KOLKATA, 20 JUNE: India’s attitude towards women’s safety has been in the spotlight of the world for months now, and it still is. Recently, there has been a series of attacks on women in West Bengal following which women in the state again expressed great concern regarding their general safety.
Recently the National Crime Record Bureau published a report stating that West Bengal recorded the highest number of crimes against women among all Indian states. Reports of attacks on women in West Bengal have been interspersed with accounts of how Indian women themselves perceive their position in this society with a population of over a billion men and women, many of them living highly traditional lives.
“There is no proper police patrol in most of the streets of the city. The lanes of Salt Lake are deserted. There are no proper streetlights and it is dark. While returning from office I always prefer to be in a group, and especially accompanied by a male colleague,” says Ms Arjita Majumdar, who works for an IT company in Salt Lake. A series of laws have been passed tightening penalties for sexual assaults and making sexual harassment a crime. However “eve-teasing” ~ as the physical or verbal molestation of women in public places is euphemistically known ~ is endemic. “Whenever a crime against women is reported, a new one is taking place. The mere making of a law won’t help; there is an urgent need to implement these laws,” says a college student. “Rape and rape conviction percentages are major problems until and unless the accused are punished, nothing can be changed. A strong message should be conveyed to society, clearly stating that someone who commits such a crime will not be spared,” says Ms Anuradha Kapoor, a social activist. The problem is largely due to the availability of illegal home brews, and the rise in the number of uneducated single men with no hope of finding a wife and move one town to other from their family nexus. “I’ve been advised by my parents to stay off the streets after dark. I have been strictly told not to take a taxi, but to travel by public transport. I wanted to pursue my PG studies in Delhi but my parents forced me to study in Kolkata as they thought it is much safer. But recent cases have proved them wrong,” says Nemey, a resident of Assam who studies in one of the city colleges.