who otherwise prefer bystander attitude. Along with this, the state machinery of Uttar Pradesh, the role of Police and the caste discrimination that seemed long buried in wake of modern India has come under scrutiny. There were so many red flags in the case that shows that despite howling of progressive India for ages, we are so behind addressing violence against women. It is sad, that we talk about violence against women only when a rape case is highlighted by Media one in blue moon. None of this is product of one moment of rage or expression of power, this is deep ingrained belief system which is deep rooted in patriarchy which is extremely visible and invisible at the same time in almost all spheres of our lives.
Interestingly our workshop coincides with Dusshera, and when the zoom meeting started – it was worth mentioning that all the police personnel were located in different settings bubbling with excitement – some of them in park duty, few of them on bus stand duty, some of them were in police station and none of them were sitting all by themselves. Moments like these make us realize the importance of our work and when collaborated with government machinery – the impact it can create in bringing out the social change that is much needed in today’s narrative.
The workshop on gender sensitization and role of police in dealing with gender based violence free from biases began with the introduction on the need and importance of why the conversation on gender, discrimination and violence are must backed with the data from NCRB and Thomas Reuters foundation report 2018.
Following the screening of video on gender equality, we invited them to share the gender difference they see in different spaces – home, education, workplace – police in this case, public spaces, religion and media.
‘I think men and women in the police station have almost same duty, they get same attention however when they reach home everything is different; it is the men who is the decision maker in the house and women who does household chores’
‘There are lot of difference as to how men and women function in police duty. Men are fearless and full of authority in their police duty, while women are scared even in their uniform because the outside people see them as women, who are not as strong as they are. Also when it comes to day and night duty – it is mostly the men who are assigned night patrol because it’s not safe for women even though they might be police in night’
‘All the news related to women are treated with insensitivity, they are shown with shame and disgust. There is so much anger in people that they make hue and cry of minute things, which blow out of proportion followed by mudslinging on social media resulting on lot of fake reports. It’s painful and exhausting.’
‘There is meagre contribution of women in terms of religion and its practice. The priests are male, the havans and other practices are carried by men, we hardly see women anywhere near religious gatherings as well.’
‘The difference between girls and boys in education is evidently clear. Girls are provided education in a very cautious way, they are constantly reminded that they need to be careful and wary of people around them. The teachers teaches them differently – girls are always taught in restricted environment that lacks the freedom while boys are free of any restraints and enjoys as if they own the world. The teaching mindset and style is based on gender bias. ’
‘Talking about public spaces, for example bus stand – you can see boys standing with zero ounce of care in the world, they are loud, throwing comments here and there, making themselves very visible while girls stand in corner, almost closing themselves to be invisible scared and almost ready to flee’
Taking cues from these responses, we engaged on what is gender, how these gender difference impact different aspects of our day to day lives, why these bias exists and how this discrimination lead to violence!
‘I think all this gender difference begins at home where the mother teaches their daughter to behave in certain way, tells her to do household chores but gives free reign to boys’
‘While I agree that gender bias begins at home, it is also the responsibility of teachers and elders around to make girls understand that they need to be very careful, and not engage with strangers because people can’t be trusted’
These statements are like sharp edged swords because they reflect ignorance and deep rooted patriarchal mindset which places the burden of violence on women indicating that it is women who starts the cycle of violence because she is the one who is responsible for children and their upbringing; secondly the responsibility to protect herself from violence is also thrown very casually on her shoulder while giving a free pass to men. What a wonderful way to wipe the hands altogether for the violence caused by men!
We took a quick poll on few statements asking them whether they think that it reflects violence or not! To our surprise most of them agreed that all the statements comes under violence.
Taking examples from their previous answers and poll statements – we talked in detail about what is gender based violence, different types with real life examples, the impact of GBV on women and on country at large followed by some very threatening data points reflecting the severity of the current situation of violence in India.
To further establish the understanding on gender and gender based violence; we gave them different situations enquiring their course of action!
‘Before taking any procedural action required in the rape case, I would make sure that she is doing okay, and get her medical assistance. I would treat her like my daughter and provide as much as comfort and support as I can’
‘This is the case of child sexual abuse, I would instruct personnel dressed in casual clothing to go along with the boy for medical, provide comfort to the parents and direct the concerned official to take appropriate action’
‘When the women police officer reports a sexual harassment complaint against the senior, I would report it to senior women official, take all the details and file the case as soon as possible’
‘In this case, we would ask both the parties that is girl’s parents and her would be in laws to come to police station where we would make them understand that dowry must not be taken, we would tell them about legal action that could be taken against them and if they still go ahead and ask for dowry, we would file FIR and take appropriate action.’
‘We need to change the mindset, the way we see women, the way we differentiate and how we tackle the cases involving women. I will try and use this information in the cases!’
These responses gave us hope!
‘I loved the workshop. It was so informative and such discourse must continue, it gives us an opportunity to learn, rethink and increases our confidence. There are people who grasp the information immediately, answer the questions and take action on the spot while others take time to understand the information, once that sinks in they inculcate this in their course of action. It is very important that these conversations continue to take place because it spreads awareness around crucial issues. Crimes are increasing with each day, we not only have to curb them but build a system that employs reformative approach’